Home Visit KBS Bird Sanctuary Bird Sanctuary News Behind the Scenes: Leslie Tassell Upland Gamebird Display
Behind the Scenes: Leslie Tassell Upland Gamebird Display PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jackie Wolfinger   
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 21:43

Shortly after I found out I would be the Bird Sanctuary’s Spring Avian Care Intern, I was telling someone about some of the work I would be doing. After I gave an overview of my position, that person said to me, “So basically you’ll be feeding birds and cleaning up their waste?” In a nutshell, yes. That is what the Avian Caretaker and I spend a fair amount of the morning doing, but there is actually so much more to it. Here at the Bird Sanctuary, we provide a high level of care for our birds. To illustrate that point, I am going to take you behind the scenes of the Leslie Tassell Upland Gamebird Display (Tassell Pen) and share with you what it takes to care for the resident gamebirds!

Some of the Sanctuary's Lady Amherst Pheasants

Some of the Sanctuary’s Lady Amherst Pheasants

The gamebirds’ daily care is probably what you would expect. Every morning, we give the gamebirds fresh food and water. Birds don’t have a bathroom to do their business in like people do (though they do have a tendency to use the same spots), so every morning we rake their pens. We also try to rake up the food the birds spilled, since the gamebirds are pretty messy eaters and spill food all over the ground. This may seem insignificant, but we don’t want the birds to get sick from eating food that has been contaminated by their waste or has started to spoil from sitting on the ground. We also don’t want rodents to use the Tassell Pen as a pantry! There are other things we do on more of an as-needed basis. Once a week, we disinfect all of the food and water bowls. If it is snowy out, we shovel the pens so that the birds aren’t sitting in piles of snow and can get to their favorite hiding spots more easily. We also add more pine boughs when needed so the birds have warm, dry places to hide.

A Lady Amherst Pheasant enjoying fresh food and water

Nellie, a Lady Amherst Pheasant, enjoying fresh food and water

You probably have medical check-ups and lab work done from time to time. So do our birds! We regularly catch all of the gamebirds and give them each a physical exam. While we do observe the birds every day for unusual behaviors and any visible health problems, we can get more information during a physical. Some of the things we do during a physical include weighing the bird, checking the bird’s feathers for damage or mites, and checking the bird’s feet for infections. Each of the birds also has lab work done every three months thanks to one of the Sanctuary’s previous interns! Catherine set up our very own fecal testing station where we can examine fecal samples from each of the gamebirds under a microscope for parasites or parasite eggs. If any infections are found, we can identify the parasite and then treat the bird appropriately.

The most recent birds to benefit from Catherine’s fecal testing station are the Northern Bobwhites. The Bobwhites were taken off exhibit in the summer to be treated for a parasite they got from the soil. They are healthy again, and we plan to put them back on exhibit in the Tassell Pens this spring. We don’t want to risk them getting sick again when they are back in the Tassell Pen, so we are currently treating the soil. How are we removing tiny parasites from the soil? With salt! Dr. Burr advised us to spread salt on the soil in a layer at least one inch thick. As the salt dissolves, it seeps into the soil and kills any remaining parasites.

Salt treatment in one of the Tassel Pens

It took twenty-two 50lb bags of salt per pen to make a layer of salt at least one inch thick!

Here at the Sanctuary, we aim to go above and beyond the minimum avian care requirements. In the summer, we grow fruits and vegetables for the birds to enjoy! We also maintain a mealworm colony for them (the birds go crazy for mealworms!). We have plans to renovate and improve the Tassell Pen in the future as funding allows. On your next visit to the Sanctuary, make sure you visit the gamebirds! They are a lot of fun to watch, plus, you can “wow” your friends with your new knowledge about their care!