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Safe cleaning of a milky eagle owl habitat

If you’ve ever found yourself at the Zoo in the afternoon on Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday, you may have come across an odd sight at the milky eagle owl habitat during your visit. Three Bird Team members carefully navigating the habitat, all in bright blue hard hats and safety glasses, two carrying clear plastic shields, and one following behind with a trash bag and glove. It may seem like some crazy covert operation is occurring seeing the keepers in what almost appears to be riot gear carefully guarding their unarmed coworker, but it is in fact simply habitat cleaning day!

Why all the protective gear, you ask? All owl species have silent flight, and that silent flight combined with lethal feet makes for a dangerous bird to turn your back on. With four razor sharp talons on each foot, and each foot capable of exerting 500 to 700 pounds per square inch of pressure (that’s stronger than a Rottweiler’s bite!) you do not want to be caught unawares by this magnificent bird! When we enter the habitat to clean, we are entering their space, which is why we always need to be prepared for a possible owl air raid telling us “Get out of my territory!” By having two keepers in the front with shields, eyes on the owls at all times, the third team member can easily clean up any poop, casts, and leftover dinner without worrying about getting an armful of owl talons. Now the owls don’t always attack, and they are less likely to attack during spring, summer, and fall, but when winter rolls around (their breeding season), you may get to see those plexi shields in action!


Katherine B.
Keeper III, Birds

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