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04-25-2011

Keeper Journal

Sr. Zookeeper Scott Newland usually works in our Jungle building every day. However for the past two weeks he's been working in Saipan on behalf of Sedgwick County Zoo. "Why Saipan?" you ask. Sedgwick County Zoo supports the Mariana Avifauna Conservation (MAC) Project in Saipan. Ultimately, the MAC project was initiated by the Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW), in cooperation with US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), as a response to the threat of the Brown Treesnake in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Specifically it was developed to identify and implement conservation actions necessary to ensure the persistence of CNMI's avifauna. The establishment of the Brown Treesnake on Saipan, and the increased threat of the species establishment on the islands of Rota and Tinian, serves as a direct threat to the survival of many of the CNMI's endemic and rare bird species. The MAC project is intended to provide the avifauna of the Mariana archipelago with the best possible chances for long-term survival, with the objectives of preserving, maintaining, and establishing self-sustaining populations of native, free flying birds secure from the threat of the Brown Tree-snake.

Following are journal entries from Scott Newland, Sr. Keeper - Jungle Birds, Sedgwick County Zoo.

Day 1 – Monday, April 18, 2011
Today we began preparations for housing the birds captured in the field. The hotel we are staying in has provided us a great space to turn into our housing facility. Once the birds come in from the field, they must be given health assessments, so we needed dedicated space to set up the vet equipment. We also need to provide a space to set up the racks that will hold the bird boxes. This area needs to be kept as quiet as can be - to avoid stressing the birds. The hotel provided us with a commercial rental space that has two separate rooms, one that included a kitchen, to use for our stay. 

The vets have set up a microscope, lab equipment, and all our record keeping in a small room off of the bird room. When birds come in from the field, they are given a physical exam to assess their condition. We draw blood for DNA sexing, evaluate body condition by given a “fat score” (fat birds=healthy birds), and give preventative medications for parasite and fungal infections. Once a bird is deemed healthy for captivity, it is moved into the bird room.

With the limited resources available on the island, we had to bring in all equipment for the project, including enclosures for the birds prior to transit. The project leaders have devised light, portable cages for the birds and racks to stack them on. The holding boxes are constructed from light weight plastic, fit together much like legos, and are held together with canvas straps. Each box contains two perches, one of which can be used with a scale to get a weight on the bird as it sits.

The birds are fed and weighed twice a day. We feed a varied diet of live worms and flies, fresh local fruit and a mix of pellets soaked in nectar. The boxes are kept clean and we collect fecal samples to continue testing for parasites.

Day 2 – Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Today was our first day in the field. Before we can begin to capture birds, we need to locate where they are and prepare the area for our mist nets. We are using a five trammel mist net. It is a fine mesh net with five separate shelves (trammels) running the length of the net. We have two different net sizes, depending on the birds we are targeting. We are using 24mm mesh size for the Golden White-eyes and the Rufus Fantails. This size mesh is small enough to allow the birds to get caught in the net, but not get entangled. If we were trapping the White-throated Ground Dove or Marianas Fruit Dove we can use a larger 60mm mesh size.

To set up each net, we must first clear the area of limbs or vines that can get tangled in the net. Once an area is cleared we set up a pair of fishing poles that can extend up to 20-feet. The nets are attached to the poles, stretched across the net lane, and tied down on the corners to support the net. At site A we set up a total of 18 nets. It took the majority of the day to set up all the nets.

Day 3 – Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Today we started our trips out into the field to begin capturing birds. We leave the hotel around 4:45 a.m. This departure time allows us to get to the site and open the nets before the sun rises. Shortly after the nets are opened we began to capture our target species.

While we are trapping our two target species, we also can capture some other island species; White collared Kingfisher, Micronesian Honeycreeper, Micronesian Starlings and Saipan Bridled White-eye.

When a bird hits a net, we must work quickly to free it from the net. Removing the birds efficiently helps reduce stress. Each team member is issued a plastic sewing needle to use on very entangled birds. The needle allows us a way to pick under the mesh when it is hidden under the feathers. We need to remove the mesh from around toes, legs, wings, heads and even tongues.

Today we are only targeting the Golden White Eye. The Rufus Fantails are a flycatcher by nature, and during the transition to captivity we offer then domesticated house flys as food. Our flys were not hatching as planned, so we need to wait until we have the proper food to trap the Fantails. By the end of our first day, we trapped 18 Golden White Eyes.

 Micronesian Honeycreeper  Micronesian Honeycreeper  White-collared Kingfisher
     
 Golden White-eye  Rufus Fantails  Bridled White-eye Nest

 

Day 4 – Thursday, April 21, 2011
We continued to trap in the field today. Our target numbers of 40 Golden White-eyes and 18 Rufus Fantails should be obtainable if today is as productive. Mike Macek, Curator of Birds at the St. Louis Zoo, and I have decided to set up our video cameras on various active nests we have found on the sample site. By the end of the day we were able to record birds coming and going from nests from 3 different species; Golden-White Eye, Bridled White-eye and Rufus Fantails. The most important footage we recorded was of Rufus Fantail pairs switching on and off the nest. Until know it was not officially documented that both sexes of Fantails incubated eggs. Our footage clearly shows that both sexes incubate, and there is some vocal communication between birds to signal the changeover. It was very exciting to record these birds behavior. By the end of the day luck was on our side and we have nearly all of the birds planned for capture on this trip.

Day 5  Friday, April 22, 2011
We went back out to the site for one thing – catch a single Rufus Fantail to meet our quota. The success we have had over last two days went to our heads; we thought for sure we would be in and out of the field in a couple hours. Seven hours later and guess what? Nothing! Not even a single non-target bird. We had captured 143 total birds (target and non-target species) in 16 hours. And today not a single bird in 7 hours. What was different? The weather was the same, we could hear birds all around us, but for some reason the birds were just not hitting the net. It just goes to show that even the experts can be stumped by nature! As to not come back in completely empty handed, we decided to go out and search for ripe papaya and the fruit of the Ivory Gourd. Both of these fruits are plentiful and the Golden White-eyes consume them in the wild. Providing the “wild” food will help ease the transition to the cultivated types of fruit the birds will be offered.

Day 6 – Saturday, April 23, 2011
Happy Birthday to Me! Yes today I turn 35! I can say this is an amazing place to spend my birthday. Because of our early success, our project leader Herb Roberts, Curator of Birds, Memphis Zoo, told us to go out and see some of the sites. The birds are all adjusting to captivity and until we receive sexing results from the University of Guam we don’t need to go back into the field. As a group we decided to go out and see some of the historical sites on the Island. Saipan played a major role in the Pacific Battles of WW2. Originally claimed by Spain in the 1800’s, then sold to Germany in 1890, Saipan was eventually taken by force by Japan in the early 1900’s. The endemic Chamorran people have survived all of these changes because the island was important for trade routes and military movements, no country was threatened by the local culture.

Suicide Cliff

During WW2 the Japanese saw the Marianas Islands as the eastern most border of defense for the homeland. During the 1920’s and 30’s Japan employed the local peoples to construct military bases and infrastructure. Once Japan attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, Saipan’s history and place in the world stage would change forever. The U.S. military knew that in order to even attack Japan, they would need to control many of the Pacific Islands to stage troops and equipment. With the Japanese already dug in, the battles of Saipan would be some of the most intense in the region. Once the U.S. began their attack, it took four days to break through the beach side cliffs and get into the heart of the island. Once on the island the U.S. troops pushed the Japanese to the north side of the Island, the highest point on the island with steep cliffs both over land and sea. The Japanese knew they only had one chance left to break the U.S. advance. In a single attack, over 4,000 Japanese soldiers rushed down the mountain side in an attempt to halt the U.S. forces. It didn’t work, and the Japanese suffered heavy losses, and the survivors retreated back up the mountain.
Our first stop was at the top of the mountain where the Japanese retreated. Know now as Suicide Cliffs, this was the last stand for many Japanese soldiers. With orders from their commanders about the dishonor of being captured, the remaining soldiers jumped off the cliffs rather than being captured by the U.S. troops. The memorial that now sits at the top of the cliffs tells the story of the Japanese and their last hours of battle. The view from the top is amazing and horrifying at the same time. The cliffs are sheer and at least 800 ft to the bottom. It is very humbling to stand where so many men fought and died for their beliefs.

 

Flame Tree Suicide Cliff Japanese Bunker Door Green Sea Turtles

 

As horrible as the history of Suicide Cliffs was, our next stops had an even darker story. When the U.S. began their attack, the Japanese began spreading propaganda that the U.S. troops would torture and rape all civilians they captured. The campaign was so successful that it created two other historical sites on the Island; Banzai Cliff and Kalabera Cave. Local Chamorran and Korea people who were caught in the crossfire of the war fled to the safety of Island caves, Kalabera being the largest. Here people hid from both forces during the fighting. Food and water were scarce, and many native people died from getting caught in the middle of fire fights while foraging for food. Most of the survivors attribute their survival to the compassion of the U.S. troops who discovered the cave system. There are many stories of American soldiers offering food and water to the refugees and then heading back into the fray. Most of the people who fled to the caves survived and were assisted by the U.S. troops. People were not as fortunate at Banzai Cliffs. Located about 300 ft above the ocean, in the shadow of Suicide Cliff, Bonzai Cliff was the site were Japanese civilians honored their emperor and county by jumping into the ocean, rather than risk capture by the Americans. U.S. translators and mediators spoke over loudspeakers trying to convince the Japanese civilians that they would not be tortured or killed. For many hours the troops attempted to reason with the Japanese, but in the end nearly 3000 Japanese jumped into the sea to their death. Photos and stories tell of mothers jumping in with infants, and elderly being thrown in by their families, who jumped after them. Although a beautiful area today, it was hard to shake the images of the history that occurred here. But nature always has a way to help my mind back to peaceful times. As we all stood looking out over the cliff a group of Green Sea turtles came up from the depths and swam around the base of the cliffs for over 20 minutes. They were incredible to see and a great way to end the day.

Day 7 – Sunday, April 24, 2011
Happy Easter! Today was another slow day, so after the birds were taken care of Herb sent us back out into the field to attempt to catch the remaining Rufus Fantail we needed. Before we left we got some information about five of the birds we captured early last week. We captured two Golden White-eyes, two Rufus Fantails and one Bridled White-eye that already had bands on them. We found out that these birds were banded by local wildlife officers as part of a MAP project assessing local wildlife populations. The idea of the project is to sample specific areas every six months to determine how many birds are in the area. As the intention was to again catch the birds we caught at a later date, CNMI DFW asked us to release the banded birds back at the site.

We released the birds back on site and opened the nets to try and capture the last bird. During our down time between net checks, we hiked a little ways up to the base of the cliffs and explored more of the caves. Although not very deep, it was obvious that the caves were large enough to provide protection from the elements and several families could have hidden in each one.

By the end of the day we were shut out again. We didn’t catch our last Fantail. Today will be the last day that we try to capture birds for captivity. We must now shift our focus on transitioning all the birds to captivity and preparing them for shipment to the mainland.


Day 8 – Monday, April 25, 2011
With our trapping endeavors complete I was not sure what the day would bring. Our second team of vets arrived from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and they needed to start collecting and running fecal samples to test for parasite loads in the birds. Herb informed us that we were off the hook for working today, and as soon as the birds were fed and cleaned we could do whatever.

So what do ten zoo professionals do on the island of Saipan? Well aside from the amazing historical sites the island is known for another reason; amazing coral reefs. We found a local dive company that gave us a great package deal for us to go snorkeling at three separate sites. The company provided us a boat, guide and equipment for the day. It was AMAZING! The reefs around the entire island are very shallow. Even a mile offshore the bottom of the ocean floor is less than 15 feet below the surface. Our guide took us to a portion of the reef known as “Clown Town.” Clown Town has the highest concentration of Tomato Clownfish in the Pacific. Just feet below the surface were beautiful beds of coral and Clownfish everywhere. In just a space the size of a picnic table there were over 200 clownfish. I saw all kinds of Triggerfish, Damselfish, Angelfish (including one species of Angelfish only found in the Marianas), Wrasse, Pipefish, Parrotfish, Giant clams and Blue Starfish. The fish also had no fear of us! They would come up and nibble on an outstretched hand. It was completely unexpected to see the diversity of the reefs here.

Our second stop was the crash site of a Japanese Zero fighter plane from WW2. It was a bit deeper in the water, but an incredible site. The plane sits upside down, but the majority of the fighter is still intact. The coral had begun to cover the plane, but its depth has helped slow the progression of the coral.

Our final stop was the island of Managaha. Located just offshore, Managaha was an island that the Carolinians settle on after storms wrecked their home islands. Today Managaha is a resort island catering to snorkelers and sun seekers. The entire island is surrounded by coral reefs and not 10 yards from the beach you can see all types of ocean life. Here our group saw an octopus, even larger giant clams and so many fish we lost track of all the names. Needless to say it was an amazing day! But don’t be too jealous. Even after several applications of SPF 50+ sunscreen…I was still burnt to a crisp. After some Aloe I felt better, but it was well worth the couple days of pain ahead of me!

Day 9 – Tuesday, April 27th, 2011
Today I started a three day rotation in the bird room. Every morning we make diets, feed, clean and weigh the 58 birds we have captured. The birds are kept in individual boxes. The boxes are designed such that we can remove the food bowls and weigh the birds without the need to remove the bird from the box, which reduces stress on the birds.

Our days in the bird room start at 6 am. We make the diets for all 58 birds. Each bird gets 3-4 small containers of a variety of food types and water. We also medicate the mealworms for the Rufus Fantails. Previous collections of Fantails were not very successful, as most of the birds contracted a fungal infection, probably stress induced, during their stay in the transport boxes. To prevent losses this trip we are proactively treating all the Fantails with an anti-fungal drug.

After diets and worms are ready, we begin the task of getting the food to the birds. We obviously don’t want the birds to escape, so our boxes are designed with a sliding panel that we can pull out the front of the box. We clean each panel, put down new paper to catch fecal material, give the new food and water, and then carefully slide the panel back under the door of the box.

The most tedious job is loading up the flies for the Fantails. We use fly houses to hatch house flies in, then use a very technical procedure to get the flies into petri dish dispensers. The procedure involves holding the petri dish above a hole in the trap, and patiently waiting as 10-12 flies crawl into the dish. Once full, the dish can be slid into the box and the flies released to the birds. It goes without saying that a few flies escape…which we then catch with a bird net and start over. It is a very time consuming task, but we have to do it to ensure the Fantails are getting plenty of live food to eat.

Once all the birds have been fed, we look at each diet pulled from the previous feeding. We use a scoring system to evaluate how much each bird ate. After feeding we get a weight on each bird. The boxes are designed with a perch suspended by a square piece of plywood on the outside of the box. This design allows us to slide a scale under the plywood, and when a bird lands on the perch, its’ weight pulls down on the scale and we can record the weight.
To evaluate how the birds are transitioning, we look at all the data collected during a feeding: current weight, food consumption, amount and condition of fecal material and behaviors. If a bird is maintaining weight, eating and defecating well, and appears to be active and alert, we are confident that the bird is adjusting to captivity. If we observe a change in any one of these categories, we have many options at our disposal to get the bird on the right track.

After we have feed and recorded the evaluation data, we wash all the dishes and leave the birds to eat their diets. We replenish food and insects 3x a day, and also offer a new set of diets around 3pm. After that feeding we check on the birds around 7pm, and then turn the lights off for the evening.

Day 10-11 – Wednesday & Thursday, April 28th-29th
I continue my rotation in the bird room over the next two days. The birds are all calm and seem to be adjusting well. We have had positive weight gains on most, and individuals of concern are begin to respond to our additional efforts.

There was a big change in our workload on the 28th. This is the day that the Golden-White Eyes selected for Translocation will be flown to the Island of Sarigan. North of Saipan, Sarigan is an unpopulated island that does not currently have Golden White Eyes living there. In previous translocations, the more common Bridled White-Eye was used in test translocations to Sarigan. This was done to evaluate whether or not the Bridled’s could survive and reproduce on the new island. Two years of field work and releases demonstrated that the Bridled White-eye could survive and were breeding. It was then decided to attempt the same translocation with the endangered Golden White-Eye.

On the eve of the translocation, 24 Golden White-Eyes were selected and transfered into specially designed transport crates. Before going into the crate, each bird was banded with one USFW aluminum leg band and 1-2 colored bands for individual identification.

At 6 am on April 28th, 2011, Herb Roberts and Paul Radley (USFW, CNMI DFW) loaded the six transport crates onto a helicopter and took off for the island of Sarigan. After a ride of an hour, the birds were unloaded, taken into a wood area at the base of Sarigans tallest peak, and released into their new home. USFW officers will conduct multiple trips to Sarigan to observe the released birds and evaluate their transition. If the translocation follows has the success of the test translocations, the plan will be to return next season and release more birds.

Day 12 – Friday, April 29th, 2011

Today I helped train a new keeper that arrived for the closing team. She will be working as my replacement in the bird room after I leave tomorrow.

We also received sexing results back for the remaining birds we our caring for. One component of the MAC project is the translocation of birds to other island for the future, and a second piece is the captive husbandry conducted by AZA institutions. We will be shipping both Rufus Fantails and Golden White-eyes back to AZA zoos here on the mainland. We used our observational data and the sexing results to select the best birds to ship back to zoos. The remaining birds were captured as insurance, in case we lost a bird to illness or stress. So we release the unneeded birds back at the site where they were caught. We released 2 Golden White-eyes and 4 Rufus Fantails back into the wild. It was very satisfying to see these birds going back into the wild, and that our husbandry skills kept them healthy and strong.

After the release, I was given the keys to a vehicle and told to go see the remaining sites I wanted to see. Tonight I will be packing up to fly to Guam for part two of this assignment. I visited a beach that contained two WW2 tanks that ended up in the reef, and found one of the best secrets on the island; Ladder Beach. Ladder Beach is as far off the beaten path as one can get on Saipan. Hidden by the shadow of the airport, Ladder Beach has been carved out of the sea cliffs over millions of years. Less than 200 yards wide, this beach is only accessible by scaling a permanent ladder attached to the cliff wall. It wasn’t the easiest trip down, but the payoff was amazing. We were the only people at this beach. The best thing about this beach is quality of the reef. Due to the carving of the cliff, the inner reef is not affected by strong waves. The water is no more than 8 feet deep in most places! Think of snorkeling in the calm waters of an inland lake, but looking down on the diversity of a tropical reef. It was amazing! This was the best place I think I could have found to spend my last day on Saipan!


Part 2 – Guam, USA

Day 13 – Saturday, April 30th, 2011

After a short 40 minute flight from Saipan, I arrived on the Island of Guam. Guam is a much larger island, and as a U.S. territory it feels much more like the home, only still surrounded by gorgeous blue water! My purpose here is to visit and lend a hand to people who run the Guam Rail Breeding Facility on the Island. This partnership between AZA and the Department of Agriculture here on the island has been going on for several years.
Guam Rails have been wiped out by the introduce Brown Tree snake here on the island. Extinct in the wild on Guam, the rails only survive in a small captive population here on the island, a captive population in AZA zoos, and a very small population released on the island of Rota, in an attempt to establish a wild population elsewhere.
SCZ has been involved with the rail project for many years. Not long ago we sent young birds bred in Wichita back to be released to the wild. We decided that it was time for a visit to the frontlines of the efforts, and since I was “next door” on Saipan why not stop off on the way home.
Traveling with me are members of the Vet Department at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.Diedre Fontenot D.M.V. is the vet advisor for the Guam rail project. Her and her team will be conducting health assessments for all of the birds at the facility. This includes Guam Rails, Micronesian Kingfishers and Marianas Crows. In addition to helping the keepers with their daily routines, I will lend a hand to the vet team during examinations.
While on Guam I am staying at the University of Guam’s Marine Lab. The Marine Lab is a research facility that has housing and lab space available to visiting researchers. For $20 a day I have a suite with full kitchen, dining area, bathroom and bedroom all to myself! So far my only guests have been the gecko’s that come and go under the door.

Day 14 – Sunday, May 1, 2011
Today I went to the Rail Lab to learn the AM keeper routines. The keepers (referred to as techs here) care for 97 Guam Rails, 12 Micronesian Kingfishers and 2 Marianas Crows. Starting at 6 AM, we began the process of feeding and watering the birds.
The Kingfishers and Crows are housed in large aviaries. The climate here allows the birds the best situation to breed. The aviaries are large enough to allow papaya and other trees to grow large, which gives plenty of natural cover and perching for the birds.
The Guam Rails, of Ko’Ko’ as they are called on the island, are housed in smaller cages, constructed in large banks of ten cages each. There are also separate breeding cages, that are place away from the holding birds and space further apart, which provides the breeding pairs privacy. The cages are great for the birds, but a challenge for the keepers. At only 4 feet tall, there is a lot of bending and kneeling to service the cages.
After we completed the morning feeding, we returned to the lab. After we recorded observations from the morning, we began to prepare diets for the afternoon and tomorrow morning. The rail diets are a mix of various grain diets, baby cereal, and chopped egg. The rails are offered mealworms and crickets also. The Kingfisher diets consist of locally caught gecko’s, crickets and worms.

Day 15 – Monday, May 2nd, 2011
Today we began the medical assessments for the Guam Rails and Micronesian Kingfishers. A team of vets and staff , Dr. Deidre Fontenot, Dr. Greg Flemming and Lori Grady, from Disney’s Animal Kingdom were also in Guam to conduct the exams. Dr. Fontenot is the advising vet for the Guam Rail SSP. The teams focus is to sample the rail population for medical issues, infections, and other potential health problems. Each bird had to be captured and restrained for the vets to take blood samples, cloacal swabs, conduct eye exams and look at the condition of feet and wings.
As the vets take the samples, Lori works to prepare all the samples for the various tests that will be performed on the samples. Collected samples have to be kept cold, so they will be shipped back to a lab on the mainland in containers with insulation and freezer packs.
There are 97 Guam Rails here at the complex. Today we captured and processed 37 in about 3 hours. Our goal for tomorrow will be to continue to process birds until we at least have samples from 75% of the population.

Day 16 – Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Happy Star Wars Day! “May the 4thbe with you”! Ok bad joke, but I get to only pull that one out once a year. Today the plan is the same, to continue the health assessments on the rails. Today we will also work up the 12 Micronesian Kingfishers and 2 Marianas Crows. The Kingfishers and Crows used to be on Guam, but also were eliminated by the Brown Tree Snake. The Kingfishers have been here in the complex for a few years and have had some breeding success. By afternoon we had finished sampling the rail population and had examined all the kingfishers and crows.
Tonight I had a radio interview on the local talk radio station. Our host has single handedly spearhead all the recycling efforts here on the island for the last 12 years. We talked for the hour long show about the MAC project, the Rail Project and the role that SCZ plays in each program. My first time on the radio and I was nervous! But the conversation was fun and we even had callers with questions.

Day 17 – Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Today I had planned to spend the day with the keepers discussing and answering questions about working with the rails. The techs here are very knowledgeable about the birds. They know individual birds behavior, could tell me detailed histories on each bird, and had great affection for the birds they cared for. While the rails were all very healthy, our exams on the kingfishers showed that we had some husbandry issues to address. The kingfishers are all in great overall health, but we did notice some minor issues to some of the birds’ feet. After looking at the kingfisher aviaries, we notice that the birds did not have adequate or appropriate perching. For the rest of the day, we spent discussing, acquiring and installing new perching for the kingfishers.
We also discussed an issue with a broken incubator. After a little trouble shooting, we found that the fan motor had malfunctioned, a problem we have recently had at SCZ!

Day 18 – Thursday, May 5th, 2011
Our plan for the day was to travel to Cocos Island resort to conduct heath assessments on a local collection of exotic birds on display at the resort. The reason for our concern with the private collection,is that Cocos Island is a past and future release cite for Guam rails. The exotic bird collection on the resort consisted of 3 Macaws, 3 African Grey Parrots, a breed pair of Eclectus Parrots, 3 Indian Peafowl, 3 Java Rice Finches, and about 25 various Conures and Lovebirds. Just like with the rails, our exams were looking at overall health and sampling for medical issues. It is important to know what is going on with the birds in the resort exhibit, as any potential communicable diseases could be passed on to the previously released rails.
After the exams we got to experience the most rewarding activity of the week. A member of the rail team that works every day on the island tracking the released birds took us out to a rail nest. I never thought I would ever see a rail nest in the wild, but there it was! We got to see the rail on the nest and although it was hard to walk away, we quickly left the area as not to disturb the nesting bird. In addition to the nest we were shown, the biologist had observed a bird with chicks. These are big steps in the release of the birds on Cocos Island.

Day 17 – Friday, May 6th, 2011
Today is my last day at the lab! We tied up some loose ends with perching and the incubators. We packed up all of the equipment to send back to Disney (thanks FedEx). After lunch we had another radio interview and then we were done with our agenda for the trip. This has been a great experience. I have a lot of people to thank, but I want to thank any and all of our SCZ supporters who have been following me on this adventure! Tomorrow we leave at 6 AM and I get back to Wichita at 10 AM and yet still fly for 16 hours. Who said time travel is impossible? See you all soon! As they say in Guam…Hafaadai!

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How Many Fledglings?

Spring and summer are always busy times in the jungle building since it is the breeding season for most of our bird species. One of our more prolific species is the Common Bulbul. A medium sized passerine, the Common Bulbul can be found over most of Africa. While it is not threatened in the wild, we breed ours here at Sedgwick County Zoo to help maintain a viable population in captivity. Recently, two of our twelve bulbuls paired off and built a nest. We observed two chicks in the nest, but when they left the nest (or fledged) suddenly there were three! We were shocked and confused, but sure enough, the parents were feeding three chicks. During our daily observations of the family, we noticed another pair of Common bulbuls taking food up into a different tree. Guess what we found? Two more Common Bulbul fledglings! So now we have two families with a total of five chicks. All of the chicks are doing well and are still being fed by their parents. It really has been a busy breeding season!

Entry by: Anne, Zookeeper

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