“Is that bird dead?”
Believe it or not, this is a question we hear a lot in the Bird Department, particularly in the summer. We always double check when we get concerned questions, but there are usually two scenarios that bring up this question: when it’s feeding time, and when it’s nice and sunny outside.
Our birds of prey get a variety of meat diets in the morning and afternoon, and sometimes those meat diets are smaller birds. Our hooded vultures, lappet-faced vultures, king vulture, milky eagle owls, and southern ground hornbills all receive chicks (chicken chicks, to be precise) in their diets during the week. The lappet-faced vultures, king vulture, and southern ground hornbills also get a meal of quail every now and then. This can be shocking for guests, to see a smaller bird dead on the ground, but no worries! All the prey items that we feed out have been humanely euthanized, frozen, and delivered to our Animal Nutrition Kitchen so that we can feed them to our carnivorous birds.
The other, more common time we get asked if a bird is dead is when it’s a really nice day. Just like cats, many of our birds love to sprawl out in the sun! Often on summer days, at least one of our birds can be found lying blissfully on the ground in a patch of sun. Sometimes it’s obvious the bird is sunning, with its wings spread and just basking, but other times, it’s a little less clear. Pigeons especially will find a nice spot, plop down on their side, and lift a wing up. Though it does look alarming at first, I promise they’re just really relaxed! Gumby, our male southern ground hornbill, is a repeat offender in alarming guests as he soaks in the rays. He tends to lie down in a sunny patch, spread his wings to either side, and drop his head to the dirt. Though he looks ridiculous, he is actually really comfortable! You can tell the bird is okay by looking really closely, and you’ll see the bird breathing and/or looking around. (If you’re really concerned, you can always ask a Zoo team member!)
So next time you visit Zoo Atlanta, on a sunny day, keep an eye out for some of our sunbathing birds!
Keeper I, Birds