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Keeper Stories – Tuesday, March 21

As we approach Spring Break week here at the Zoo, you may notice a few changes around in some of the bird habitats, including some changes to the type of material that we are now using for the floors of our habitats. The Bird Department loves to use this time of the year as an opportunity for a massive spring cleaning, and part of that is replacing and adding new substrate for our aviaries. Typically most of our habitats originally started with a layer of wood mulch, generally cypress mulch. This is what we consider the “fancy” mulch just because it is a special order and it looks really nice, and most importantly it doesn’t mold much, which is better for the birds who live on the ground! In other habitats we use our very own “Zoo” mulch which our awesome Horticulture Team creates right here on grounds. This consist of any limbs or other clippings from trees and shrubs around the Zoo that the Horticulture Team generates from their daily pruning work. The process of getting this mulch into the habitats is carefully orchestrated along with Horticulture’s help.

This is especially important for gravel, which you might have noticed before in a few places under our birds. Teamwork is key to the successful addition of this substrate to any habitat because it can be exceptionally heavy! We started using a small pea gravel very cautiously in just two habitats. We were concerned it might be hard on the birds’ feet and cold in winter. However, the birds have done really well with it. Even though it is a lot of hard work moving gravel around one bucket at a time, it definitely pays off in the end. You can definitely tell a difference in how much it brightens habitats. We keepers also love it as well because it’s much easier to clean. This year we decided to replace a bigger percentage of our aviaries with gravel, which you will notice next time you visit. Who knew that mulch and gravel could be so exciting?! I know…it’s the little things in life that make a zookeeper’s day.
Andy Clement
Keeper III, Birds

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