Monday, November 26, 2012

Working The Kinks Out

Along with three other staff members, I spent the past summer in Boston, MA presenting World Bird Sanctuary’s Masters of Flight bird of prey show at Stone Zoo.  This show is a free flight demonstration as well as a demonstration of the birds’ natural behaviors.
Oracle--an Augur Buzzard
As part of our team we had nineteen birds, and of those nineteen we had two rookies-birds that had never been in WBS education programs.  We had Oracle, a one-year-old African Augur Buzzard and Peabody, a European Tawny Owl who is about three.
Peabody--a Tawny Owl
At first there can be many challenges when young birds are learning to fly in shows.  For one thing, they are uncoordinated in some respects.  From what I had seen and heard they often have a hard time landing on the glove.  Sometimes, when they come in to land, the momentum they’ve built keeps them going right off the other side of the glove.  Oracle didn’t have too rough of a time with that, but it was a bigger problem for Peabody. Eventually, with practice and experience, they got the hang of it.
Another challenge we ran into is that very often the birds are afraid of things they didn’t experience as they grew up at WBS.  Of course, this makes sense because these things are unnatural to them and they don’t know what the object will do.  Wheeled objects like strollers, and wheelchairs, are particularly scary.  They don’t know that the stroller isn’t going to eat them; they just know that it’s strange and scary and they want to get away from it. 
Peabody making his St. Louis debut at Open House
Throughout the season we learn more about each bird and what makes that individual bird frightened or uncomfortable.  Then we do our best to slowly acclimate each bird to these scary things, especially the ones we know they will see a lot.  This allows for the birds to be as comfortable as possible and for us to present the best show possible.  It’s kind of a learning experience for both the birds and the trainers.
With time and patience the kinks get worked out and the show is great.  All in all I would say that we--humans and birds--had a great season.  We learned a lot and had a great time doing it.
Submitted by Jaimie Sansoucie, World Bird Sanctuary, Seasonal Staff Member

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