On February 28, another “first” took place in the long history of California condors at the Los Angeles Zoo. Following in the flight path of Dolly, the first California condor to serve as an ambassador for her species, Hope became the first California condor to join a free-fight avian demonstration program at the World of Birds Show. Like Dolly, when she was a chick, Hope sustained a wing injury that, despite the best surgical efforts, left her unable to fly proficiently enough to survive in the wild. But since she is capable of limited flight, Zoo staff wondered if she might be willing to take part in the Bird Show.
In June 2017, two years after she arrived at the Zoo for veterinary treatment, Hope joined her fellow cast members at the Bird Show compound. Though staff there had had experience with Andean condors KC and Sunshine, none of the current staff there had worked with California condors, so ample time was allotted to allow Hope and her human caretakers to get to know one another with guidance from Condor Keeper Mike Clark and Curator of Birds Mike Maxcy.
Being highly social, intelligent birds, it's important for animal keepers to develop personal connections with these birds. "Hope does spend time hanging out with myself and a few other trainers who work with her here at the Bird Show," explains Hope's primary trainer, Dmetri Domerick. "Hang-out sessions usually involve some quality bonding time with trainers in our Flight-Training Compound. She enjoys cuddles and scratches from a few select keepers."
After she had fully settled in and had sufficient time to train and bond with her keepers, Hope was finally ready to confidently glide and hop around in front of a live audience.
While it is impossible to truly decipher what Hope thinks about participating in the Bird Show, Domerick says that she readily comes out of her enclosure to voluntarily enter a crate when it's time for demonstrations and training sessions. "She has been getting better and better at her actual show behavior," he explains, "and she gets all of her favorite food (and treats!) on stage for choosing to participate in presentations." These interactions are important enrichment opportunities for Hope during which she has the chance to experience many new sights and sounds. "She also gets the chance to utilize that very sharp-witted condor brain of hers!"
Working with Hope is a learning experience for all involved, and has proved to be equally enriching for her caretakers, who are learning to see the world from a California condor perspective. "She notices everything. And I mean everything," Domerick comments. "We found that small changes in her immediate surroundings can sometimes disrupt the momentum of successful training sessions. We also found that understanding natural condor social hierarchies plays a significant role in her training as well. We were surprised that she didn't love her femur bone rewards/enrichment at first, but she learned to eat all the meat scraps off the bone with gusto over time. Most of all, we discovered how incredibly smart this bird really is. Which makes perfect sense for the way that they are meant to live out in the wild. Paramount to their survival is the ability to avoid predators and find food, both of which require a fair degree of brain power for such a large bird."
A female Francois' langur was born on February 11 to mother Kim-Ly. Langurs, like many primates, engage in "alloparenting," in which various members of the whole group participate in the rearing of youngsters. The first pair of this species arrived at the Zoo in 2009 and have done well here—five babies have been born. Langurs are also known as "leaf monkeys" because, in their native habitats in China and Vietnam, foliage makes up the bulk of their diets. As with familiar ruminants such as goats, leaf monkeys have large multi-chambered stomachs that enable them to break down and digest tough, fibrous vegetation.
Hatchings included five rock doves at the World of Birds Show compound and three spur-winged lapwings. Inside their wings, birds have the same basic skeletal structure as humans. There is an upper arm bone (humerus), two lower arm bones (ulna and radius), hand bones (metacarpals), and finger bones (phalanges). In birds, the bones are much lighter and have modified over time to form a wing, with the hand and finger bones fusing into more solid structures. Waterfowl—a large group of birds that includes ducks, geese, wading birds such as herons and egrets, as well as screamers and flamingos—are among the oldest lineages of birds on Earth, most closely related to the theropod dinosaurs. Many waterfowl, including numerous duck species and some geese, have vestigial (remnant) claws that stick out from their equivalent of our wrist joint. A vestigial feature is a body part that once had an important function but over time has diminished as it is no longer used—wisdom teeth, for example, in humans. In some individuals, this third set of molars never appears. As you might have guessed, the spur-winged lapwing is so named because these water birds' wings feature these little claws. In addition to the new hatchlings, a female spur-winged lapwing transferred in from Memphis Zoo in Tennessee.
In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent two male California condors to the Zoo for medical treatment. One came in with a leg injury in need of attention and the other for a wing ligament repair. Both birds recovered and were returned to the wild. In addition to training field biologists, maintaining a breeding group, and supporting field staff, part of the L.A. Zoo's ongoing commitment to the California Condor Recovery Program is providing veterinary care for wild birds.
American kestrel, sparrow hawk Photo by Robert McMillan
acorn woodpecker Photo by Mike Elliott
American robin Photo by Tad Motoyama
Brewer's blackbird Photo by Mike Elliott
California towhee Photo by Mike Elliott
California towhee Photo by Mike Elliott
hermit thrush Photo by Lori Conley
housefinch male Photo by Mike Elliott
lesser goldfinch Photo by Mike Elliott
mallard duck female and male Photo by Mike Elliott
mourning dove Photo by Mike Elliott
northern flicker Photo by Tad Motoyama
nutmeg mannikin, scaly-breasted munia Photo by Mike Elliott
Oregon junco Photo by Jamie Pham
common raven Photo by Jamie Pham
red-winged blackbird Photo by Mike Elliott
Western scrub jay Photo by Mike Elliott
white-crowned sparrow Photo by Mike Elliott
Nuttal's woodpecker Photo by Jamie Pham
yellow-rumped warbler Photo by Tad Motoyama
black phoebe Photo by Mike Elliott
On February 16, the L.A. Zoo participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count conducted every year on Presidents' Day weekend by National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada, sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited. A group of 23 GLAZA members joined eight docents and one provisional student for the tour. In total, 30 species were documented: mallard, mourning dove, Anna's hummingbird, Allen's hummingbird, red-shouldered hawk, red-tailed hawk, red-breasted sapsucker, acorn woodpecker, Nuttall's woodpecker (heard but not seen), northern flicker, American kestrel, black phoebe, California scrub-jay, common raven, bushtit, ruby-crowned kinglet, hermit thrush, American robin, northern mockingbird, house finch, lesser goldfinch, American goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, white-crowned sparrow, California towhee, red-winged blackbird, Brewer's blackbird (20 in tree and approximately 40 in flight), yellow-rumped warbler, Townsend's warbler, and scaly-breasted munia (nutmeg mannikin). The Townsend's warbler is a bird not often seen at the Zoo and the three ruby-crowned kinglets were the most seen on a single bird walk.
The next bird walk, coinciding with International Migratory Bird Day, will take place on Saturday, May 11. Docent-led bird walks are free to GLAZA members at all levels, but you must reserve your space by visiting the Member Events page.