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Finches on display at Brit Spaugh Zoo
lavender waxbill
A lavender waxbill is one of several species of finches on display in an aviary at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. - photo by Susan Thacker

For the past month, things have looked a little different in the Raptor Center at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. The conference area – officially known as the Peacock Room – is closed to the public while some improvements are being made. A sign in the lobby advises it will remain closed until the work is done.

Meanwhile, there is plenty to see in the Raptor Center, the building that serves as the main entrance to the zoo. Six species of finches were recently acquired. The zoo staff pulled an indoor aviary for small birds out of storage and it features six species of birds:

• blue billed firefinch

• red billed firefinch

• pin-tailed whydah

• bronze winged mannikin

• lavender waxbill

• gold breasted waxbill

The birds tend to stay in the upper portion of the aviary, flying or settling on tree limbs. The zoo staff provided nests, but Zookeeper Ashley Burdick said the birds prefer to make their own by swooping down to the floor, which is filled with wood shavings and twigs.

The floor of the enclosure now houses Norbert, the zoo’s three-banded armadillo. This animal is native to South America’s dry grasslands and forests. Armadillos are the only mammals covered by a shell and the three-banded variety is the only species of armadillos that can roll up into a ball for protection. Norbert has moved over from the Education Building but he likes to hide so he isn’t always easy to see.

Chinchillas that were previously housed in the “Ed Shed” are also on exhibit in the Raptor Center now.

The Raptor Center is a great place to visit on a winter day. It has educational exhibits and a gift shop. There’s also a flat-screen monitor with a live video stream. This week it was tuned to a panda cam in China. (To view panda bears from a home computer, visit

Brave the cold

Zoo Supervisor Sara Hamlin said the keepers have been working to keep the animals warm during the cold days. “They provide extra enrichment on days the animals need to be inside all day so that their minds stay stimulated.”

Most animals at the zoo don’t like being outside in the cold any more than humans do, Burdick noted. That means many of the animals on display will stay indoors and out of the public eye. “Pretty much everyone has the option to be inside or out,” she said.

The grizzly bears, although not completely asleep, prefer to stay indoor on large straw beds most of the time. “On warmer days they might choose to be outside,” but often they don’t, Burdick said.

However, the arctic foxes actually seem to enjoy the cold weather so a walk past the outdoor exhibits should provide viewers with something to see.

Valentines for animals

For February, the Great Bend Zoological Society will offer a zoo Valentine that will be available for purchase at the front desk in the Raptor Center. Zoo Society President Alicia Boor said the Valentine will include a card, lion plush and chocolate. It will be either hand-delivered by a zoo society member or will be available for pickup at the zoo. “We are still working on a few details such as a possible drawing ... but that is not in concrete yet,” Boor said.