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Zookeeper ChatWinterizing Our Bird Habitats

November 16, 2015

As the temperatures outside cool down, you may be wondering – where do the birds at the Zoo go? Do they “fly south for the winter”?

Lead Bird Keeper, Alexandra Zelazo-Kessler, answers these questions and more in this keeper chat about winterizing our bird habitats.

What kind of climates are the majority of our birds from?

Many of our birds are from temperate climates. When temperatures drop into the 40s at night we take many of them off exhibit and place them in indoor holding areas. Depending on the species, this gives us an opportunity to “flock” birds – putting them in larger groups or splitting them up into male and female groups. This can increase breeding success in the spring as it more closely resembles what the birds would do in the wild; many bird species only pair up for breeding.

Can you give examples of birds that are moved to winter holding?victoria crowned
Jambu fruit dove
Chestnut-breasted malcoha
Fairy bluebird
Black-naped fruit dove
Pink-necked pigeon
Collared finch-billed bulbul
Black-naped oriole
Luzon bleeding heart dove
Crested wood partridge
Green-naped pheasant pigeon – these birds will breed in holding
Victoria-crowned pigeon – these birds will breed in holding

What warming accommodations are given to bird exhibits?
Sometimes we are able to alter the exhibit to provide heat. This is the case for our African weavers. We put up plexi glass sides and turn on heat lamps.

We are lucky to have an indoor holding area attached to the exhibit for our rhinoceros hornbills. We can give them access to the exhibit when temperatures are above 50 degrees. The birds always have the option to go inside to warm up. This is also the case for our Southern cassowaries, East African crowned crane, and Southern screamers, though they can have access at 40 degrees.

Can some birds be left on exhibit and why?
There are some birds that can be left on exhibit. Typically these birds can be found at high elevations or in areas that get very cold.  We do offer supplemental heat in the form of hanging heat lamps so the birds can warm up if they so choose. These species include:

White-crested lauging thrush
Azure-winged magpie
White-naped crane
Cinereous vulture
Demoiselle crane
White stork
Stanley crane
Sarus crane

Emu – though Emu are generally from a temperate climate they do well in cold temperatures. Our emu have access to a heated barn, as do the kangaroos and wallabies.

Alex Zelazo-Kessler
Lead Bird Keeper