Saturday, January 11, 2014

I Love My Job

I love my job--working with birds at the World Bird Sanctuary and seeing the look on a kid's face right after a bird flies just above their head.  But for me, the single best part of my job is doing zoo shows; more precisely, training different behaviors that our birds perform during those shows.

The process of working with a bird to teach, refine and perfect a behavior is the single coolest thing I get to do.  During our zoo shows we get to showcase these amazing behaviors for others to witness.  

For example:
Locust, our Red-Legged Seriema will slam a rubber snake into the ground, mimicking how they do this in the wild to kill snakes and break up the bones to make it easier for the Seriema to swallow.  

Red-legged Seriemas have a unique method for capturing and killing prey...the Seriema Slam!

Cupid, one of our American Barn Owls, can find and fly to a trainer offstage without being able to see them.  This is possible because of a special "pish" cue.  Barn Owls can find the audible cue because of a specialized facial disc made of controllable stiff feathers that will direct sound to their ears.  In the wild they use this ability to track down prey at night, sometimes even in complete darkness.  

Scarlett, our Red-Shouldered Hawk can fly out from behind a corner and find a trainer in mid-flight.  This is called a "blind release" because they can't see where the trainer is before they start flying.  In the wild, Red-Shouldered Hawks live in woodlands near rivers, flying through the trees.  So, it is important for them to be able to quickly see where they need to go in case they are flying at prey to catch and eat.  
Scarlett, the Red-shouldered Hawk executes a blind release to the on-stage trainer 

Hugnin, a White-Necked Raven, will take generous dollar donations from your hand and put them inside of her donation box, mimicking how in the wild ravens, crows, jays and other birds will hide or 'stash' items that they find valuable.  This can also include food—just in case they can't find enough another day--then they can go back to their stash to eat.  

These are just a few examples of some of the different behaviors our birds do during our educational shows at different zoos throughout the summer.  To see these amazing behaviors and many more, you will just have to come visit us next summer at Milwaukee County Zoo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or at Stone Zoo, just north of Boston, Massachusetts.

We will be in Milwaukee from Memorial Day until Labor Day and Boston's Stone Zoo from 1 May through Labor Day, every day of the week, three times a day, weather permitting, of course.  We hope to see you there!

Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

1 comment:

flying_angels said...

Mike: I can see why you love your job. To me, the best part would be sharing all this fascinating bird knowledge (like the SEriema Slam!) with the next generation. We just put in some putting in squirrel proof bird feeders so we can show off more bird species to our grandkids when they come over. Just our little part in sharing nature.