Sunday, October 21, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions: Part 1

So this month I opted for something a little different.  I am going to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions from the simple to the odd question. 
This Barn Owl knows there is a treat hidden in the glove 
How do you train your birds?  All of our birds are trained with positive reinforcement.  This means every time they perform a behavior correctly they get a reward.  For most of the birds it is a piece of food in the glove.  We also use variable rewards, so every now and then they get 2 or 3 pieces of food, instead of just 1.  By keeping the birds guessing this can help reinforce the behaviors the birds are doing.  Along with the rewards we will also use vocal reinforcement words like “Good” with birds like crows, ravens and parrots.  This is a somewhat simplified answer to this question.
 Scoop's beak has razor sharp edges--notice the glove on my right hand 
How much does the pelican weigh and does it hurt when a pelican bites you?  Scoop, our male White Pelican, weighs about 14 lbs., while Mudflap, our female, weighs about 10 lbs.  The pelicans look heavier than they really are, but remember they have hollow bones, lots of feathers, and air sacs within their bodies that make them lighter than they look.  The pelican beak is very interesting.  The White Pelican beak is designed for scooping up fish.  There is not a lot of strength behind the beak like a bird of prey, but the sides of the beak are almost like razors that help the pelican to hold onto the fish.  They also have a hook at the end of the beak that is kind of sharp, so it does hurt some when they bite at the right angle.  The Brown Pelican beak is much stronger since they dive into the water after their food and their beak hurts more if they bite.

Where is the other rabbit—it says you have two on the sign?  In the Nature Center, we have two rabbits, Hazel and Patches.  They are two female Mini Rex Rabbits.  They were housed together for a few years, but then one day they just did not get along.  They are now separated-- while one is housed on exhibit the other is housed behind the scenes.  We just switch them on a regular basis.

While Hazel greets visitors in the Nature Center, Patches waits her turn behind the scenes 
I hope you have enjoyed the answers to a few frequently asked questions.  If you have any questions you would like answered please post in the comments and I will answer them in a future blog.  If you would like your questions answered in person, join us today for the last day of Open House.  Any staff member will be happy to answer your questions.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

always love learning more about your animals!