August 18, 2016
Best Buffet in the Bronx
- as seen by -Lisa Walker
Tossing over 100 crickets and mealworms at feeding time to our masters of aerial swoopage – bee-eaters – is one of my favorite things to do as a wild animal keeper at the Bronx Zoo’s World of Birds.
Our two species of bee-eaters – white-throated and white-fronted – are native to Africa and enjoy a variety of insects every day. Full disclosure: tossing crickets in the right direction is an acquired skill. When I first started, a few may have accidentally been flung backwards onto an unsuspecting guest. However, when crickets are tossed into the air (and not in reverse,) the birds hardly ever miss their tiny targets.
Our white-fronted bee-eaters are very busy raising fledglings these past few months with more chicks still in nest holes. Not to be outdone, our white-throated bee-eaters are industriously digging out new burrows for their own chicks coming soon.
These graceful flyers are quite awkward in the beginning and can’t feed themselves even after they have left their burrow. It is really interesting to watch their progress. First, the young birds are fed by the adult bee-eaters. Then, they chase after the adults that have food in their mouths, followed by finding their own stray crickets on the ground. Weeks later, the growing bee-eaters catch the insects we toss into their air on their own.
Stop by our bee-eater exhibit any day at 3pm, and let us point out the differences between these species, their courtship rituals, the fledglings from the adults, and their unique ways of processing insects before eating them. Lucky visitors might get to see a new chick playing “peek-a-boo” as it prepares to leave its baby burrow and enter into our World of Birds.