W h a t ’s G n u ? Fairy bluebird
Hatched: August 7, 2006 Herb & Nada Mahler Family Aviary
Radiant blue is one way to describe the fairy bluebird. Both males and females have brilliant but different shades of iridescent blue. Last August the fairy bluebird couple at the Milwaukee County Zoo added a blue chick to the fold. “Usually the chicks hatch the same color as the females,” says Kim Smith, curator of birds. “They won’t show their adult colors until they are about 6 months old.” Males have bright blue feathers on the top of their head, with black and blue feathers on their back (see photo at left). Females have a dusky blue breast (see photo at right) with dark blue wings. Both males and females have intense black eyes with red circles. Chicks are born blind, without feath- ers and without mobility. So they rely solely on their parents for survival. Yet within two weeks they are able to fly out of the nest. As of November, zookeepers had not named the chick because they did not yet know whether it was male or female. The chick will go to another zoo for breeding. Fairy bluebirds live in the lower trees of rain forests, and are usually found traveling to and from fruit trees. In their natural habitat – in southern Asia, northern India and the Philippines – they feed mostly on fruit and insects as well as wild figs and flower nectar. They are active, social birds that live in flocks, and are common in the wild. If you cannot spot the fairy bluebirds in the trees in the aviary’s tropical rain-forest exhibit, you will certainly hear their loud, clear calls that sound like a series of short whistles. Their exhibit is between the Free Flight area and the African Savanna Exhibit in the Herb & Nada Mahler Family Aviary.
Arrived: September 21, 2006 Off exhibit till 2007
Who’s Got a Genie?
Genie, a great-horned owl, arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo last fall with a partially amputated wing. The owl injured its wing when it collided with an electric power line. Great-horned owls are top predators among birds, but an injured owl could easily become prey in the wild, says Dawn Fleuchaus, area supervisor of the Australia and North America areas. So Genie, a former resident of a wildlife rehabili- tation center in Arizona, came to our Zoo to educate visitors about Wisconsin’s native raptors. Although zookeepers do not know Genie’s age or sex, they’re guessing that Genie is a male because of its small size—about 112 feet from head to tailfeath- ers. Male owls are often smaller than females. Genie is a calm bird that likes shred- ding straw, paper and cardboard tubes for entertainment, says Fleuchaus. Once it gets used to its environment at the Zoo, Genie will be trained to sit on a zookeeper’s gloved hand and will be part of Animals in Action talks during the summer. Great- horned owls, a species named for feathers sticking out of the owl’s ears that look like horns, are found all across North America. Zookeepers have even spotted wild great- horned owls on Zoo grounds. It’s not uncommon for suburbanites to hear the great horned owl’s hoot at night and at dawn. This owl’s call ranges from shrieks to barks to coos that can be heard from miles away. Great-horned owls are silent hunters, however, and capable of stalking animals as big as porcupines and skunks. Genie is spending this winter off exhibit. When the owl adapts to chilly Wisconsin weather, it will stay in an outdoor exhibit next to the Alaskan brown bears year-round.