#TravelTuesday: Meet Prairie Chickens, Parrots & Pelicans At Caldwell Zoo

And head over to Wild Bird Walkabout to feed around 300 parakeets and cockatiels.

Feeding parakeets at Caldwell Zoo 
You can feed parakeets at Caldwell Zoo.

Around a century ago, during the spring, hearing the booming call of Attwater? prairie chicken across the plains of Texas was a common occurrence. With more than an estimated million birds in the early 1900s they were considered an easy game bird. Today there may be fewer than 100 wild birds left. But there are conservation programs designed to save the Attwater? prairie chicken for future generations. With the help of several breeding facilities in Texas, including the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas, it is hoped that someday captive-bred birds will replenish the wild population.

The Caldwell Zoo has released birds back to their natural habitat. Conservationists estimate that it would take 10,000 to 20,000 acres of prairie with a population of 5,000 Attwater? prairie chickens before this bird would no longer be considered endangered. Behind the scenes, zookeepers of Caldwell Zoo care for these birds to help them get off the endangered species list. In addition to the prairie chickens they also care for many other birds.

The macaw talk at Caldwell Zoo.  
The macaw talk at Caldwell Zoo. 

“We tell the story of our four American White Pelicans, Snappy, Chomper, Blue and Crash, our 2 neotropical comrants Cromy and Georgiena, and our 20-plus roseate spoonbills,?said Aimee Pritchard, Supervisor of Birds, about their daily pelican feedings.

Pritchard has been working with birds for almost 10 years and although she has cared for many different species of animals, she always goes back to birds.

“We offer a macaw talk on Fridays with our group of 15 macaws,?she adds. During the talk the macaws will also do a few natural behaviors. At 2:00 daily her department feeds their ten African Black footed penguins while teaching visitors about the individuals they care for at the zoo and problems their wild cousins face. Every Saturday, during the summer months, there is a keeper talk with their red-tailed hawk.

Another great photo opportunity is to visit the Wild Bird Walkabout aviary where around 300 parakeets and cockatiels fly amongst guests. Seed sticks, available for $1, invite the birds to hang out with you for an extra special photo encounter.

Red-tailed Hawk 
Aimee Pritchard with red-tailed hawk.

“The Caldwell Zoo has very unique multi-species enclosures,?Pritchard says. “This allows the public to watch our birds behave very naturally with other birds of their species, reptiles and even mammals.?

This year the zoo hatched more than 40 of the most endangered birds in the state of Texas: the Attwater? prairie chicken. The goal is to release many of them, once they mature.

If you would like more information on how you can help, check the Adopt-a-Prairie Chicken Program on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. You can also contact the Attwater? Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.

Attwater? prairie chicken  
The Attwater? prairie chicken conservation page on the Caldwell Zoo website. 

More About The Attwater Prairie Chicken
Throughout much of the year, Attwater? prairie chicken eats fruits, flowers, leaves, seeds/grains and even wild rose hips, but during the summer months the prairie chicken becomes insectivorous. What is truly remarkable is their breeding activity. Each spring, the Attwater? prairie chicken goes through an elaborate courtship ritual, according to the Caldwell Zoo? website. The male is territorial and chooses a section of ground to put on a display which includes inflating his neck sacs (considered very sexy if you are a lady prairie chicken), producing loud booming noises, feather shaking and face-offs with other males. These places were animals assemble are called leks. A hen will enter the lek to mate with the fittest male ?the one in the center. 

Want to travel some more? Check out these places!

#TravelTuesday: Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
#TravelTuesday: Avian Behavior International
#TravelTuesday: Encounter A World Of Birds At Tracy Aviary
#TravelTuesday: Paradise Wildlife Park

Article Categories:
Birds · Health and Care