Life is a flight (Part 1)
My name is Adina Zaha. I have been working as a bird and reptile keeper for over 12 years at Oasys MiniHollywood and I hope you like my experience. I love animals, but especially birds. I discovered this in my workplace, which I never get tired of and which I am passionate about every day. I am in charge of many species that are in danger of extinction or threatened in their native habitats.
Every day I see them feeding their mates, courting each other, building the nest and protecting their young when they have them. It is fascinating to see them, how they groom themselves, how they pamper themselves and give each other affection, to see the joy when I bring them their favorite “candies”, but above all to feel their displays of affection when I enter their facilities. I couldn’t choose a favourite species, because there are so many, and I feel that each one of them shares something with me, both in difficult and pleasant moments.
After many years of experience, we have come to the conclusion that having birds in close cages or in front of each other helps them to learn by imitation. Restless birds have calmed down in the presence of tame companions, or even with calm pairs of a different species sitting in front of them, as is the case with our naturally nervous Ceratogymna atrata pair, which learned to be calm from the Bycanistes brevis pair, located in front of them.
Each species and each individual is different. A lovingly prepared nest may not be to the liking of one couple, but be the delight of another. For example, with our pairs of hornbills, without relieving them of their responsibilities, I help the males by preparing the mud and water to wet the ground, being a helping hand that helps them cover the hole where they will feed their females. It is truly a team effort, involving keepers, coordinators, vets and bosses.
During the 3-4 days that will take the male to close the holes where they can access and feed their females, we help them prudently. Generally our females lay 1 or 2 eggs and will remain inside the nest for a minimum of 110 days, while their males will guard the nest and feed them.
We, the team of keepers, make sure that the parents do not lack for anything, especially fruit (apples, grapes, kiwis…). We prepare very small pieces and accompanied by a good portion of special feed for the species, together with extra protein contributions such as meel worms and pinkies.
In the summer we make sure that they do not lack water, nor sufficient humidification, leaving the sprinklers on with small raindrops that stimulate them whenever necessary.
For this reason, on this trip I also want to talk about hope.
The days pass by and we reach the moment when we hear the chirping of chicks from the inside. Our birds have become parents. Males are more energetic when asking us for food, more concerned all the time to provide more food, putting their soul into it. And considering that the family has grown, we prepare double and even triple portions of food. To my delight, the males are more attentive, more trusting, treating us like a member of their family, moving closer to us requesting more food.
After these 110-120 days, the female begins to break the nest with the help of the male (or helped by us), making a small hole through which she emerges, leaving the young inside for a little longer. The joy of the parents at being reunited is evident: they sing, join their beaks and fly together in the installation.
And the hope and illusion of seeing them excites me and scares me at the same time. It is difficult to describe the feelings that overwhelm me, while I wait for “our babies” to come out, because we never know how many there may be. The whole team experiences different emotions and the joy is immense. We did it! And it’s wonderful.
Excited and silent, without moving, we see how the parents call them and encourage them to go outside. And one more year, they have become parents.