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Celebrate Migratory Bird Day
Gibbons get together
Lar gibbons, Rerun (left) and Manny now share exhibit space at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo.
Tina, a turkey vulture at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo, is shown in this file photo from 2019. Vultures are one species to be celebrated Sunday during Migratory Bird Day at the zoo.

Sunday, May 8, is Migratory Bird Day and the public is invited to celebrate at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. From 1:30-2:30 p.m., visitors can take a tour of the zoo’s veterinary clinic and learn about the work done to rehabilitate birds of prey.

Many of the raptors, or birds of prey, that the zoo takes in are migratory birds and are only passing through,  Zoo Curator Ashley Burdick notes. The zoo attempts to rehabilitate injured raptors in hopes that they can then be released into the wild. Those who can’t sometimes take up permanent residence at the zoo.

Sunday afternoon, visitors can meet one of the zoo's very own migratory birds, a Mississippi kite named Penelope.

Other migratory birds are the zoo are the turkey vultures and the wild Canada geese.

The zoo has been unable to take in rehab birds since avian influenza was detected in Kansas earlier this year. Currently, there are still cases of avian influenza in Kansas and birds are still migrating, so the zoo’s waterfowl are still inside, Burdick said. As an additional precaution, the zoo is not selling fish food for now. Feeding the birds and other animals is always prohibited at the zoo.

Making a new friend

Readers will recall that, at the end of March, Burdick and Zookeeper Becca Curtiss traveled to Monroe, Louisiana, to pick up Manny, a lar gibbon, with plans to introduce him as a non-breeding companion to the female lar gibbon, Rerun.

On April 15 the zoo staff started the process of introducing these primates to each other. The initial step is called a “howdy,” and it’s a lot like introducing a new pet into a household. At first, Manny and Rerun could see and hear each other but did not have physical contact with each other. The initial contact was successful,  Burdick said.

“They were talking to each other and did really well during this first session,” she said.

“Our two gibbons are now together and they’re getting along great,” Burdick said Wednesday. “We did one physical introduction last week and there were no causes for concern. They share the exhibit 24/7 and can be seen grooming each other, sharing snacks and calling together throughout the day.”

There is a video on the zoo’s Facebook page of the two interacting.

Earth Day wrap-up

More than 1,600 people attended the Great Bend Earth Day Celebration on April 23, Burdick reported. Before all of the activities got underway, the zoo invited people to pick up a free trash bag and help clean up the park.

“Cross Point Church was the only group that participated in the park cleanup,” Burdick said. “They cleaned up 6 pounds of trash from the zoo and Brit Spaugh Park. Additionally, they helped clean up leaves in and around the butterfly garden so we could plant more pollinator seeds.”