Tuesday, September 13
Last year I wrote about being a swing keeper in the Bird Department here at Zoo Atlanta. Since then, I’ve become the primary keeper for the Living Treehouse routine. This means that I spend every day of my work week caring for the birds in The Living Treehouse, the kori bustards and the wreathed hornbills. The husbandry involved in my daily work is the same as a swing keeper, but there is a difference in my responsibilities now.
One of the biggest differences in becoming a primary is getting to know all of the individual birds on my routine. As a swing keeper, I knew all of the birds, but bouncing around to different routines meant that I was only seeing each bird once or twice a week. Becoming a primary has been a big change and a really cool experience. So far this year, I’ve gotten to watch the kori bustard chicks and wreathed hornbill chick grow, develop, and hit milestones. I’ve also watched new introductions into The Living Treehouse aviary, and saw how the dynamics shift with each new bird addition. Because I’m around these birds every day, I’ve also gotten to know their personalities and quirks pretty well. I can tell you that Snake, our adult male kori bustard, has some crazy sense for when I’m coming to service the habitat, and will meet me at the corner of the habitat when I’m still 30 yards away; that our male lapwing is more adventurous than our female and will let you get just the tiniest bit closer if you bribe him with mealworms; and that our golden pheasant, Blue, is going to follow you around and display for you whether you like it or not, and you better watch your feet so you don’t trip.
Being on this routine every day means I have different responsibilities as well. Because I’m constantly around them, I’m usually the first to notice if something is amiss with a bird or any other changes in behavior. For example, our ringed teal female is gravid, and I need to be on the lookout for where they’ll be nesting. I’m also in charge of a good deal of the management of the routine. In addition to the general cleaning and husbandry involved, I’m in charge of making sure projects get done, from hanging up new nest boxes and perching, to shoveling out all of the sand in the kori bustard shed to refresh it for winter, to prepping and taking down the giant wreathed hornbill nest box. Because there is always so much going on, I rely a lot on the swing keepers to help with projects and to keep things running smoothly while I’m gone. And because I was previously in their position, I respect just how much they have to remember and keep up with between all the routines.
There are benefits to both being a swing and a primary keeper, and I personally love the opportunities and responsibilities that come along with being a primary. This position has definitely caused me to grow as a keeper, and I look forward to what other opportunities lay ahead.
Keeper I, Birds