Shadow day and closing thoughts

Last Wednesday ended up being pretty awesome! My suspicions came true, and I got to shadow in the different areas of the bird department and see how a typical day for them goes! The Oregon Zoo has five different sections of birds: Vollum Aviary, Africa Rainforest Aviary, Lorikeet Landing, California Condors, and the Penguinarium. Bird keepers are cross-trained for all of the sections, so they can be scheduled for any of them on any given day.

I reported to the zoo bright and early at six a.m. and went to the Vollum Aviary to start the day! The aviary has some different African species of birds such as African red-billed hornbills, Golden-breasted starlings, Speckled mousebirds, Hamerkops, White-collared kingfishers, and Hottentot teals, to name a few. I helped the keeper there do a species count to make sure no birds were missing, distribute the morning diets, remove the old food bowls, hose the aviary floor, and water the plants. Then, I got to observe how they get weights for the different birds! There is a scale platform with a built-in bowl for mealworms. The scale gets placed in an open area on the aviary floor, and then they sit and wait for the birds to come. When a bird lands on the scale, they take a picture of it, because sometimes the bird is on the scale so briefly that it’s impossible to read the numbers in time. The hornbills ended up being a little greedy. The male was constantly bullying the other birds for access to the scale so he could take mealworms to feed the female hornbill!

During this time, we switched back-and-forth between sections and also completed the daily routine for the Africa Rainforest Aviary. This area houses Lesser flamingos, Hadada ibis, Sacred ibis, and various species of waterfowl. I helped rake leaves and hose down the indoor portions of the enclosure. I also observed the keeper preparing the medication and salt bath for the flamingos’ feet. If the surfaces birds have to stand on in zoos are not “bird-friendly,” many different species of birds can develop bumblefoot. The flamingos came to the Oregon Zoo with some bad cases of the infection. The keepers tackled the problem by conditioned the birds to always eat their food inside. To get to the food, the flamingos now have to walk across a mat covered with a thin layer of medication, and then stand in a mild salt bath. So far, their feet have improved greatly!

After completing these morning routines, I went back to the Wild Life Live building to observe the coping and trimming of some of our birds’ beaks and nails. I even got to help restrain the bald eagle’s head, and hold out the feet of some of the other birds!

For the afternoon, I went to the Penguinarium to witness the routine for the Humboldt penguins and Inca terns. I got to give the birds their afternoon feeding, sort and weigh their proper diets for the next day, clean the kitchen floor, listen to the keeper give a keeper talk, and feed the penguins again. I also had a chance to make a cool piece of enrichment! We cut out different ocean-related shapes (like sharks, fish, starfish, and octopus) out of thick felt material. These shapes were then tied into holes drilled into PVC pipes. The pipes sank to the bottom of the pool, but the felt still floated upright in the water. Now the penguins had something to explore and play with while swimming!

Working with the penguins was more fun than I had expected, but I also quickly learned that they can deliver a nasty bite if they want! Mostly this happened if I wasn’t feeding them fast enough or wouldn’t give them their favorite kind of fish! And, of course, they always knew to aim for right above the top of your boots. So, needless to say, I walked away at the end of the day with a few penguin “kisses” on my legs! However, I still had a blast!

It was a great way to end the summer and an amazing internship, overall. I have plenty of things to reflect on, and the whole program actually raised more questions for me than it answered. Do I know now exactly what dream job I want to look for after graduation? No—but I am definitely a step or two closer to figuring out what that is. And, in the meantime, I know that God is going to keep leading me exactly where I need to go.

So, for now, it’s back to Malone University on Saturday to start my junior year! I will be returning to my position as Bird Team Leader at the Malone zoo with some new ideas I am excited about. Our birds are about to get wake-up calls with some new diet changes and training techniques that will hopefully make a big difference for them!

Thank you everyone for reading my blog and getting to share this experience with me! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and maybe learned some new things along the way, too!

End of the road

This past Monday marked the last real day of my internship—the last day for carrying out my regular duties and being at the displays, that is. On Wednesday (my official last day), I will be shadowing in a different area of the zoo. It’s something fun they let the interns do, so that they are able to see how a different part of the zoo works. While what section of the zoo you get is supposed to be a surprise, I already have my suspicions. But, I’ll leave you all in suspense, so it can be a surprise for you! And I will definitely fill you all in on how things go on Wednesday!

So, in a sense, my internship has really already come to a close. I’ve reached the end of the road, or, depending on how you look at it, the start of a new road. And the first word that comes to mind when I think about the summer: “Wow!” I have truly had an amazing experience. I have gotten to learn so many new things, make new friends, and get tips for the future on becoming a zoo keeper.

It was a bittersweet day for me on Monday. This summer has gone by so quickly that I don’t think my brain has fully caught on to the idea that I am leaving soon. So, it felt really strange to be saying goodbye to some of the staff members who won’t be there on Wednesday. While I know that I can’t stay at the zoo forever, I’m not quite sure I’m ready to be leaving just yet. However, I have to remind myself that there are always new and exciting things waiting just around the corner! Plus, being a self-professed nerd, I am getting kind of excited again for going back to school!

The Oregon Zoo will always hold a special place in my heart, by being the first to give me a taste for what the zoo field is all about. I couldn’t be more grateful to the staff for taking me on as an intern and all of the knowledge they imparted on me. I will dearly miss this place. But don’t worry, Oregon, I will be back! After all, I didn’t get to see the finished product for the Elephant Lands exhibit, so that’s just another excuse to visit next year!

Exciting news!

Our African pygmy hedgehog is a proud mother! I was not able to talk about this earlier, until the news was officially released to the public. But, I can now happily say that our hedgehog, named Hakuna Matata, has given birth to five baby hoglets. That’s right, baby hedgehogs are called hoglets!

The entire process, from introducing her to our male, Burundi, to her giving birth, has occurred while I have been at the zoo! It was so interesting to observe all of the steps along the way and learning about the special considerations that have to be taken into account when breeding hedgehogs.

The most important aspect is that the noise level be kept to a minimum. Hedgehogs are already naturally skittish, and if Hakuna had been too startled, the hoglets could have been aborted during her pregnancy. Even after they were first born we had to be quiet because, if startled, Hakuna might actually have eaten her babies! So, when cleaning her enclosure, we had to be very quiet and always whisper.

The hedgehogs were bred with the intention of having the hoglets become education animals for the zoo. So, now that they are three weeks old, our staff has started handling the little hoglets–a process called “socializing.” This way, the hoglets will become used to being touched and handled, as well as accustomed to louder noises and groups of people.

Very soon though, we will have to prepare to separate the males from the females. Why? African pygmy hedgehogs become sexually mature at just two months of age! They also have a short gestation period of only about 35 days, which is why I was able to witness the entire pregnancy. Having such a quick reproduction cycle is characteristic of animals that are lower on the food chain. By breeding quickly and often, they are supplying the organisms higher up on the chain with a source of food. African pygmy hedgehogs, themselves, are primarily insectivorous, which means they are also doing the important job of keeping the insect population under control! However, they will eat plants on occasion, and they have even been documented eating scorpions and smaller venomous snakes.

A very odd behavior these hedgehogs will perform is called “self-anointing.” If a hedgehog were to come into contact with a new scent, it would create a foamy saliva and spread this across its body. No one is quite sure why they do this or what purpose it is serving. However, we have seen one of our other hedgehogs perform this behavior!

Below is a link to the press article released by the Oregon Zoo, announcing the arrival of our hoglets! It even includes a video of them!

http://www.oregonzoo.org/news/2014/07/tiny-spiny-zoo-welcomes-five-hedgehog-babies

Nature 101

While doing the displays, and talking to people about our American kestrel and Western screech owl, there is something I’ve noticed that I find slightly unsettling. So, I guess it’s time for me to get back on my soap box again this week.

Basically, what I’ve picked up on is this disconnect between the general public and nature. Why do I say this? Almost every day, people tell me that our animals are so cute, and they just want to pet and cuddle them. Granted, I will give them that with the owls, which do look really soft and fluffy. But, the Golden eagle? One look at his beak and talons, and cuddling him is the last thing on my mind. When did we, as humans, lose our sense of respect for these animals for their sheer power as amazing predators? I see this with the large carnivores at the zoo, too. Where have our instincts to fear the lion gone? If there was no barrier there, would you still want to snuggle her?

My guess is that a lot of this mentality comes from our perspective that we are separate from nature. But nature and “the wild” aren’t these far-removed entities. You don’t have to go camping to reconnect with nature. And “the wild” isn’t just reserved for the remote rainforests and mountains you see in National Geographic magazines. The wild is all around us! It’s the small ecosystem you’ve created in your backyard with the bird feeder and bird house. It’s the local park down the street. It’s even my college campus which is teeming with squirrels, Canada geese, chipmunks, rabbits, and a resident Red-tailed hawk!

We are still very much a part of nature, and everything we do affects it. For example: the grass on the side of the highway? Yup, that’s nature, too! And when we throw our trash out the window, other members of nature, such as mice, come to investigate. Our third grade science lesson on food chains reminds us that where the mice go, the predators will follow. This is how we ended up with our Western screech owl. She was hunting along a busy road and was hit by a car. Her eyesight was damaged and is no longer strong enough for her to hunt on her own.

We cannot forget that we are called to be stewards of all these animals on the earth. If you were to look closely at the way you treat nature, would you be proud of the job you are doing? I challenge all of you today to go outside and explore the wild—it’s a pretty amazing place that deserves our respect!

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act

I wanted to talk today about the role that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) plays here at the Oregon Zoo. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 states that it is illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, or barter any migratory bird, or the parts, eggs, or nests of any of these birds, unless you have a valid permit. This act is enforced and regulated by the USFWS. Over 1,000 migratory birds are currently under the protection of the act. Some of these include Eastern Bluebirds, California Condors, Peregrine Falcons, Great Horned Owls, American White Pelicans, and Field Sparrows.

In order for zoos to have any of these protected species, they must apply for the proper permits. For example, there is an application for a Federal Eagle Exhibition permit for use of Bald and Golden Eagles for educational purposes. The requirements are lengthy, just to name a few: at least 300 hours of previous experience with eagles (both husbandry and educational presentations), a recommendation from another eagle permittee, and a commitment to giving at least 12 presentations a year with the eagle. There are also housing and husbandry standards established by USFWS that must be followed in order to continue possessing the bird.  The bird is still technically property of USFWS, which has the right to remove the bird if it is not being provided the proper care.

In our department at the zoo, we have quite a few of these protected species, including the American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Western Screech Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Harris’s Hawk, and Red-tailed Hawk. We are not allowed to maintain possession of any feathers these birds molt (artifacts like feathers, bones, eggs, and nests require their own special permits). So, every day when we clean, we have to collect any feathers and put them in each bird’s proper envelope. When any envelope fills up, it gets dropped off at the appropriate office at the zoo that processes it to be sent to the USFWS office in the area. Once there, each feather will be catalogued into the USFWS system, and redistributed for other permits.

Most of our birds have health complications or other obstacles that prevent them from being released (this is always the case with housing Bald Eagles). For instance, our Kestrel and Red-tailed Hawk are both imprinted on humans. This means that they look to humans to give them their meals, instead of hunting for themselves. Unfortunately, they are perfectly physically fit, but would starve in the wild without a person’s help.

Many times, this happens when well-intentioned people find a bird on the ground and think that it is injured. For the majority of cases, the bird is simply a new fledgling that is learning how to take care of itself. But, when removed from its natural setting, it is unable to complete this critical stage of its life. Instead, it is brought to the person’s home to be “cared for.” Unfortunately, this well-meaning act produces the opposite of the desired outcome: now the bird cannot take care of itself in the wild and will not survive on its own. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, people are doing this illegally if they don’t have the proper permits. Therefore, if you ever find an injured bird, or suspect a bird is in need of attention, always call your local wildlife rehabilitation center first! These centers are qualified to take care of the bird and can make the proper assessments for the care it needs. In the long run, this is the best thing you can do for any injured or abandoned wildlife, bird or otherwise.

Bird health

This past week was all about bird health and housing. In the wild, birds will hide any symptoms of illness they may be experiencing for as long as they possibly can. If a bird acted sick, it would be an easy target for a predator. This is an instinctive response, so it’s something that you have to be aware of with captive birds, as well. By the time a bird starts exhibiting symptoms, that usually means that the illness is now well-developed, and the bird is sick enough that it can no longer keep some of the signs hidden. Therefore, it is really important that you know what kinds of behaviors are typical for each bird. If you are able to pick up on very slight changes in behavior, you may be able to catch the illness before it progresses too far. For example, if the hawk is suddenly more quiet than usual (or the opposite: more loud) for a particular situation, this may be an indication that something is wrong.

All of the birds in our collection at Oregon get a routine physical examination every week, just to make sure nothing is abnormal. Their keels are checked (The keel is a projection on the sternum where the flight muscles attach. If the keel is very pronounced, this can indicate weight loss.), as well as their nares, eyes, feet, and the status of new feather growth. Every few months, the birds get their beaks and nails trimmed. The process of filing down a beak is called coping. For the larger raptors, it can be helpful to put a hood on them, which is a little cap that covers their eyes. Not being able to see exactly what is going on allows them to relax more. The macaws and mammals here are trained for voluntary nail trims. For the birds of prey, this is a more difficult task, as you do not want to be footed by their talons! On my list of things to accomplish next year: finish training our birds at school for voluntary nail trims!

How you set up a bird’s mew or enclosure can also have a great impact on their health. Birds of prey are susceptible to a foot infection called bumblefoot. It is impossible to completely get rid of once contracted, and can only be managed to prevent flare ups. It causes the feet to swell and form sores, making standing uncomfortable for the bird. Bumblefoot is often caused by not providing suitable perching. Perches should have different widths, be covered with different materials (like rope or artificial turf) if they aren’t natural perches, or be real branches and logs. The best thing is to make sure that there is still airflow to the bottom of the feet while the bird is on the perch.

Other aspects to take into consideration when housing a bird are providing different heights for perching, a water bowl that is not kept under a perch (no one wants to drink soiled water!), proper temperature conditions, shelter, and proper substrate (no one wants to walk on concrete or bars!).

Last week was my final week of structured themes for the internship! Now, I am in maintenance mode: I will keep doing everything I have been taught up to now, and will also get the chance to go into more detail on the things that interested me the most! I have also been signed-off for handing the American kestrel alone and am starting to work with the Western screech owl!!!

I can’t believe I only have one more month to go, when there is still so much to see and learn!

Raptor handling

Getting ready for the display at the zoo with Apollo, an American kestrel!

I have reached the next big step in my internship: handling! I have never handled raptors before, so all of this is entirely new for me. I’m so glad I’m getting the opportunity to learn. The bird I have started the process with is our American kestrel. For now, staff members watch me handling to make sure I am doing everything correctly. Once I get signed off on working with the kestrel without staff supervision, I will be able to start handling training for the next bird (not sure yet which one this will be).

For those of you who know as little as I did about raptor handling, it involves some special equipment. The birds have bracelets of leather attached to their legs, called aylmeris. The jesses are leather straps which are attached to the alymeris and hang down from the bird. Sometimes, the jesses wrap directly around the leg without using an aylmeri. Each jess has a slit at the end (kind of like a button hole) where the swivel is strung through. The swivel is a little piece of metal with a ring on either end. The rings get put through the slits in the jesses in such a way that the swivel is secured in place with one ring exposed on the end. Then, you can clip the string from your leather glove onto the swivel’s ring. Now you have a closed system with everything connected:  the bird sitting on your glove, the jesses looped between your fingers, and your glove clipped to the swivel. But, this whole process has to be done with one hand! Once you have a secure hold on the jesses, the bird steps up onto your glove before you attach the swivel. So, while keeping your left hand stable for the bird, you have to use your right hand alone to get the swivel on!

The jesses should have some slack, so that the bird can still move around on your glove. When preening, a bird may use its foot to scratch the back of its neck. If you have the jesses pulled too tightly, it wouldn’t be able to raise its foot. I suppose this would be the equivalent of someone really needing to scratch their nose, but someone else has this person’s hands tied behind their back. Definitely not fair! However, having slack means that if the bird wanted to fly, it would manage to get off the glove. It won’t be able to fly very far because the jesses are acting as a leash of sorts, but it means that your bird will have to right itself back onto your glove. The act of a bird trying to fly off the glove is called bating. It does happen, occasionally, but primarily when there is something that is making the bird anxious. If you can eliminate the potential for anxiety from the bird’s environment, it will be perfectly comfortable staying on your glove.

Since I am working with the kestrel, I get to handle him for the displays! I am still showing biofacts for at least one display, so that he gets a break. When I do have him out, though, I get to talk to visitors specifically about kestrels and answer any questions they might have. This has been fun for me because it’s forcing me to learn some things about other types of birds, instead of focusing just on owls (my favorite!).

In this case, practice makes perfect: I have been working on the whole process for the past two weeks and am getting close to being signed off!

Animal training

Apologies for a pretty long post, but the past week has given me plenty to think about! I’ve now been introduced to the main concepts behind animal training which are essential for having a good show program.

For the past month, I’ve been reading a book called Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor. This book covers the main aspects of animal training such as positive and negative reinforcement, how both of these are different from punishment, how to shape behaviors, clicker training, and how to eliminate unwanted behaviors. I know that a few of these terms may be unfamiliar to some, so let me break them down for you!

Reinforcement is anything that is given in conjunction with or directly after a behavior is completed that will increase the likelihood that the behavior will happen again. If you are adding something to the subject’s environment, it is considered positive reinforcement. For example, if my roommate finally does her laundry after it’s really been piling up, I will make a big deal of thanking her. Now she may be more likely to do her laundry on time in order to receive my compliments of a job well done! Reinforcement can also be negative, if you are taking away something from the environment that the subject had found disagreeable. If you don’t buckle your seatbelt right away, I bet your car responds with a blinking icon on the dash and maybe even an annoying beeping sound. In order to get the beeping to stop, you buckle your seatbelt. That’s negative reinforcement!

Punishment involves adding or removing things that will decrease the likelihood of the behavior happening again. Punishment is not as effective as reinforcement because punishment often occurs too late after the behavior in question happens. Punishment only teaches the subject what they did wrong and not what behavior you actually want them to do that is right. So, it will take a lot longer to teach an animal a behavior if you are teaching it using punishment.

Shaping a behavior involves taking a small tendency an animal (or person!) might have and slowly expanding it, step-by-step, until you have molded the entire behavior you want to see happen. For example, say I want to train my dog to balance a treat on his nose and only eat it when I say to. I may start by reinforcing him for even letting the treat touch his nose without trying to eat it. Once he does this consistently, I’ll go to the next step: I will only reinforce him for letting me place the treat on his nose. The following step could then be letting the treat stay there for even just a second. Slowly, I’ll increase the time the treat stays on the nose, until it’s the length of time I want!

A training method that really helps with shaping behaviors is called clicker training. It first started out being used by dog trainers, but it’s expanded now to trainers of all different kinds of animals. Basically, the animal is taught that the clicker’s noise is a form of reinforcement, by pairing the sound with actual reinforcement. I could teach the dog that a click from me equals a piece of food. Once this relationship is established, I can use a click to let the dog know that he has done the behavior correctly. To him, a click means I’m saying, “That’s right! Your reward is coming!” Now he knows that he can stop the behavior. In theory, if I trained the behavior well, I could get him to hold the treat on his nose indefinitely until I clicked! There isn’t anything magical about the clicker alone, though. You could achieve the same results by using any kind of signal marker. Some trainers prefer a whistle or even just a word, such as “good.”

This book has been really helpful for me in thinking about how I approach training our birds at the Malone Zoo. I’m already coming up with ideas about how to best go about training them next school year and how I can be a better trainer for them. Pryor had a list in her book of “do’s and don’ts” for behavior shaping, and unfortunately, there were a few rules I was breaking! She also had a list of ways to get rid of unwanted behaviors—which a few of our birds have, too. I am looking forward to coming back next semester and putting what I’ve learned to the test!

In the meantime, for my training project, I will be training one of the Oregon Zoo’s ducks to target. This means that the goal behavior is for the duck to “target,” or touch, her bill to a tennis ball on the end of a stick. Ultimately, I would like her to hold her bill still on the ball, but that is a behavior that can be hard for ducks to master. But, we’ll give it a shot!

Targeting is great for helping with animal husbandry tasks. If you have an animal that can target, you can get it to move to different locations in its enclosure without force, have it step up onto a scale to be weighed, and hold still for weekly health checks. Targeting for these activities helps reduce the stress for both the animal and you!

I trained two of our parrots to target last semester, but haven’t gotten them to hold the target…yet. That’s on the agenda for next semester, too! But the behavior has already been helpful. I can now have them step onto a towel that we will be using to cover them when we do beak trims. Without the targeting, it would have been impossible to get them to stand on the towel without force. Now I just need to train them to let me wrap the towel around them!!

When training animals for shows, it’s important to train natural behaviors. Sure, it may be fun for people to watch a parrot skateboard or put a ball through a basketball hoop, but what is this really teaching your audience about the bird? The impression they get is that parrots are fun to have as pets and are there for their entertainment. In the end, have they gained a sense of awe and respect for the bird, or have you only fueled the illegal pet trade? For now, I fear for the latter. Every time we bring either of our macaws to the displays, the majority of the questions we get asked are what tricks it can do, and can we make it talk. I fear that people have forgotten that parrots are wild animals still, and not conventional pets like cats and dogs. If taken care of correctly, parrots can be amazing companions. But, they require immense amounts of attention, responsibility, and commitment (many can live 50+ years!). I end up promoting those messages to zoo visitors every chance I get.

Alright, I’ll get off my soap box now. I hope this post has given you some food for thought (I know, I definitely have some things to ponder this summer). If you want to learn more about training, I highly recommend Pryor’s book!

Let the games begin!

Our displays out on the zoo concert lawn officially started Monday! Unfortunately, we won’t be doing the regular free flight bird shows because of the construction going on nearby for the new elephant exhibit. But there are still going to be plenty of opportunities to educate people about the birds this summer!

Last week, I gave a mock presentation on adaptations of owls for my practical exam. I told the staff my talk was geared for third graders. So, wouldn’t you know, they all started acting “their age!” If I can manage to keep my composure around adults behaving like nine-year-olds, I know I can handle talking to people at the zoo!

Now my afternoons are going to revolve around the shows we give at 11:00, 12:00, and 1:00. For half an hour the staff members stand throughout the lawn with the birds. I also have my table at one end of the lawn with the “biofacts.” I brought different feet, feathers, and skulls to help compare some of the species we were displaying. So far, it’s been a really fun experience getting to talk to people. Of course, there are children who are far too little to understand anything you could say to them about the feather (other than, “Yes, you can touch it.”). I quickly lost track of the number of times I had to say the words “delicate” and “fragile.” But it is also incredibly rewarding to see realization light up a face when you ask a child a question, and they know they’ve come up with the right answer! Being a self-declared bird nerd, I also forget how some people may know relatively little about birds. And that’s why this is so enjoyable! I have a chance to teach people about something I am truly passionate about.

There’s that tried-and-true cliché that your perfect job won’t feel like work to you at all. I have been pondering that idea for a while, wondering if I was going to hit the point where it became more of a chore to get up so early and navigate through Portland’s speedy drivers to report to the zoo. However, I am on week five of my internship, and I have yet to hit that point. And I don’t think I will. The zoo has done a great job of increasing my responsibilities just enough each week to prevent any monotony from setting in, but also from making me feel overwhelmed by too much happening at once. As a result, I look forward to going to work every day, because I know that there will always be something new to learn and try. Every day is just different enough to keep me coming back for more!

Ornithology

Each week of my internship is given a particular focus. For this past week, I continued my regular duties for diet, enrichment, and cleaning, and started my enrichment project. It was a more relaxing week because no new concepts were introduced that required training. Instead, I had to do some reading on my own time about ornithology (the study of birds) and learning specifically about the species in the show collection. Fortunately, this didn’t feel like homework at all because I am always jumping on an opportunity to learn more about birds! And I supplemented the readings they gave me with my own bird books I brought with me this summer (6 books in all, in case you were wondering. Yes, I just counted them. No, that is not excessive…I think…). So, I thought I would share with you all some of the cool facts I got from my studying:

1)      There are over 9,600 species of birds!

2)      Birds will periodically shed and replace their feathers in a process called molting. Some birds, such as penguins, will molt all of their feathers at once

3)      Owl can turn their heads up to 270 degrees

4)      Peregrine falcons can reach speeds of 200+mph when they dive!

5)      Birds of prey have a visual acuity (seeing for distance) that is eight to ten times better than ours! And to top that off, their eyes are about 100 times better than ours at detecting motion!

6)      Eagles and hawks have a bony ridge above each eye that provides the eyes with protection, but it also gives them that serious-looking gaze!

7)      Bald eagles will often steal prey from Osprey for an easy meal

8)      When prey is abundant, Northern saw-whet owls will cache extra food to save for the winter

9)      A Toco toucan’s bill accounts for a third of its total length and 1/20th of its total weight!

I could keep on going, but I will spare you all that.

During this week, I will get to put my knowledge to the test, as I am moving on to the interpretation portion of the internship. This is the part where I get to practice my public speaking skills, so that they can make sure I am ready to be out on zoo grounds educating people about how awesome birds are. Then, the real fun will begin, since our displays out in the zoo will be starting next week! Until I am checked off on handling some of the birds, I’ll be participating in the displays by bringing “biofacts,” such as feathers, skulls, talons, etc., for people to touch and get a closer look at. I can’t wait to get out there and have a chance to interact with the public!