Feathered Tales: Moving to Brookfield Zoo

Welcome to Feathered Tales! This is the first in what will be a series of monthly blog posts that explore the day-to-day lives of the wonderful birds that live here at Brookfield Zoo. Here, we will see just how much we have in common with our feathery friends, learning how each of the zoo’s residents has their own personality through stories from actual keeper observations. Along the way, we will share interesting tidbits about where and how these fascinating species live in the wild, and how humanity impacts them. This journey will follow these birds through the entire process of their lives here at the zoo, but any great journey must start somewhere. This month, we start at the logical place: the beginning, as birds come to the zoo for the first time.

There are many reasons why a zoo might send birds to another institution. When a feathered family grows too large for their home, some of the young might get sent to other facilities to start their own families. Often, Brookfield Zoo will reach out to other zoos requesting particular species to expand the collection to have more fantastic species to show. But these moves are always exciting times, as an exciting new life awaits them when they arrive.

Incoming birds go through a process that greatly resembles a person going through customs at the airport. The weeks leading up to a transfer involve quite a bit of paperwork, as the sending institution shares everything they can about the newcomer. Details such as typical diet, temperament, behavior, and medical history can all be incredibly helpful to ensure a smooth transition for the animal. Physical identifiers, such as simple leg bands on the ankle, are especially important. Like a person’s passport, a bird’s identity must be confirmed before being sent on its way.

The trip itself is not too different from how a person might get from place to place. Depending on how far away the bird is, it might be flown. The animal care staff might first meet their new feathered friends at the airport for a quick pick-up. When two zoos exchanging animals are close enough, they will often organize to drive and meet at a halfway point.

Brookfield Zoo is currently at the peak of its shipping season, as very few animal transfers happen during the winter or high summer due to the risks associated with extreme weather.

Recently, a species new to Brookfield Zoo arrived that has the animal care staff waddling in anticipation. The zoo’s new residents are a pair of puna teals, a duck species with a beautiful bright blue bill. This duo was born and raised in Seattle. Their flight came in after normal zoo hours, but animal care staff were there on time to pick them up all the same. The puna teals were tired after their trip, as anyone might be after braving O’Hare, and were eager to go somewhere quiet to rest.

After a quick drive to the zoo, they were introduced to their first, temporary home in Illinois. Quarantine is a word that many of us are tired of hearing since this past year, but quarantining animals has been an important part of the process for years now. The puna teals initially go to a temporary room at Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Hospital, separate from all other animals. The room, where they will remain for up to 30 days, has everything a young duck might like, including a pool, plenty of food, and quiet. This quarantined area is a precaution to ensure that no illnesses accidentally made the trip with the young ducks. Care staff will transition the ducks’ diet, keeping what they used to eat in mind, and getting them used to the different foods that might be offered here at Brookfield Zoo. The animal care staff will also get to know their new friends this way, observing their behavior to understand a baseline for these birds before they are introduced to their permanent home.

For the puna teals, that new home will be the Free Flight exhibit in the Reptiles & Birds building here at Brookfield. Assuming everything goes well during their time in quarantine, care staff will introduce these ducks to their new home in a Bringing the Zoo to You Facebook live chat in the coming weeks. These precautions are both important for the health of all of the animals as well as an important step towards providing great care throughout the bird’s life.

With the first month of transition over, we’ll continue to follow our bird friends as they get settled in their new home. But there’s an important step first that all birds at Brookfield Zoo experience: they need their nametag before their first day on the playground! Next month, we will talk about how we identify all the different individuals at the zoo, as well as why this identification is so important to the great care we provide. We will see you for the continuation of the puna teals’ journey in May!

- Written by Alex Kirkeeng, Animal Care Specialist, Bird Department

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Posted: 4/12/2021 10:32:42 AM by Sean Keeley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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