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Bird Keeper

Athena has worked at the Zoo for over 6 years and has been a keeperAn employee in a zoo who takes care of the animals. for more than 5 1/2 years. Animals have always played a role in her life.


"I've always loved all animals, including insects, and would love the opportunity to work with any animalAny living thing that is not a plant. Most animals can move about freely. All use plants or other animals as food. All have sensory organs.," Athena says, "although I never realized how much I would love working with birds until I became a birdAn animal that has wings and is covered with feathers. Birds have a backbone, are warm-blooded, produce young from eggs, and walk on their two legs. Most can fly. keeperAn employee in a zoo who takes care of the animals.. Birds are so diverse, interesting, and challenging. If I worked with birds only for the rest of my life, I still wouldn't consider myself an expert."


Athena likes many types of birds, but currently her favorites are flamingos, hornbills, barbets, and laughing thrushes. But almost all of them keep her laughing.


"One day, I was looking at a flamingo from outside of the exhibit with one of our Zoo veterinarians at around 7 a.m.," Athena recalls. "As we stood there, several mallards (ducks) flew over our heads and pooped on us! In our hair and everything! And it was very stinky. That was more funny than unusual, though, given that poop is a big part of my job." 


Learning about the differences in behaviors is one of Athena's favorite parts of her job. "I get to learn their different behaviors, watch them build nests, court each other, and lay and incubateThe process of keeping eggs warm in order to hatch them. eggs, as well as chicks hatching out, parents taking care of them, and those chicks fledging and becoming mature adults," Athena says. "Being a keeperAn employee in a zoo who takes care of the animals. is unusual, and I am thankful every day for my job."


Keepers, like Athena, make friends with some of the animals in their care.


"Just as I have many favorite types of birds that I care for, I also have several individual birds that are special to me," Athena says. "At the top of the list, however, is a male red-knobbed hornbill that I used to call "Handsome." He would fly over to a perch when I pointed to it, gently take grapes from my hand or catch them if I tossed them in the air, and loved to have his beakThe hard mouthpart of a bird and some other animals. The beak can also be called a bill. rubbed inside and out! He was such a sweet boy, and I cried when he was moved out of my area. Not to worry, though. He is currently residing with a girlfriend at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and last I heard he is happy and healthy. I just don't get to see him every day anymore. That's part of the business. It's hard not to get attached to animals that you care for every day."