A busy winter behind the scenes with Katy!

As the summer is behind us, our winter timetable returns. This means our summer flying team of birds begin their winter rest period.  When weather conditions change which may not suit their natural flying style as well as at other times of the year, they get the opportunity for a period of rest.  Some of these birds will moult through a new set of feathers during this time, while they are resting and relaxing.  Wild Birds don’t have the same luxury as our birds, they will moult a new set without the chance for a winter rest.

While they take a break from flying displays, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the season gone by and begin planning for the next year. We work hard to make sure our birds are healthy and active during both our displays, as well as their day-to-day life in their aviaries, and the winter is a great period to look at new ways of working with some of our birds who could benefit from learning something new, keeping them mentally and physically active.

This winter, I’m looking forward to working alongside one of our most iconic birds to introduce a new training routine – our Secretary Bird, Angola!

Angola has one of the biggest personalities here at the Trust – as well as being widely known for his incredible snake-stamping skills, he’s also one of the most enthusiastic birds one could wish to meet. Each morning, members of the Bird Team greet Angola with a daily weigh-in. While this may not be everyone’s favourite start to the day, Angola seems to absolutely adore this, and can become very excited when he sees us approaching his aviary with weighing scales in hand.

While we love seeing his excitement, the Bird Team also have to be very aware of those powerful long legs – we’ve seen many decimated rubber snakes to know the damage they could cause! Angola can get so excited for his weigh in, he sometimes follows the Bird Team member around his aviary, and will let us know when he thinks we’re being too slow! Therefore, we’re starting a new routine with him this winter, where we hope he will learn to stay in a certain spot in his aviary whilst the team set up his morning weigh-in. This will be a good test of Angola’s patience, but also an important wellbeing and safety element to his daily routine that will benefit both him and us.

Another bird I’ll be beginning a new pattern with this winter is one I already work very closely with – Flo the Crested Caracara! We have a really strong bond that we’ve built over many years of working together, and it has been so amazing to see Flo shining in our new Masters of the Sky summer flying display this year. Watching her display her nest-building skills is a special treat for us all, and next year we’re hoping to continue developing her routine so it’s even more refined!

As you may have seen if you’ve watched this new flying display, Flo currently uses a short piece of hosepipe instead of a stick to build her nest. This is for a couple of reasons – firstly, Flo seemed to prefer this object to the others when given the choice and secondly as Crested Caracaras are highly intelligent, and Flo in particular has a cheeky streak, we could have ended up with quite a collection of sticks if she decided to collect each and every stick in her aviary!! She is settled in her flying display routine now, so we’re looking to switch this material up with a stick of bamboo – still different enough to other sticks in her aviary, but much closer to what wild Caracaras would use to build nests.

We’re also hoping now she’s familiar with her routine, she’ll grow in confidence to display this behaviour without a member of the Bird Team giving her this stick. Instead, we’ll be working together to create platforms where Flo can find the stick herself and bring it to the nest. This means Flo will be showing off the unique foraging style these inquisitive birds have that they use when searching for food and nesting materials.  All of this is great to keep Flo’s very clever mind active.

It will be a busy winter for us behind-the-scenes, so keep an eye out for updates on all of our amazing birds as their training comes to fruition in the next year!

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