Feb 122012

A keeper hosing in the indoor flight cage couldn’t figure out why one particular hummingbird was being such a pest. The bird was hovering just inches in front of her face and would not go away. She knew that hummingbirds will often respond that way to red lipstick or earrings, but she wasn’t wearing anything red.

Later, when she happened to look in a mirror, she discovered the reason for the bird’s attention: an angry, bright red pimple right in the middle of her forehead.

Feb 122012

The sun conures were in the midst of a breeding frenzy. They had been copulating repeatedly all day, to the extent that the male had plucked most of the feathers off of the top of the female’s head, which was raw and bleeding.

One keeper mentioned in passing to another: “I see the conures are screwing their brains out today.”

The other keeper replied, “Oh, is that what happened to her head?”

Feb 122012

In addition to the normal cleaning equipment, cleaning up in one yard containing a pair of Cereopsis geese required one extra item: a rubber garbage can. The geese were so aggressive the only way keepers could get any work done in the yard was to cover the geese with an upside down garbage can.

Feb 122012

A female red-crested poachard, had been missing from the waterfowl pond for several days. The bird was pinioned so there was no way it could fly even a short distance. Keepers surmised that the bird had fallen victim to a raccoon or coyote.

Several days later, however, the bird was seen at a small pond about a half mile from the zoo. To reach this pond, the pinioned bird had climbed a snow fence and short chain-link fence surrounding the waterfowl pond, surmounted the zoo’s perimeter fence, crossed a busy four-lane highway, and navigated half a mile of woods and suburbs.

She stayed on that pond for several days but disappeared before she could be recaptured. Three weeks later she was spotted, and miraculously recaptured, on a large reservoir behind the zoo grounds. To reach the reservoir she would have had to retrace her steps through the woods, cross the highway again, and scale the fence a second time.

Apparently this adventure was enough for the little duck, for after her return she settled in on the pond and laid several clutches of eggs.

Feb 112012

A relatively new bird keeper was preparing to clean the free-flight area and had been warned to be careful of the black-and-white plovers that were sitting on eggs. She set her bucket down just inside the railing and climbed carefully into the exhibit. The plovers immediately began flapping around and vocalizing excitedly. From their reaction, the keeper knew that the nest had to be nearby but she couldn’t find it.

The birds were growing more agitated by the minute but the keeper was reluctant to move until she knew where the nest was for fear of stepping on it. Finally, the birds’ distress reached the point that she had to do something. She decided to move slowly away, placing each foot carefully.
When she picked up the bucket she discovered why she had been unable to find the nest. Underneath the bucket was the remains of the plovers’ nest and its clutch of eggs—all smashed.

Feb 112012

Cleaning a large flight cage became quite an adventure when a pair of black-and-white hornbills were introduced. The male, in particular, became quite proficient at flying over keepers’ heads and delivering a smashing blow to the top of their head with his massive bill.

The keepers’ solution was to borrow a riot helmet from Security, complete with Plexiglas visor. Keepers wearing the helmet were safe from the bird’s attacks.

The finishing touch, however, was a small label that had been stuck on the front of the helmet: “Death Before Dishonor.”

Feb 092012

A keeper working in a barn for the African Plains exhibit laid a padlock down on a convenient ledge. When he went to retrieve the lock a few minutes later it wasn’t there. He looked high and low but the missing lock was nowhere to be found. He even checked the floor of the nearest stall, several feet from the ledge, a feat made rather more difficult by the presence of a large, male ostrich right by the door.

There was no sign of the lock in the stall, but then the keeper noticed a suspicious bulge halfway down the ostrich’s neck. As he watched the bulge traveled down the length of the neck and disappeared. The lock was never found.

Dec 252011

A keeper responding to shouts found a strange sight in the bushes surrounding the duck pond. A young boy, nine or ten years old, was lying on his stomach in the grass pounding his hands and feet on the ground and bawling his eyes out. On his back, wings spread for greater leverage, a large pelican was jumping up and down as if on a trampoline.

The keeper shooed the bird away and returned the scared but otherwise unharmed boy to his parents. They immediately began yelling at the keeper about how the zoo shouldn’t have dangerous animals around, and that something should be done before somebody got hurt.

The keeper, a fairly new seasonal employee, was doing his best to handle the situation, but wasn’t succeeding very well. The parents finally quieted down when several other visitors, who had witnessed the entire event, reminded them that the area the boy had been in was clearly marked “Do Not Enter,” and the parents had simply watched as he climbed past the sign and started harassing the bird. The boy had apparently chased the cornered bird in circles for several minutes before it had turned and run at him. It was only after he had tripped and fallen that the bird jumped on top of him.