The sheer volume of work at the Bird House is overwhelming if you stop long enough to think about it. And if something odd comes up, and you have to cope with that along with your normal routine, well, you just deal with that as well as everything else. Just producing enough food for close to a thousand birds every day is mind boggling to me.
This is a week’s worth of mealworms. It never occurred to me that there are people in this world in the mealworm business. And apparently they do just fine. The Cincinnati Zoo uses a LOT of mealworms.
To the Cincinnati Birds, these plates are 4 star meals with vitamins and supplements sprinkled on like garnishes. If you don’t mind what the plates actually entail, they are beautifully composed. This is serious cuisine to the birds here. They get more food than they require with plenty to spare and these guys chow down! Steve believes in “more than enough” so that everyone gets all that they need. If there is none left when the plate is retrieved, it wasn’t enough food and the amount is adjusted. These are just a few of the plates going out in the afternoon to a couple of the outdoor exhibits. This is just a fraction of what the Bird House produces in a day.
This is the fruit mix used for a variety of birds. The staff makes a container of this fruit mix the size of a small trunk every other day.
A few things from the walk-in fridge waiting to be processed. The eggs will be shoved through a large-hole screen, shell and all for the food plates.
These are some various chows used for their birds. I didn’t know there were such things as trout chow and crane chow. They go through tons of this stuff along with fresh mixes that are all balanced out for a nutritious meal for each type of bird. When Kim is putting together her morning meals, she just begins by dealing out the plates and begins assembling them. There are “cheat sheets”, but I don’t see anyone really looking at them much. Here is one of the cheat sheets:
This sheet may tell you what plates and how many go where, but you have to know what makes up an “Extra Large Hornbill” plate. Before I got here, I didn’t know what a “Bustard” was, let alone what he ate. The Bird House does have some wicked appliances to help out:
Here is Steve “futzing” around with some fish fillets next to the meanest blender I have ever seen. If I remember correctly, He was making formula for the baby King Penguin. That is one powerful blender and if it wasn’t electric, it would probably have a kick-start.
This is Kim using the food processor to make fruit mix. When she is done, that container will be full. They make one of these every other day.
The variety of plates and the number of them that have to be assembled is unbelievable. The Bird House is a tough assignment, and from what I have seen, not the most popular House to work because it has one of the more brutal work loads. The cleaning is never ending, the birds are all over the park, and it’s tough on your body. But this is a proud house and I don’t think this staff would have it any other way.
Patricia Sund is a Free-Lance Writer residing in Florida with her three African Greys. She has been published in About.com, Bird Talk Magazine, Birds USA, In Your Flock Magazine, Good Bird Magazine as well as numerous websites and newsletters. She is currently doing research for a book titled "Parrot Nation".