Thursday, June 19, 2014

There’s no Business like Show Business!

World Bird Sanctuary’s educational bird programs at zoos can be an interesting lifestyle.  I’ve been doing zoo shows for World Bird Sanctuary since 2008 and supervising since 2011 and I still get excited every year.  There is nothing quite like moving to a new city, meeting new people and educating a whole new population of zoo goers.
Even the stage may change from year to year

Every year is a new experience, not only because the staff changes every year, but so do the birds, and occasionally the location.  One year I might be in Boston, the next in Milwaukee, and even if I return to a city the next year, the stage itself might be completely different.  That means coming up with new creative patterns for the birds to fly.  I think that might be one of the things I love most about zoo shows.  No two years are ever going to be the same.

My first year as a trainer was different than my first year supervising, and even now with three years and four shows of supervising under my belt things are still different one year to the next.  This means I will probably never tire of zoo shows.  In fact it is more than likely that I will physically exhaust myself before I become bored.

Every year is a new challenge both because of the new staff and the new birds.  Some years I have recurring staff members who have done zoo shows before; some years I have mostly rookies.  It is amazing to watch people learn and grow as they discover the unique way that zoo shows operate.  It’s interesting to watch the light bulbs go off over trainers’ heads as they learn how to manage time in order to be ready for shows, as well as learning how to think ahead in the show.

The oh so important show pouch

During our shows we move quickly from one bird to the next, with little to no time between them.  For new speakers for the show this is especially challenging, since they need to learn how to pack a show pouch (our oh so stylish fanny packs) properly.  During the show a speaker needs to able to switch effortlessly from one bird to another, pulling out the food rewards without slowing down or stopping to look into the pouch.  It is a learned skill and everyone has their own way of packing their pouch.  Some people use “snap caps”, tiny plastic cups with lids, empty applesauce cups and even pill containers to hold the food so that it does not spill during the show.

The staff members are not the only rookies.  Every year we have at least one new bird.  Sometimes a bird may be at zoo shows not to actually be in the show, but so it can be acclimated to people and the daily routine.  It is one of the best ways to get an education bird ready for shows and programs.
One of this year's rookies--Chique, a Blue-fronted Amazon

This year we have four rookies to zoo show programs: Chique a Blue-fronted Amazon, Suk a Common Raven, Evita a Red-legged Seriema, and Zeus the Golden Eagle.  We even have a few sophomores this year, like Reese our Great Horned Owl and Vader the Black Vulture, who both had great rookie seasons last year and are ready to amaze again.  Even birds that have been doing shows for years might begin doing new patterns or behaviors, both to keep them enriched and make things interesting for the audience.

Show season is my favorite time of year because it is both familiar and different every year.  Be sure to stop by the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin or Stone Zoo in Boston, Massachusetts to see what we have planned for this year.  Feel free to visit multiple times!  When you work with live birds, no two shows are ever the same!

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Zoo Show Supervisor

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