‘Tis the season
From kori bustards on the east side of the Zoo to blue cranes on the west side, eggs/incubation on the north side to the Bird Propagation Center on the south side – Birds is one of the most spread-out animal departments in the whole Zoo. According to my phone, I average 15,000 steps per day (12,540 more than a gorilla)! I believe my job as a bird keeper has a large part in that number. With birds all over the Zoo, we have to be very organized and deliberate with how we use our time. We divide our bird areas into four main sections or routines and each day, each of those areas is covered by a member of the Bird Team. With over 200 birds, making up about 20 percent of the animals at the Zoo, we often need more than four keepers to accomplish all of our work. On an average day, we have five team members who are supported by incredible Volunteers and interns. Together, we work as a cohesive team to accomplish our daily tasks and navigate anything thrown our way.
This time of year is especially exciting as many of our birds are in the midst of their breeding season! This also means things get pretty hectic for us. Over 85 percent of our birds are nest-building, courting, breeding, laying eggs, raising chicks, etc. On top of our normal routines, we need to provide nesting materials, provide nesting sites (nest baskets, boxes, platforms, extra hiding places), monitor egg laying, support parents, and support chicks. Most birds become more sensitive or aggressive during this time, and we modify our routines in order to be safe and support their natural behaviors. During the months of May and June, we have had at least one egg laid almost every day. Whenever a chick hatches, we provide supportive care which varies from extra food and diet supplements to hand-rearing and collaboration with veterinarians. We have to come in early in the morning and sometimes late at night to make sure that chicks are doing well and have all that they need as they rapidly grow.
As wild as it can be, the job can be incredibly rewarding. It is an amazing privilege to have the opportunity to get a close-up look at the incredibly unique lives and behaviors of birds from around the world while working to support their conservation. Sharing their lives and our experiences to inspire and educate guests makes it all the more worthwhile.
If you see me around the Zoo, feel free to ask more about our birds! Have a great day!
Keeper I, Birds