By Jennifer Nixon, Denver Zoo Bird Keeper
This week’s feathered friend is Beaky, a grosbeak starling (Scissirostrum dubium.) Beaky turns five this year, and is one of the smaller birds in our Rainforest exhibit. His feathers are charcoal-colored, but his beak and legs are bright yellow, and his rump feathers look like they have been dipped in red ink. You shouldn’t have any trouble spotting this bird because he is very active and is one of the noisiest birds in the room.
Keepers have spent of great deal of time with this bird in particular, because he has been trained to accept medication that is hidden in food by his keepers. This process took 10 months to earn his trust. Most of this training took place in a smaller holding room, but the real trust came when he was moved to the Rainforest room, where he was given the choice of how close he gets to his keepers. This allows him to feel comfortable accepting food items. He knows he can fly away if he feels uncomfortable.
When his keepers ring a bell, he is trained to come to a perch and accept insects. Four times per year, those insects have a routine deworming medication, and every other day of the year they are just a special treat for him. His species is especially susceptible to parasites, so this helps keep him healthy. This also allows his keepers to get a really good look at him and ensure he is in good health.
His species is native to Indonesia, and although the population is decreasing in numbers – due to habitat loss – grosbeak starlings are not considered threatened in the wild, because of their wide range and population size. They live in sparsely wooded forests and wetlands, where they eat seeds, fruit and insects. Beaky loves waxworms, which is a moth larvae. He sometimes tries to catch them in the air from his keepers.
Come check him out in the Rainforest room of Bird World, presented by Frontier Airlines. He is very active and moves around a lot, but also enjoys hanging out above the large pool on the edge of the very large nest that is not there for him. Because why have a house when you could have a mansion?