CRC Enrichment Blog

Oshem is a turkey vulture that came to Carolina Raptor Center in 1987 with a broken left wing that was unable to heal properly. Because of this, she is unable to fly and has become habituated to people. She was even featured in the movie “The Chase” that was made n 1994.

These days Oshem is being trained to follow her handler outside of her enclosure to go on walks. Not only is this very enriching for her, but the extra exercise has helped with her arthritis as well! In the picture below she is enjoying sunning herself on one of the back trails.

Surrey is British Barn Owl that was captive bred in South Carolina and came to CRC in 2010. Because Surrey is a very active bird, he needs more stimulation than most other owls would. He gets enriched twice a week instead of once a week like the other owls.

Today I’m featuring one of his favorite enrichments, a plush mouse toy with a squeaker inside. He likes to stand and nibble on it, and will sometimes carry it around.

Despite possibly being his favorite toy, he doesn’t get it often and only for a day at a time. If an enrichment is left with a bird all the time, then it ceases to be enriching. Spacing out when a particular enrichment is given creates a fresh experience that is more exciting for the bird.

This week at Carolina Raptor Center, several of the birds got chicken eggs for enrichment. On Sunday the vultures got raw eggs and on Monday the Corvids (Magpie, Crows, and Ravens) and our two education Golden Eagles, got hard boiled eggs. Eggs provide not only dietary variety, but can be used as toys. Most of the vultures smashed and ate the eggs, but one turkey vulture actually made a perfect hole in one and ate the insides! Some vultures in the wild actually do eat eggs as part of their normal diet, particularly Egyptian vultures. Even though the eggs are raw, vulture stomach acids are so powerful that it kills bacteria and germs that would be harmful to us and other animals.

In this video is Pishimatakoa, or Pishi for short, enjoying her egg enrichment. Pishi is a King Vulture, a species found in South America. 

Hello everyone and welcome to the first installment of the CRC Enrichment Blog! My name is Anne Daily and I lead the enrichment program here at Carolina Raptor Center. I will do my best to give you exciting news about the enrichment that goes on here each week.

Right now the only species that are in the enrichment program are the vultures, eagles, owls, and corvids. Eventually I hope to include all the birds in our collection.

Enrichment is very important in the health of our birds because it keeps them mentally stimulated and active. This is especially important for the more intelligent species like the vultures and corvids. It also helps to simulate what a bird may find in the wild and encourage natural behavior.

This past week some of the birds, like Zlaty in this video, were given used Christmas trees in their enclosures. The goal here was to change their enviroment with the introduction of the tree. Zlaty is a male Golden Eagle that was acquired in 1985 from the Liberty Wildlife Rehabilitation Foundation in Arizona. This is the time of year when eagles are nesting and Zlaty often enjoys having sticks to carry around and arrange. This makes the tree enrichment especially appropriate for him. As you can see in the video, he actively interracted with it, making this enrichment very successful. Even though he got a bit over zealous at the end, just know that no birds were harmed in the making of this video.

Welcome to CRC’s NEW Enrichment Blog!

On Monday, January 16, Carolina Raptor Center’s Resident Bird Care staff will be launching a weekly update on enrichment activities at Carolina Raptor Center.

Visitors to the Raptor Trail want to know that our raptors have a stimulating life, with opportunities to engage in natural behaviors. An enriched environment allows animals to perform natural behaviors, permits them to be more active and increases their control over their environment. Enrichment helps satisfy both the physical and psychological needs of our birds and allows them to make choices. Thus, animal enrichment creates a win-win-win situation for the birds, visitors and keepers!

In the wild, birds must find food, defend territories, escape predators and build homes. As much as possible, CRC habitats are designed to mimic the natural environment. At Carolina Raptor Center, the majority of the birds needs are provided by staff and volunteers, so other methods of physical and mental stimulation must be provided to encourage natural behaviors.

Enrichment activities are fun for both the birds and their keepers. We hope you enjoy seeing some of the things that CRC keepers do to make the environment a great place to be for the birds.