Nests 101: Building a home out of ANYTHING

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IMG_2819 Wattled Crane on nest CS

Bird keeper Eric Lutomski guest blogs on ZooHoo!

IMG_8272-GoldenTaveta Weaver-CBEveryone knows birds build nests, but not everyone realizes just how many different kinds of nests there are! Nests can be as small as a teacup or as large as a dinner table and can be plainly out in the open or carefully hidden away.

Nests are constructed from all sorts of materials like carefully woven fibers or large tree limbs. Sometimes birds use even unusual materials, like saliva for glue or spider webs for camouflage. Many birds don’t make nests out of anything at all—their eggs are instead laid in burrows underground, inside a hollow tree or log, or even on a well-shaped ledge of rock.

Here at the Dallas Zoo, letting birds build their nests is a very enriching and stimulating experience. It lets the birds perform their natural behaviors like location selection, material gathering, and nest construction.

_MG_1200-Spoonbill chick and mom-CBIn many species, building the nest is part of courtship between males and females and is important for breeding success. Ideally, all birds at the Zoo would be able to build their own nest, but sometimes they get a bit of help from the zookeepers.  It can be anything from extra grass or sticks to mesh platforms for support structures.  We want to ensure that eggs or chicks don’t fall out of the nests.

Large birds like vultures, eagles and storks don’t like to nest on the ground, so keepers provide them with elevated platforms and lots of sticks of many shapes and sizes that the birds can weave together to form their nests.

Songbirds and other small birds, like jays and pigeons, prefer their nests to be bowl shaped.

Many birds like hornbills, lorikeets and cranes nest in tree cavities or other secluded locations like burrows or tall grasses, so keepers provide boxes for them so they can nest in privacy.

So next time you visit the Zoo, take a careful look! Is there a nest hiding in any of the exhibits? Where are they? What birds might be using them? Remember that you can take this knowledge home with you and build your own nest box for the birds in your neighborhood. (Bird Houses are nest boxes, too!)

Categories: Birds, Zookeepers | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Pint-sized Texas Longhorns delighting Children’s Zoo guests

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It may not be the Starship Enterprise, but the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo is the perfect home for the newest animal additions: Captain and Kirk. These two miniature Texas longhorns are settling in nicely to their home and guests couldn’t be happier.

Miniature longhorns are a relatively new breed and came about through selective breeding of full-sized longhorns. These smaller longhorns are gentle and docile, making them the perfect addition to the Children’s Zoo.

The minis joined us in November, but until just recently were nameless as they integrated into the Children’s Zoo and began working with keepers. Former U.S. Trade Representative and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk remedied that situation.

IMG_6427Kirk, a former Zoo board member and long-time supporter, won the naming rights to the longhorns at the Zoo To Do gala late last year. Kirk enlisted his daughters to help name the calves. And he admits he’s never seen an episode of Star Trek.

The minis are eight months old and weigh 200-250 pounds. Fully grown, they’ll weight 400-500 pounds and stand up to four feet tall. For now, their signature horns are more like stubs, but over the next two years they’ll grow and have similar proportions to their full-size longhorn brethren.

Guests can see Captain (he’s the larger of the two with mostly black hair) and Kirk at the Children’s Zoo red barn. Those that want an up-close encounter with Captain and Kirk should sign up for the new Junior Rancher Adventure program, where they’ll get to interact with and feed the longhorns.

Live long and prosper, Captain and Kirk!

Categories: Children's Zoo (Lacerte Family) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dallas Zoo proudly restores habitat for endangered birds

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Dean of Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Academy, Ben Jones, guest blogs on ZooHoo!

Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Action Team returned to the Big Thicket National Preserve to plant longleaf pines with the National Park Service. Our team of 15 students and five adults helped reforest 300 acres of habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. These students are Dallas Zoo youth volunteers from cities across our region, and they are passionate and committed to helping animals in every way they can. Many have already invested over 100 hours in wildlife conservation through service as Junior Zookeepers and Conservation Guides in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo.

The Big Thicket National Preserve set a goal of planting 100,000 trees in honor of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday. We’re proud to say we helped them exceed their goal with our 11,000 contribution in 2016, and the additional 10,000 trees planted this month. Dallas Zoo is proud to partner with the conservation heroes of the National Park Service.

Photo of a red-cockaded woodpecker by Holly Dolezalik.

Photo of a red-cockaded woodpecker by Holly Dolezalik.

One of the most important reasons we’re helping plant these trees is to restore habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker. We have already lost America’s two largest woodpecker species, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the imperial woodpecker, to extinction due to rampant and unregulated logging. By the 1950s, they were gone. Some of the last photos of the ivory-billed woodpeckers were taken in 1938 as the population collapsed. You can see the only known videos of the imperial woodpecker here and here.

By restoring wildlife habitat, we are making conservation history with the hope of avoiding another woodpecker extinction. Red-cockaded woodpeckers were listed as endangered in 1970. Since 1988, they’ve been moved from threatened to vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, but there’s still plenty of work to do. No strategy to save animals is complete without a focus on habitat loss and the work to restore it.

The red-cockaded woodpecker is a small bird without brilliant plumage or spectacular display, but with a social system as complex as any North American animal, more like a primate than a bird. Like all woodpeckers, red-cockadeds are primary excavators creating cavities that form the foundation of the habitat web. This woodpecker creates shelter for more than 27 vertebrate species.

Volunteer Lilly has vowed to return to the Big Thicket when she's 93 years old to see the trees' growth.

Volunteer Lily has vowed to return to the Big Thicket when she’s 93 years old to see the trees’ growth.

These birds primarily rely on old-growth, longleaf pines for shelter, nesting, and food. This means that even though we’re working hard to get these trees planted, it could be up to 80 years down the road before they’re move-in ready for these birds. Wildlife conservation is long-term investment and demonstrated faith in the future! Our 13-year-old volunteer Lilly Zimmermann promised she’d return when she’s 93 to admire our planting work and remember our trip fondly.

Over 90 million acres of longleaf pine forest once stretched across the American south, but they’re pretty rare today. Beginning in 1940, vast areas of public and private land were converted to short-rotation forestry and now less than 10,000 acres of old-growth, longleaf pine remain. Restoring habitat is the most important action we can take to create a better world for this animal.

At the Dallas Zoo, we care deeply for animals and we know our members, guests, and volunteers do, too. Every forest protected, every waterway restored, every endangered species saved begins with us. Every action counts. Thanks for supporting us in all we do to create a better world for animals.

Join us on our next Wild Earth Action Team expedition on March 3 – 5 for a once in a lifetime opportunity at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. It’ll be a weekend filled with conservation action, and saving whooping cranes.

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A hugely successful year with AAZK

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Russell Pharr, elephant keeper and president of the American Association of Zookeepers Dallas chapter, guest blogs on ZooHoo!

IMG_6203 SFRTwenty-sixteen was a very successful year for the Dallas American Association of Zookeepers Chapter!  We hosted a huge range of great events and, while having an amazing time, helped make the world a better place for animals.

Join us as we take a look back at 2016:

Bowling and Sailing for Rhinos

IMG_6113 SFRThis was our 25th year participating in the 26-year-old Bowling for Rhinos program, and our fifth year partnering with Alley Cats in Arlington.  In addition to bowling, arcade games, miniature golf, and laser tag, we debuted a BFR photo booth, had a bowling pin decorating contest for the second consecutive year, and hosted our first-ever takeover on Dallas Zoo’s Facebook to help promote the event!

Most importantly, Bowling for Rhinos in Dallas raised $18,000 – 100% of which goes directly to save rhinos, cheetahs, and other animals in Kenya and Indonesia. Nationally, AAZK chapters in the U.S. and Canada raised over $600,000 – an all-time record!

Our one-of-a-kind Sailing for Rhinos event raised $6,000 to help AAZK causes. We continued our partnership with Corinthian Sailing Club and had great weather once again for one of our favorite events.

Labor Day Book Sale

Our annual book sale broke records this year, raising more than $2,000 over three days of selling used books, DVDs, and other items donated by the Dallas Zoo community. Profits were split between the Okapi Conservation Project (the okapi was our 2016 “featured animal,” decided by a staff vote in our second annual AAZK March Madness contest) and the Bat World Sanctuary in Weatherford, Texas. Our book sale continued a partnership between Dallas AAZK and the Zoo’s Enrichment Committee as we sold animal-painted magnets and bookmarks, and allowed us the perfect platform to introduce tote bags with our chapter logo printed on them!

Painting with a TwistOther Conservation Events

Our first-ever painting event, the Painting With a Twist for World Giraffe Day in June, not only raised $1,300 for the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, but also provided a fun way to honor the memory of Dallas Zoo’s own, late Kipenzi.

Our first-ever Salamander Saturday event in May helped raise funds and awareness for some of nature’s less-appreciated creatures. Our contributed funds also helped the Foundation for Conservation of Salamanders to offer a Texas-specific grant for researchers working on salamanders (and we have some amazing endemic species here)! Read more »

Categories: Conservation, Events, Zookeepers | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Never too late to learn: Spectacled owl becomes Zoo’s newest ambassador

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_MG_2366-Talum spectacled owl in public

Jeremy Proffitt, manager of applied behavior and animal welfare, guest blogs on ZooHoo!

_MG_2407-Talum spectacled owlTulum is a special bird that much of the public has never met, but not for long. This spectacled owl is proof that it’s never too late to learn because she’s one of the Zoo’s newest ambassador animals meeting guests in the park.

Tulum is a healthy 25-year-old that’s unable to fly due to an injury as a young owl. In the past, she was skittish around people and the equipment used to handle her. A new behavior plan was developed to build her comfortability with people and confidence in her surroundings.

Keeper Amanda Barr started the process months ago getting Tulum comfortable around her. Amanda’s calm demeanor and patience benefitted Tulum, even in the early days of working together.

Amanda transferred to another section and bird keeper Alex Gilly soon took on the project with open arms. She worked patiently and diligently building a trusting relationship with Tulum that would be paramount to the rest of the training.

With a trusting relationship established, Alex worked daily to introduce the glove, touch Tulum with it, and offer her food from it. Eventually Tulum was asked to stand on the glove, which would allow her to be carried into the park.

Keeper Alex Gilly and owl Tulum have formed a special relationship.

Keeper Alex Gilly and owl Tulum have formed a special relationship.

Alex’s next big step was walking Tulum out of her behind-the-scenes home. The training plan and relationship the keepers built shined through and allowed Tulum to see more of her world.

You might see her out-and-about near Wings of Wonder educating guests. Stop by and say hello!

Tulum’s interactions in the park are short right now, but they will become longer as this remarkable bird becomes more comfortable. Thanks to patient keepers and a special behavior plan, this great little owl gets to broaden her world, and guests get to meet an amazing animal.

The Dallas Zoo has a new little ambassador and she’s ready to meet her world.

Categories: Birds | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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