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Workshopping for waterfowl

Towards the end of October, I had the opportunity to join Zoo Atlanta curator James Ballance on a trip to the 2018 Waterfowl Conservation Workshop/Conference. This event was created and hosted by Sylvan Heights Bird Park and the International Wild Waterfowl Association in North Carolina. With waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans) making up only a small portion of the bird population at Zoo Atlanta, this was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about waterfowl conservation, management and husbandry while connecting with experts in the field.

The conference was three days long with the first two days consisting of presentations at East Carolina University. I thoroughly enjoyed the wide array of presentations and presenters that were included. From avicultural egg management to research on wintering waterfowl and seabirds on Chesapeake Bay, the presentations allowed me to gain a solid understanding of the current state of waterfowl in zoological organizations, private collections, and their natural habitats. Presenters included curators, directors, enthusiasts, students, keepers, etc. Even though Zoo Atlanta only has a few waterfowl species, there is so much that can be gained from attending a conference like this. Many husbandry, enrichment, and management practices that work for waterfowl can be applied to other avian species. Conservation issues are often widespread and affect more than one group of animals, so ideas and initiatives pertaining to waterfowl can be used to strengthen conservation impact with other animals that we have in the Bird Department and beyond.

The third day was the workshop at Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Sylvan Heights is home to the world’s largest waterfowl collection and second-largest bird collection in the United States. Spending the day at Sylvan Heights was overwhelming to say the least; I felt like I needed at least a week to really take it all in! The workshop consisted of stations throughout the park that covered a wide array of topics. My day began observing a necropsy of an endangered white-winged wood duck and concluded with a short course on photographing birds in aviary settings. Other stations I visited included waterfowl enrichment, museum specimen preparation, waterfowl first aid, sexing and banding and waterfowl education and programming.

I am thankful that I work at a zoo that provides its keepers with opportunities to learn and grow, such as this one. The conference opened my eyes to the wild world of waterfowl and allowed me to connect with experts in the field. If you see me at the Zoo, I’d be happy to answer any questions or talk to you more about this great experience.
Gabriel Andrle
Keeper I, Birds

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl