We all have our routines. Some of us wake up and walk the dog around the same block in the same direction year after year. Others visit Starbucks every weekday for their first (or second) cup of coffee of the day. These routines lend predictability to the day and usually make us feel comfortable while doing them.
I’ve learned that when taking care of animals, it is helpful to make a plan and then toss the plan right out the window! The animals don’t care what a keeper’s agenda is or what we planned to do that day. The birds I work with frequently add excitement and unpredictability to my “routine.” Come late morning, however, one particular bird can be counted on to follow a set pattern.
When it comes to patterns, no routine is more comforting than the one between keeper and Shameless, one of the Zoo’s Indian or blue peacocks Pavo cristatus. Please know that the Zoo’s Indian peafowl (peacocks and peahens) roam the Zoo grounds at their pleasure. They do not have an enclosure or aviary. Shameless earned his name because he begs for food without any shame! The routine between bird keeper and Shameless goes like this:
• Around 11 a.m., Shameless shows up to the Tiger River keeper kitchen. He pokes his head through the door and lets us know that “it’s time.”
• The bird keeper takes a pan filled with peacock food out to the courtyard.
• Shameless eats all the crickets, his favorite food, from the pan. He returns to the kitchen to proclaim he is out of food.
• The keeper knows he has plenty of food left and refuses to add more crickets.
• Shameless goes back to his pan to eat the rest of his food.
• Shameless then walks back to the kitchen door and rests on his side in a sunny spot directly outside the kitchen door.
• The keeper pretends to be annoyed that the door is blocked and shoos him away.
• The keeper is secretly pleased that Shameless will be back the next day, and the next…and the next.
Mike Grue is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Hornbill Family Feeding.