New recruit in London Zoo’s bird display
Tuesday 10 May 2005
Eros is a female Snowy Owl. She has been at the Zoo for 18 months and is currently being trained up by her specialist keepers to take part in the predatory bird display that takes place every day at the Zoo during the warmer months of the year.
It is very unusual for a snowy owl to be trained for bird displays as they tend to have a fairly short attention span, making training time consuming and difficult. We feel very privileged to be looking after her and able to demonstrate her flying talents and her beauty to visitors.
Her keepers, Mark Habben, Jim Mackie, Rob Goodchild and Claire Horton, have been using chopped meat and a special buzzer to train her to take part in the displays which are designed to help our visitors learn more about the natural behaviours of some of our animals.
The reason for using a buzzer to fly Eros is because they hunt using sound rather than eye sight. Snowy owls have remarkable hearing like most owls, and they need it in the wild, since a lot of their prey like lemmings are buried beneath snow. They don't need to see their prey, they can locate it with pin point accuracy just by listening!
Snowy Owls are large, diurnal white Owls with a rounded head, yellow eyes and black bill. Eros’ feet are heavily feathered and her overall plumage is variably barred or speckled with thin, black, horizontal bars or spots. She is probably more heavily marked than her male counterparts - adult males tend to be almost pure white.
Eros weighs just over 2kg despite standing at 45cm and having a 4 foot wingspan. This is because the bones beneath her incredible thick white feathers, are hollow- rather like honeycomb. If Eros were a mammal she would probably weigh about 10kg! Her lack of weight enables her to fly silently when catching prey, swooping above their heads un-noticed.
At the moment, Eros is taking part in a couple of shows a week, but it is hoped that with increased training from Jim and the team, she will become a real star of the show in the lead up to the Summer. Come down to London Zoo and watch Eros, the snowy owl in action!