August was a month full of great weather, fun events and baby birds at the Aviary! Among our nestlings are some newcomers that will leave you tickled pink. If you havent heard the news already, our colorful pride of chilean flamingoes have added two new additions to their flock! On August 14, our first male flamingo was born to parents green 34 and green 38. The second chick, a female, hatched just a few days later on August 19 to parents blue 60 and green 33. Our keepers Identify the parents by the bands they wear and have been monitoring them throughout nest building and incubation process to make sure they are fit parents for the chicks. They have proven their abilities throughout the preparatory stages and even more so as the chicks have arrived, keeping very careful eyes on their babies as they explore new life in their Aviary home. The flamingo babies can be identified as well, the male being far bigger than the female. Flamingo parents are able to recognize their own chick through vocalizations, which can be observed with our flock as well.

 

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In the first days of life, the chicks remained on their nests with parents keeping them under their wing and within eyesight at all times. Within the 1st week, however, they began walking, swimming, and exploring their exhibit, still always keeping their parents close by.  As they age, the chicks will depend on their parents’ crop milk for about the first 6 months of life, but will also begin eating foods like flamingo pellets and algae on their own within the first week. These foods provide additional nutrition to the chicks as they continue to grow... and they are growing fast! They seem to be learning everything from feeding to standing on one leg after only a few days of being born. Not to mention, they get bigger and bigger every day. 

 

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Our unique method of raising chicks involves the benefits of them living in the flock and being tended to by their parents while also keeping them safe at night.  Every night at sunset, our keeper staff will bring the chicks inside where they are kept in a warm brooder to ensure their safety and health. The keeper then returns the chicks to their parents first thing in the morning. Once they are strong enough to walk, run and swim, as well as when they are big enough (around 1000g), they will remain outside with their flock throughtout the entire night. In the wild, flamingoes form large chick nurseries also called a “crèche” where parents will leave them for periods of time while they forage for food, so being without their flock for extended periods of time is not uncommon for flamingo chicks. 

 

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Now that the chicks are here, we have begun the name-picking process! However, we are going to need help. Our first chick will be named by a donor who had the highest bid at our annual conservation gala, Ready to Hatch. The second flamingo chick will be named by the public through a voting process on facebook. If you have ever wanted the opportunity to name one of our birds, here is your chance! Our keepers have decided to go with an Avengers theme for our second chick, because they have done "whatever it takes" to make sure these chicks have made it here safely and happily. They even went to such measures as installing netting around the flamingo exhibit prior to their birth to keep the babies safe from a family of cooper hawks that live near by. The names they have decided on are:  

Spiderman

Stormbreaker

Hawkeye

Fury

You will have the opportunity to vote on a name this Thursday, September 5th, via facebook and the names will be announced along with flamingo face paint, crafts, acitivities, bird shows and keeper talks at our Let's Flamingle celebration on September 14th! 

 

- Mackenzy Johnson, Public Relations Coordinator 

Published in Bird Tweets

If you haven't heard already, there is a new bird on the block. Meet the newest kea and Kea Bachelorette contestant, Ikaroa! She has been causing quite the stir as the newcomer on the scene. Whether by accident or on purpose, she has earned her place as potential competition with our other bachelorette, Scarlet (silver band).

Ikaroa (black and yellow band) was born in 2014, making her one of the oldest kea among her exhibit-mates. She was born in the same year as Gonzo (blue band) and has formed a special bond with him (at least for the time being), signaling that she may prefer a more mature mate. However, she has also been seen spending time with the leader of the pack, Arthur (orange band), so it is still a mystery as to who will find courtship with the new bird. One thing is certain, she knows how to keep them all on their toes. 

 

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This incredible bird traveled a long way to get to her new home, coming all the way from Bomlitz, Germany at Walsrode Bird Park. She made a brief stop at the Bronx Zoo before finally finding her way to the Aviary and her new role as a kea bachelorette. She believes in staying true to who she is and where she came from. Whether or not the other kea like it, her favorite thing to listen to is German nursery rhymes. Her favorite song seems to be "wheels on the bus" and she can be seen excitedly running to the speaker whenever she hears the tune. She enjoys a good meal and is quite the foodie. Papaya, mango pits, coconut, corn and nuts are some of her favorites treats, but when it comes to water, it seems she would rather play with it than drink it. Whenever given the chance, she will dump the water bowl out the second she can. She does love baths, however, and indulges in them more and more as she gets comfortable in her new home. 

 

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If you're interested in getting to know more about our newest kea queen and how she does in her new role on The Kea Bachelorette, be sure to tune in to the drama every Friday on facebook! Find out how she does as the new lady on the scene, who is interested in who, and who is just hungry! Be sure to spot each contestant by their special band color: Arthur (orange), Steve Austin (red), Gonzo (blue) and our lovely ladies, Scarlet (silver) and Ikaroa (black and yellow). You can also spot her and her fellow show-mates every day in person at the Expedition Kea exhibit. 

 

 

- Mackenzy Johnson, Public Relations Coordinator

 

Published in Bird Tweets

 

Tracy Aviary's conservation department has a lot of volunteer-friendly community science programs. These opportunites are unique ways for people of every age to enjoy the outdoors while taking action toward increasing their knowledge of birds and their natural habitat. We have something for people of every commitment level, with hikes and surveys for both families and for those looking for a challenge.  Dont just take our word for it, though. This is what one volunteer had to say about her experience with Tracy Aviary's Alta Bird Monitoring Project.

 

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This spring I volunteered for the Alta Nest Box Monitoring Project.  A training session was held at Tracy Aviary before the season started and volunteers were introduced to the importance of collecting data on nesting birds in Alta and on the history of how the project began. We learned how Tracy Aviary monitors nest boxes and how to take pictures inside owl and song bird nest boxes by using a camera attached to a paint roller extension pole. We were able to practice taking pictures inside the boxes by either placing the camera in the entrance hole of the owl box or by lifting up the top of the songbird box.  We were also taught how to use a GPS to locate the nest boxes at Alta and how data is recorded for each nest box. 

The actual nest box monitoring adventure began in March, on snowshoes and we were always accompanied by Cooper, Bryant or Lucila from the conservation department at the Aviary. I have never worn snowshoes before and it was a lot of fun, but definitely more strenuous than regular walking or hiking.  I fell down every weekend, sometimes on my face but I loved every minute of it. It was so beautiful being out in the wilderness snowshoeing to the nest boxes. I was surprised at how low the boxes were to the ground because the snow pack was so high this year and I was impressed with how knowledgeable Cooper, Bryant and Lucila were in pointing out which species we were hearing and seeing in the area while we were going to each nest box. They always answered any questions we had and I learned something new every week.  Early in the season we only monitored the owl boxes and unfortunately we had no owls nesting this year, but it may take several years for an owl to decide to nest in one of the boxes. 

 

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It was really exciting when the song birds started nesting later in the spring. We were able to learn what the different types of nests looked like depending on the species. I saw mountain chickadees and house wrens up close along with eggs and babies in the nest boxes. It was wonderful to watch the parents actively feeding the babies and to hear them inside the nest box. I really enjoyed watching a house wren chick poke their head out of the nest box waiting for the parent to come back with food.  It was very rewarding to know there was a successful nesting attempt and to see the babies grow up and eventually leave the nest.  It was great when people hiking by stopped us to ask what we were doing and we could tell them about monitoring the nest boxes.  One individual even borrowed binoculars to look at an active nest with a house wren feeding it's babies.  It was great to share the experience with them and to watch their face light up with excitement as they watched the adult feed their young. 

Volunteering for the Alta nest box monitoring project was very gratifying and I looked forward to going every weekend.  I highly recommend this wonderful experience where you can get outside, learn about the birds at Alta, get hands on experience in nest box monitoring and work with the great people from Tracy Aviary.

If you are interested in volunteering with Tracy Aviary's community science programs, please click the link below: 

http://www.tracyaviaryconservation.org/application

 

 - Melanie Jones, Tracy Aviary Volunteer

 

 

Published in Bird Tweets

Pride month in Salt Lake City has been a colorful display of love and equality. Rainbow flags hang from every building and continuous parties have flown through the streets almost nightly. Tracy Aviary has had it's own prideful displays by some of our same-sex bird couples this month as well. The most popular of those couples are, of course, the flamingos! Our Chilean flamingo family have begun to pair up and build their nests, and it comes as little surprise that some of the best nest-building couples are our same sex pairs. As Pride month comes to an end we thought we should celebrate this beautiful and lively flock! We gathered information about some our favorite flamingo couples here at the Aviary and the science behind them choosing a mate.

 

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Each spring, around mid-March, our Chilean flamingo flock begins their breeding season with courtship displays.  This flock has 26 birds, and 21 of them are of breeding age. The reason for these displays are because each flamingo is evaluating their flock-mates to determine who is eligibile as a partner for the upcoming nesting season. They will start off their displays slowly with wing salutes, reverse-preens, wing-leg stretches, head flagging, and marching. Flamingos do this so that each bird can show off the brighter pink and stark black feathers on their wings. The brightness of these colors are an indication to their mates of good health and a promising sign that they will be able to provide food and resources for a chick in the future. These birds will pick up frequency as the spring progresses, until all of the flock is displaying almost constantly throughout the day. Both the male and female flamingos will perform courtship displays, and then make the final and mutual decision on which bird they wish to pair with.  

By early May, almost every flamingo will have selected a partner for the breeding season. It is around this time when something interesting can be observed. Not every flamingo couple here at Tracy Aviary is composed of one male and one female! Over the years we have seen many different types of pairings between flamingos; one male with one female, one male with one male, one female with one female, two males with one female, and even three females. We believe that these pairings occur because the birds in this flock are simply concerned with finding the partner that can most successfully help them raise a chick, whether or not that partner is able to help them create an egg. 

 

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This year, our flock has separated into 6 male/female pairs, 1 male/male pair, 1 female/female pair, 1 female throuple, 2 unpaired adults (male and female), and 5 unpaired juveniles (under the age of 2).  Seeing these pairings each season, we get to know whether or not they return to the same bird as the year before or whether they find a new partner.  What we are finding is that these birds like to re-pair with the same partner for multiple years in a row.  Here are a few fun facts about the relationships of our Aviary flamingo flock couples:

  • Out of our 6 male/female pairs, 5 pairs have been together for more than 3 years, with some of the pairings having been together for over 8 years!  One couple, Blue 60 and Green 33, have been together since 2011 and have raised several chicks together.  These birds are the parents of Bubbles (Blue 53, hatched in 2017) and Newt (Orange 02, hatched in 2013), to name a few of their offspring. 
  • Our male/male pairing has also been together for quite a while.  Tan 24 and White 95 have been a couple since 2015, after White 95’s female partner passed away of sudden health issues, and the two males decided they were the best fit for each other. The pair tend to be a favorite among employees because they are the Aviary rockstars when it comes to nesting season. They are always the first to begin building their nest, always pick prime real estate for their nest, and build the biggest, tallest, and most well-constructed nest out of the entire flock. They are truly dedicated to building and protecting a nest, and would make excellent foster parents if the opportunity presented itself.
  • Our pair of two females, Green 30 and White 99, have been together for a few years now, but are far less invested in nesting than the rest of the breeding flock.  They have built nests and incubated in the past, but they are typically the last to build their nest and the least invested in doing so.  This pair is more interested in spending time together out in the pond, and can always be seen sleeping, eating, bathing, or preening together.
  • The newest relationship development is our all-female throuple. Orange 02 (Newt), Orange 49 (Floyd Jr.), and Black 05, are a new and interesting developement that is still in a state of flux.  Currently, we are seeing a dynamic between these 3 females resembling what we humans would call a “love triangle”.  Newt and Floyd Jr. both appear interested in each other, but Black 05 is interested only in Newt. Newt, however, is moderately interested in Black 05, but Floyd Jr. does not want Black 05 around at all. Newt can be seen spending time with either of the other females and will build nests with both of them.  Whenever Black 05 and Floyd Jr.  get near eachother or see the other with Newt, they will display defensively and fluff out their feathers, bite at each other, and vocalize loudly.  This grouping is new and different from last year when Floyd Jr. was paired with a male, and Newt and Black 05 were a couple.  We are looking forward to seeing whether or not this throuple can make things work!

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Here at the Tracy Aviary, we love and support every flamingo couple, regardless of how they choose to pair.  While none of them have had the opportunity to raise chicks yet this year, we are always encouraging them to practice those good natural behaviors and engage in this breeding season.  We are looking forward to seeing what happens with our flamingo flock, or rather, "pride", and hope everyone had a safe and happy time celebrating this month.

 

-Mackenzy Johnson, Public Relations Coordinator

 

Published in Bird Tweets

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As you wander around the Aviary this month, be sure to be on the look out! Hidden among the beautiful botanical gardens and exotic birds is the cutest part of life here at Tracy Aviary: chicks! 

Along with the wonderful weather come lots of new questions for our team. One of the most common and important bird questions we get at the Aviary is, “What do you do if you find a baby chick in nature?” 

 

What do you do?

So what do you do when you come across a baby bird that is not in it’s nest? It depends greatly on whether it is a nestling (a chick that still lives in the nest, no feathering) or a fledgling (a chick that is leaving the nest, light fluffy feathering). Nestlings that have fallen or gotten pushed from the nest are almost always in need of rescue. They are too fragile and not capable of living outside of their nests. Fledglings that are not in their nests, however, are exactly where they are supposed to be - exposing themselves to new surroundings. Whether it is a nestling or a fledgling that you find, in most cases, you should never take it from it's home. 

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Nestling

 

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Fledgling

About 80% of baby birds that are found and taken to wildlife rehabilitations are not actually lost. The reason for this common misunderstanding is because most people either can’t find the nest, or they can’t find the bird’s parents. This leads them to think that the chick must be lost or abandoned. However, this is not usually the case. 

There are many reasons why a baby bird can be outside of the nest or alone. Nests can be anywhere; up in trees, on the ground, in bushes, etc. If you have come across a lost baby bird that is away from their home, be sure to look hard for their nest before taking them away from their surroundings. 

When a baby bird is alone, it’s usually ok! Parents leave chicks while they look for food. If a nestling is alone or has fallen or left the nest, it has a greater chance of surviving if the parents are able to find the baby when they return. If you find a baby alone, especially if its a fledgling, don’t assume that it is abandoned. It simply means it is getting used to life outside the nest.

 

When should you help? 

There are simple steps to figure out if the baby bird actually needs help: 

  • I found a baby bird and it's hurt: (unable to move wings, bleeding, weak or injured) If a bird is injured, call or take it to a wildlife rehabilitation immediately.
  • Is it a nestling or a fledgling? If it is a nestling, try to find its nest. If you are able to find the nest and reach it safely, gently put the bird back in it’s home. If you unable to find the nest, build a simple one for the baby in a safe place. Observe it for an hour or so just to make sure the parents come back. If it is a fledgling that you find, let it roam!  Exploring life outside of the nest is a vital part of a fledgling’s development. Just make sure the bird is safe from potential danger like dogs, cats or kids. Again, observe the baby for about an hour, if the birds parents don’t return, contact your local wildlife rehab.

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If you aren’t sure, or if you have any questions, call your local wildlife rehabilitation or the Division of Wildlife for your state. They are happy to help, and keeping birds safe and preventing unnecessary removal from a birds home is what they are there for. We all want to help our local birds and wildlife, and knowledge is how we can. For a fun graphic to hang on your fridge click: 

HERE

Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah: 801-814-7888, 1490 Park Blvd, Ogden, UT 84401

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources: 801-538-4700, 1594 W North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84116

 

-Mackenzy Johnson, Public Relations Coordinator

Published in Bird Tweets
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It is spring time which means a very busy time for the bird care department.  It is the start of breeding season for many of the birds at Tracy Aviary!  The birds do a lot of the work on their own when it comes to courtship and chick rearing, but our Aviculture team is always working alongside them, providing everything they need for a successful breeding season.

 

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Aviculture starts off the season by placing nest boxes for waterfowl, filling nest logs with mulch for the toucans and aracari, and tilling the flamingo breeding area in preparation for nest building.  There is always a lot to do, but these steps are essential to ensuring the birds have the appropriate “exhibit furniture” to cater to their specific needs as species. It is also important that they provide these items early in the season so the birds have the time they need to build relationships through nest building. 

 

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It might sound odd, but insects are essential to the breeding success of most of the species here at Tracy Aviary. This is because insects provide the appropriate amount of protein to ensure proper growth of chicks.  Almost all species depend on insects during chick rearing, even if their primary diet is fruit based.  During the spring and summer months insect amounts are increased to simulate a “time of plenty”.  This gives the birds assurance that there is plenty of food available for them to raise their young.  

 

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Some of our birds prefer the privacy of our off-exhibit holding.  We use this space to cater to sensitive species or pairs that need specific attention from our Aviculture team.  For example, our superb starlings are medicated for a naturally occurring parasite that doesn’t affect the adults, but could be detrimental to the chicks.  The parents are provided a medication that is dusted on their insects, which they deliver to the chicks during feeding time. This approach ensures the chicks will receive their medication while also allowing the parents to raise the chicks with minimal disturbance.

 

With all there is to do around here, our staff definitely has their days full. However, we enjoy the work we put in to making our birds and gardens as thriving as they can be each spring, and the beautiful life that comes from that hard work. 

-Kate Lyngle-Cowand, Curator of Exhibit Collections

Published in Bird Tweets