Technology and bird care
Hello – I’m Luke, a keeper in the Bird Department here at Zoo Atlanta! In my department, we incorporate a lot of different technology into our daily routines. We use our phones for nest checks, in a few different ways — usually with video and flash, to see into spaces we can’t quite peer into, but also, we can attach our phone to a pole and use video chat with another keeper to observe the contents of a nest when it is located in a less accessible location. We use algorithms within our artificial incubation logs to accurately track the development of eggs, and, we have recently begun using a variety of cameras, which we log on to through our phones, to observe behavior and events that we may otherwise miss.
One of the best examples of this is when our milky eagle owl chick hatched earlier this year. Using a camera, we were able to see every step of the process – in this species, the female incubates, so the male brings her mice as she sits. Therein, we were able to watch her incubate, witness the chick hatch, and we were able to document and observe every developmental milestone in this charismatic species! They are highly defensive and territorial when they have a chick, so this type of access was incredibly helpful and rewarding. I know I had many nights of avidly watching this chick grow, as did my coworkers.
Another way these cameras have been a valuable resource for us is when we have a bird under medical care or observation. When we had to separate our blue crane chick from his parents, which is a natural process for this species, we used cameras to ensure that this bird continued to thrive. Through the use of a camera, we were able to adjust our behavioral husbandry plans and provide him with various enrichment, different feeding locations, and visual access to another crane species in order to fulfill his social needs prior to departure to another zoo, to meet his new mate.
In addition to the aforementioned benefits of using cameras in our department, we have also used them this year for a multi-faceted purpose – monitoring and overseeing all aspects of behavior within our Chilean flamingo flock during breeding season! This helped to ensure that the flamingos were not in danger from wild animals while they sat tight on their nest mounds; to document how well the flamingos were attending to their eggs and nests; and to monitor species-specific behavior within the flock.
As you can see, this technology has critically improved our husbandry and helped us to make more informed decisions within our zoological populations. I can’t wait to see how technology continues to help us develop and hone our skills!
Keeper III, Birds