Space never goes to waste at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. Netting was recently added to the top of the exhibit that used to house the black bear and now it’s a Ruddy Duck exhibit, according to Zoo Supervisor and Curator Sara Hamlin.
The zoo has also acquired some ducklings chicks.
“The ducks are in an off-exhibit area but when they are large enough they will move out to the big pond with the domestic geese,” Hamlin said. Some of the chicks can be observed through a window to the surgery room in the Raptor Center. Once they are large enough, the chicks will be moved to an off-exhibit area but they will also be used for educational purposes.
It’s spring and eggs are hatching. A couple of geese with two goslings were seen Wednesday afternoon. An educational exhibit inside the Raptor Center show the stages of a chicken egg’s development through Day 21 when it hatches. Here we also learned that the largest laid eggs are ostrich eggs, and hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs. According to the San Diego Zoo, ostrich eggs average 6 inches in length, comparable in size to a cantaloupe, and according to birdsandblooms.com, hummingbird eggs are about the size of navy beans.
According to staff at the Brit Spaugh Zoo, Ruddy Ducks are found primarily in North America, although there is a subspecies found in South America. The males are a cinnamon color with the bright white cheek-patch and blue bill in the summer, which is their peak breeding season. In the fall they turn a more gray-brown color. They feed primarily on aquatic insects, crustaceans, seeds and the roots of aquatic plants. They like to dive and swim underwater.
On the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species, they are considered of Least Concern, but threats to the species include habitat loss and pollution.
Zookeeper Ashley Burdick said the Ruddy Ducks also perform a “weird little head bob” that is fun to watch, but that blue bill is the male’s most distinctive feature.
They will not get all of the old black bear exhibit space; a turkey vulture may be housed there in the future. This bird came to the zoo’s Raptor Rehabilitation program with a broken wing and won’t be released back into the wild.