Keeper Notes

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Written by: Jennifer A. Verstraete
Senior Animal Keeper


In spring many of us birders may flock as locally as Walden's Pond right here in Van Saun Park to view orioles, warblers, kingfishers and more.  Right now we are getting excited for this falls hawk migration about to begin in a month.  But what can you do during the dog days of summer when it is hot, humid and the birding begins to slow down.  What about a walk through the zoo's North American Aviary which houses 7 species of birds and a few dozen fresh water turtles too!
This has been a very exciting summer for the zoo keeping staff.  Every spring before our birds are relocated outside from their winter housing we supply our charges with various twigs, hay and greens to encourage natural behavior.  This year a few species really got motivated and began building nests early.  Where else could you observe such natural behavior so close up.  Its fun to watch them pick out the perfect length & width twig and then bring it up to their nest.  Then they poke & prod as they position each twig just right.  It can take up to a week to complete this job but once it is done some of the birds even gather leaves to line & soften the nest preparing for young.
Next comes the courtship behavior.  Wings go a fluttering and bills look like they are taking part in a sword fight.   All this work has paid off.  Next time you walk through the aviary look for the 4 beautifully constructed nests that are all visible from the boardwalk.  In fact,  2 of them already have chicks in them!  We have 3 good size juvenile Black-crowned night herons starting to fledge and 2 pink spoonbills that are still sitting in the nest with mom & dad being fed.  If you look closely you may see some activity by our wood duck or whistling duck boxes too.
So stop by the Aviary for some summertime birding and see how many of the 20 individuals you can find that live there, 4 nests and don't forget about the dozens of turtles.