This February, Eagle Care Manager Bridget Befort had the opportunity to take part in a three day conference of the International Association of Avian Trainers (IAATE). Bird trainers from all over the U.S. and the world came together to share ideas and strategies. The rest of us got the chance to meet some of the participants who chose to take their free day meeting the eagles and visiting the National Eagle Center.
In two days of paper sessions, participants heard about everything from taking care of ostriches to training waterfowl and flying eagles. They learned about feather condition and travelling with birds. Renown bird trainer Steve Martin and IAATE president offered a workshop on the essentials of bird training. These all offered Bridget a wealth of information and best of all the chance to connect with colleauges.
But the thing Bridget brought back form the IAATE conference that has made the biggest impression on the rest of us was what she picked up in the “Living an Enriched Life” workshop. We should say that all the feedback we received from the other IAATE participants was that our eagles live in the Hilton for birds. Enrichment is all about making sure that captive animals have what they need not only to survive, but to thrive. One thing that is essential for birds of prey is visual stimulation. Well, with a view of their natural habitat and hundreds of new faces to see each day, our eagles certainly have that! But, Bridget did pick up a few things from her colleagues that seem to have been a big hit with the eagles.
She’s given the eagles lots of new items in their mews and outdoor weathering area including pine boughs and phone books. What they seem to like best is newspaper! Either they enjoy the chance to rip and tear, or they are just reacting to the news, we can’t know for sure. But it has been a lot of fun to give them something new and different to experience in their life here.