Showcasing brilliant Blue-Bellied Rollers
Blue-bellied rollers (Coracias cyanogaster) are a brilliant and colorful species of bird from central Africa. Disney’s Animal Kingdom® is home to blue-bellied rollers in the Africa Aviary on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. The Africa Aviary is a free-flight aviary where guests are immersed in the birds’ environment and have the opportunity to see them up close. Since the blue-bellied rollers love to spend most of their time near the top of the canopy, it can be hard to get a good look at how impressive these birds really are. In order to showcase the rollers, animal care staff decided to implement a training plan to teach the birds to fly down and station much closer to our guests. This allows guests to learn more about these special birds.
Station training has a dual purpose. It allows keepers to perform visual wellness exams as well as ensures that the birds receive the proper diet. The training became very important as the pair of birds began displaying breeding behaviors. These two birds were recommended as a breeding pair by the blue-bellied roller Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP strives to maintain genetic diversity in captive populations. Throughout the 18-day incubation period, keepers kept up their training sessions to confirm that the birds received enough nutrients. An important result of the consistency of this station training was that the parents were then able to deliver the proper nutrition to their chicks once the eggs hatched.
After about 20 days of development, the roller chicks were ready to leave the safety of their nest and explore their new surroundings. In these early stages, when the chicks were still learning how to fly successfully, it was very important to continue training sessions with the parents to ensure the chicks were receiving the proper diet. The young birds soon became very capable flyers and were very curious about their surroundings.
One day while keepers were training the parents, one of the offspring decided to fly over and investigate what their parents were doing. Keepers recognized this as an opportunity to begin training the chicks to perform the same stationing behavior that their parents had mastered. The curious chick was reinforced for flying to the training stations with the blow of a whistle and a worm. The chicks caught on very quickly to the training. The next day, during the training session, one chick flew over immediately with the parents upon being given their cue and was followed shortly by a second chick. By a third training session, all of the chicks were flying over with their parents immediately after being cued. Not only did training our pair of Blue-bellied Rollers allow guests to learn more about this wonderful species, it also enabled keepers to have a role in the successful development of the blue-bellied roller chicks.