Week 6 – Feed the Birds

This week I thought I would cover feeding the birds and some of their diets.  Now with nearly 500 hungry beaks to feed we get through an awful lot of food every day and a lot of preparation goes into this.

You can break you feeds down into certain diets – the carnivores (who get chicks, mice, rats & fish), the fruit eaters, seed eaters, and those that take a little bit of everything.  Some of our inhabitants, such as the Rheas, will eat pretty much most things and are great for waste disposal, taking some of the left overs.  Other, like the flamingos, have a much more specialist diet and have to be given food specifically designed for that family or species of bird.

We’ll go through some of the diets and what goes into preparing them.

Fruit – A large proportion of the birds take fruit to a certain degree, from things like the hornbills and touracos whose diet is almost 100% fruit to birds like the pheasants and doves who get fruit as an additional part of their diet.  The keepers have a rota for fruit chopping duty as every day we have to chop an ice cream tub of finely chopped fruit to go on the food dishes of assorted the next day.  We also have 10 food dishes to fill with fruit for the Trumpeter Hornbill, various Touracos and some fruit eating Pigeons.  On top of this a full bucket of fruit is prepared for the cassowarys.  Every morning we also chop additional fruit for the parrots and Rheas.

SAM_5409The daily fruit usuage

Apple makes up a large part of the fruit and will be supplemented with tomato, pear, banana, grapes, carrot, lettuce, orange and berries, depending on the time of year.  Some fruits can be harmful so must be avoided (Avocado for parrots is one example). All our fruit is sourced locally

Meat – For most visitors the only feeds you will see the keepers giving will be for the predatory birds.  The Owls, Caracaras & Storks get a variety of day old chicks, mice, rats & occasionally quail or pigeon (not ours!).  These tend to be put out in the afternoon as a lot of the owls don’t feed until dusk and we don’t want meat out all day in the Sun attracting flies.  The Ibis also get chicks but these have to be chopped into small pieces for them to swallow, Rob chops approximately 100 chicks every morning for his 3 species of Ibis and Hammerkop.  These also get a peat mince from a local butcher,The Kookaburra & Frogmouth get mice each day.

In terms of fish, the penguins get Herring and Sprat whilst the Pelicans are given fresh water Roach.  These will be supplemented daily with vitamin tablets to replace anything lost during freezing/defrosting.  The tablets are either placed in the mouth of the fish (mind the teeth) or in the gill

SAM_5501 SAM_5502Penguin food preparation

Occasionally there will be a surprise in with the fish, in the last few months I have had squid, mackrel, jellyfish & even a dogfish in amongst the fish!

Our chicks/mice come from a company who supply a lot of Zoos.  The Roach comes from Turkish waters and the mice from Poland

For those curious as to why we are not allowed to give live fish/chicks/mice it is because Zoo Licencing laws permit us to provide live vertebrate prey.  We are however allowed to provide live insects such as mealworms, crickets & locust.  These are given year round to the Bee-Eaters and waders and during breeding season to a lot of the passerines (jays, starlings, thrushes) as these are great food for chicks

Seed – Corn makes up a large part of many of the birds diets, from Cranes to Swans, Pigeons to Pheasants.  Our corn is locally sourced.  We also use parrot seed (containing sunflower seed, nuts, dried fruit), budgie seed and finch seed.  These are supplied by our friends at Ponderosa near Cheltenham http://www.ponderosa-birds.com/

Specialised Diets – Some of our birds have unique dietary requirements and as such have specialised feeds specifically designed for them.  The best example is the Flamingo Diet which helps give the birds that lovely pink colour.  They will eat corn and bread but they don’t contain the pigment required for pinkness!

The Lorikeets are given a nectar powder as we are unable to give them a constant supply of flowers from which to drink.

The softbills (starlings etc) are given bogena, a brown granular product made from whole and crushed berries (e.g. juniper, mountain ash and elderberry), dried insects, freshwater shrimps and crushed seeds.  This is ideal for birds that would normally eat fruit and insects.

For our waders (Avocets/Plovers) we give them our own blend of meat mix – a combination of mince meat, blended dog biscuit, boiled egg and grated carrot.

To supplement the diets we sprinkle vitamin powder of the feeds.  We also worm in this fashion.

In other news this week hopefully our new website will be live.  Otherwise I’m on holiday so can’t tell you any more news, a double update is promised for next week!

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