You Wanna Be An…Avian Caretaker

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

You Wanna Be An…Avian Caretaker

September 5, 2014

When people say that a building has “gone to the birds,” they mean that it looks like it’s been taken over by animals. Well, aviaries are built to go to the birds and they still seem like great places to live. That’s because of the hard work of people like Anthony Alfonso, a farm aide at the Turtle Back Zoo’s aviary. Anthony is an avian caretaker. He cares for small budgerigars, also known as budgies or parakeets, and that’s something worth squawking about!

How did you become interested in working in an aviary?

I’ve always liked birds. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve kept birds as pets and liked to go out and watch birds at the park or read about the many different species. I thought that working at a zoo would be a good opportunity for me to learn more about birds and work with birds.

What’s a typical day in the aviary like?

The morning consists of cleaning both the indoor and outdoor enclosures for the parakeets. During that time we also clean any bowls, cages, or toys that the birds use. When that’s done, the birds get new food, toys and enrichment play, and cuttlebones (cuttlebones are like chew toys for parrots that they can use to trim their talons and beaks). After all the morning preparations are done we open up and visitors can walk in and feed the birds themselves. At the end of the day there’s more cleaning, feeding, and watering the plants before closing.

And how many birds do you take care of? What types of birds are at the aviary?

There are many different species in the aviary and also around the zoo, including laughing kookaburras and emu, but I really only take care of the small budgerigars, of which there are roughly 200.

How do you feed and take care of that many birds? What numbers are at play?

We prepare 10 bowls of food in the morning and distribute 5 in the morning and the remaining 5 at the end of the day. Each bowl has 1 1/2 cups of seed, so that’s 15 cups of seed in total. The visitors also help us out, since the birds eat plenty of millet seed that visitors feed them. The budgies are actually the smallest birds in the aviary – they’re about 5 or 6 inches from head to toe with a wingspan of around 1 foot.

We’re guessing the budgies have a smaller enclosure than the emus do. Right?

The budgies don’t need as much space, but they have plenty of room for the birds to fly around in and perch despite there being many more budgies than emus. Sometimes we do need to keep a bird in a cage for the day, and we make sure their cage is at least twice the bird’s wingspan in each dimension. This is also a good rule of thumb for anyone interested in getting a bird as a pet. And if you have multiple birds in that cage, then you can add all the wingspans together and make the cage double the size of that total.

If kids want to work in an aviary, what kind of math do they need to know?

I’d say that measurements are essential – knowing the right volume and weight of food to give each bird. And multiplication can obviously help you quickly figure out how much food you’d need for a much larger number of birds. Even if you just want to get a pet bird, you’ll need to know how much to feed it, and how often, as well as how much space to give it. Overall, being able to work quickly with measurements and basic operations are the most important math skills when it comes to taking care of birds.  Image licensed by Ingram Publishing

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About the Author

Derek Stump

Derek Stump

As Staff Writer, Derek strives to bring you exciting Bedtime Math content and keep commas in their rightful place. Previously he helped manage a film studio in the Philadelphia area. Derek holds a B.A. in Communication- Media Production from Villanova University.

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