By Kim Klosterman and Jenny Gainer
At the Cincinnati Zoo, the beginning stages of duck breeding season on Swan Lake are just around the corner. Most people associate spring time with cute little ducklings, but at the Zoo’s bird house we have to start preparing in the winter. In order to promote natural breeding behaviors on our lake there are a few things bird keepers have to do to encourage our feathered friends. We have successfully bred, raised, and released ruddy ducks, bufflehead, goldeneye, wood duck, and several species of merganser over the years. This is due, in part, to the hours of work our keepers spend on making duck boxes, installing them, monitoring them, and rearing chicks.
Cavity nesting bird populations have been in decline in the last few decades due to the loss of mature and old growth in our forests. Mature forests provide larger, dead standing trees, called snags. These snags are typically in various stages of decomposition. Certain species of cavity nesting waterfowl will use abandoned woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities. These same species will also use artificial nest boxes, so providing these sites for our ducks helps increase our captive and wild waterfowl populations.
Nest boxes are installed on posts above the water in mid-February, or as soon as the ice thaws on Swan Lake. This gives the ducks several weeks to get acclimated to seeing the boxes, swimming around them, sitting on top of them, and eventually going inside. It’s around the beginning of April that egg-laying begins. Keepers check the boxes every two weeks for eggs to ensure we do not miss any hatching. Any eggs that are found are pulled for artificial incubation. Eggs are weighed, candled for fertility, numbered, and set up in our incubator.
Eggs cannot be left with the parents for a very important reason. Although our ducks are in a somewhat captive setting on the lake, there is still risk of predators on zoo grounds. Any duckling that hatches is at high risk of predation by raccoons, cats, possums, foxes, and even some of the bigger fish that reside in the lake. So Cincinnati Zoo keepers take over parental duties by incubating, hatching, and rearing the ducklings. Once the ducks are full grown, eating very well on their own, and are acclimated to the outdoors, they are re-introduced to Swan Lake.
So, the next time you are at the Zoo, be sure to look for our ducks and their nest boxes out on Swan Lake.
February 13, 2014 No Comments
Hi, my name is Markala Washington Murray and I love animals. I’ve always had a passion for working with and helping animals whenever I could. That’s why going to school at the Zoo is the life I have always dreamed of and I love it. I grew up in a single mother home; I am the second oldest of five girls. None of my mom’s other girls like animals so she was scared when I said I wanted to go to school at the Zoo. After high school, I want to study animal behavior and conservation.
Going to school at the Cincinnati Zoo has been the best experience of my life. I have met some wonderful people who work here from the head honcho, Thane Maynard, to the groundskeepers. Every one of the Zoo staff family plays a big role in keeping the park up and running. The Zoo program is a part of the public school system. It is connected to Hughes STEM High school. It is a 11th and 12th grade program. You can only be in this program if you attend Hughes your 10th grade year first. The Zoo Academy has been at the Cincinnati Zoo since 1975. Being at the Zoo Academy opens so many doors for the students here. We have the chance to help the keepers take care of the animals. We get to know the animals as well as the keepers do. Sometimes if we show the keepers that we are willing to work just as hard as they do to care for the animals they offer us jobs over the summer and after we graduate. Being in this program also opens up opportunities with all kinds of colleges. Not many people know about this program and the things we do in it so when we write and tell them about it, then they become very interested in wanting to know more. The class sizes in this program are very small so you can get that one-on-one time from your teachers you wouldn’t normally get in a large classroom. So if you are an animal lover and want to come to this program then CHOOSE HUGHES!
February 7, 2014 3 Comments
Guest blogger: Sophie Williams, Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) student and consultant on the Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation
Did you know that the male passenger pigeon could fly up to 60 miles per hour? Find out what nickname this earned the pigeon from our Director of Education, Dan Marsh, as he is interviewed for Kentucky Afield. He discusses how the loss of the passenger pigeon was one of the key motivators for today’s conservation movement. Learn more about the passenger pigeon, what the skies were like when filled with these birds, and the important lessons they left in their wake.
Don’t forget, you can get involved by holding a Project Passenger Pigeon event in your community! You could download a variety of educational materials for use in your class or organization, put on an origami pigeon parade, or host a speaker in your school or community. Visit Project Passenger Pigeon’s website for more information. How will you get involved?
To read the other posts in this series, click here. Join us next month as we take a look at species conservation at the Cincinnati Zoo.
February 7, 2014 No Comments