Postcards from Winter Camp: Blast Off with the Birds

Posted at 10:27 am December 22, 2005 by Lisa Townsend

 Winter Camp pigeon release Well, today was for the BIRDS! If you ask me the whole day was just fowl! No really, camp was all about birds. We had such a fun-filled feathery day. Rio, a double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, greeted us first thing in the morning and from there the day just flew by.

We met up with Mike in the Children’s Zoo at the pigeon loft. Mike has been racing pigeons since he was a boy and he brought out some of his fabulous fliers. Some of the campers had the opportunity to release the birds (see photo)- it’s just a quick and gentle throw into the air. The birds exercised for a while and then flew back home when Mike whistled to them. The racing pigeons can fly at about 50 miles an hour and an average race will be 150 miles. It was such a treat to play with the fast and friendly birds.

After lunch we left for Hunte Amphitheater where trainer Heidi had a special guest waiting for us: Delilah, the southern ground hornbill. Delilah moved to Hunte from Reptile Mesa a few months ago. Her training has been going great and she sure had our interest today. She followed directions and even

went off-stage when she was asked (she likes to be the star of the WHOLE show). Next we met Daphne, another ground-dwelling bird. Daphne is an emu from Australia. Her wings as so small they looked the same size as a kindergartener’s hand. She was so tall and had a great stare. We even learned Daphne’s secret – she’s a male! It’s pretty hard to tell a boy and girl emu apart. Daphne doesn’t seem to mind the confusion.

At the end of the day we met Amy at Owen’s Aviary. She talked to us about the 300+ birds that live in the aviary. Owen’s is the largest outdoor aviary in the world – and I would guess the most beautiful too. Amy tossed bugs into the air and the birds dove right over our heads to catch them. It was a truly spectacular air show and a great way to end our day in the Zoo.

Gotta fly! Lisa

Lisa Townsend is an educator at the San Diego Zoo.

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One Response to “Postcards from Winter Camp: Blast Off with the Birds”

  1. Shirley Sykes says:

    Lisa, I’m enjoying your Winter Camp stories so much. Just wish I were a kid again and could participate. I hope those lucky kids realize how much they are learning! Thanks for sharing with us.