Updated: Apr 23
The presentation I gave at the March 2023 BIAZA ZSL LiveFood Conference.
Hosted by Ross Hickles, it explains why LiveFood is important for many of our birds across our section at ZSL London Zoo, and how having a supply of this on our doorstep is not only convenient but hugely beneficial to our team.
Preparation for Breeding
Since egg production is energetically costly, our breeding females require a high proportion of protein during the breeding season. In fact, this is why reproduction in wild birds coincides when food is most plentiful.
Thus, here, at ZSL London Zoo, Livefood is fed in increasing amounts as the breeding season approaches to provide extra animal protein to stimulate:
The enlargement of reproductive organs
And The nesting of our breeding birds.
Not only is it important to increase the amount of Livefood being fed, but it is vital that breeding birds are fed correctly, to get them physiologically into good breeding condition.
Because Healthy birds = healthy eggs = healthy embryos and strong hatchlings.
In addition to ensuring the parents are well nourished, it is also important that the Livefood being fed to the chicks have the proper nutrient balance, because providing the parents with proper food to pass to their young is the keystone to successful chick rearing.
Thus, by having on-site Livefood, we can be certain that the Livefood we feed to all our birds and chicks, has been well cared for, and has had a good diet.
Additionally, we make sure that all our Livefood is gut loaded with Arcadia’s InsectFuel, 24-hours prior to being fed, and that the Livefood offered to the birds with chicks are dusted with AviMix for their first feed of the day. This is a powered vitamin and mineral supplement especially made for birds.
Range in the size of LiveFood
Because birds come in all shapes and sizes, it is important that we are able to provide them all with different sized Livefood.
Fortunately, thanks to our on-site LiveFood supply, we can get live food in a variety of sizes to appeal to almost any species of bird we keep at any stage of their life, and most importantly, acquire any quantity of these sizes we need, whenever we need it.
Moreover, having this flexibility is also convenient since many birds have individual preferences on LiveFood, and we can adapt to those preferences immediately!
Diet / Enrichment
Variety of Live Diets
Once upon a time, all that we really had to offer our captive birds were house crickets, standard locusts, waxworms and mealworms. However, thanks to our in-house Livefood supply, not only are we able to provide our birds with LiveFood in a range of sizes, like I just said, but the choice of live diets that we can offer our captive birds is growing rapidly!
By providing our captive birds with a variety of LiveFood, not only are we are providing them with environmental enrichment, but we are meeting the species-specific dietary needs of our birds.
Because Livefood is seen as a high-value food by many of our birds here, individuals will often go above and beyond the minimum effort required to gain them. Therefore, our team is able to use our on-site LiveFood to train our birds to the station, in order to facilitate better husbandry routines (for example, regular weight checks) without the need for physical restraint.
Having trained birds as well as encouraging a positive association with keepers is likely to result in greater cooperation between the keepers and birds, which will have welfare benefits for the birds.
To conclude, as you can see, clearly having a Livefood company on our doorstep is very beneficial and hugely convenient for the tropical birds’ team!