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“Swinging” from feathers to scales

Amphibians, reptiles, and birds! Oh my! Earlier this year, Zoo Atlanta created their first Herpetology/Bird Department Swing Keeper role, and I was lucky enough to land the position. Being a Swing Keeper means that you “swing” between departments so that both areas get the little extra bit of help they need during the week.

Now for the past seven years, I have worked solely with Zoo Atlanta’s bird population, so moving over to Scaly Slimy Spectacular was a bit of a change. I went from caring for animals in the air, to looking for them on the ground. From feeding animals that require food twice a day, to ones that get fed a few times a week if not once a month!

However, despite their differences, there are some similarities as well: Both have scales (yes, birds have scales! Take a closer look at their feet!) and both lay eggs (well, most of them do anyway). One more thing that birds and reptiles share is something I must be very aware of as I move between areas: cross contamination of diseases. Since birds and reptiles are so similar in many ways, this also means they can share illnesses as well. To help combat this, I have two sets of uniforms, two sets of hats, and two sets of shoes, one set for each area. No bird clothes in herpetology areas, and no herpetology clothes in bird areas! This does mean I have to do a little more laundry over my weekend than most animal care professionals do, but I think it is more than worth it to get to work with such a large variety of species each and every day at Zoo Atlanta.

Katherine B.
Swing Keeper, Herpetology and Birds


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