Thursday, June 21, 2007

Early Morning Checkups

First thing every morning I do a keeper check. I begin by observing the birds from the public side. The wave machine is off in the early morning hours so I can get a better look at each individual gentoo and macaroni. My favorite place to observe them is the little horseshoe area as they slow down to turn around in this area. I can look at feathers, eyes, beaks and feet. I’m checking for anything abnormal which can vary somewhat for every bird. Each bird looks slightly different. Feathers may line up a bit differently on one bird compared to another. Tail feathers may also be slightly longer or shorter. And even their beaks have subtle differences. By knowing how they appear in a “normal” state, I can tell if one of the penguins has had a bump or scrape that might need further examination. I also look at their flipper bands and make sure they are not turned the wrong direction, or if their bands are missing. That’s why they have two. One question I get asked quite a bit is, “Do the flipper bands hurt the penguins?” The answer is, absolutely not. The bands don’t bother the birds in any way. It’s like you or I wearing a wedding ring or watch. It’s something that has always been there and they are used to it. Over time one may work loose and fall off. When that happens, the lost band usually ends up in the skimmer, where the water exits the exhibit to go to the filters that help keep their water clean.

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