We turned the old bird of prey show into a new demonstration, which shows the birds’ natural behaviour. Visitors receive information on the birds and can see how the birds get their food, for example from a fake zebra with food hidden inside, and from a pond where they catch fish. The birds are no longer attached to the leather strap, which gives them a lot more freedom. It may happen that the birds don’t do what the trainers/keepers would like, because they now cooperate voluntarily.
On the big boards in the park you can see the demo times (in winter there are no demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday). It is important to be on time, as the demonstrations are held in the bird arena, which needs to closed for the birds to feel at ease during the demonstration. No visitors are allowed inside after the demonstration has started . The demonstration may be cancelled if the weather is bad (rain, thunder or storm) or because of unforeseen circumstances.
Why this new facility?
Lately there are more and more people who have their doubts about bird shows and bird keeping. Several bird workgroups in The Netherlands cooperated in publishing a leaflet which summarizes the biggest objections to bird shows.
Their most important arguments are:
- The birds don’t get to make their own choices; they perform tricks, night owls fly during the day; the birds cannot behave naturally in the traditional enclosures.
- Risk of bastardisation of fauna (interbreeding of captive and wild birds).
- Working with hybrid birds.
- Commerce versus education.
At Hoenderdaell we believe conducting these shows and keeping the birds in the traditional ways is not consistent with the mission of the park.
Hoenderdaell is modernizing and uses the leaflet as a source of inspiration for a new bird facility. This new way of keeping birds of prey and owls shows that these birds can also be kept in an animal-friendly way.
The facility has large aviaries where the birds have room for natural behaviour; even the birds that take part in the demonstration! Night-active owls are no longer kept, just the day and twilight-active owls. We also chose not to keep hybrid birds and to cover the arena with mesh, to avoid bastardisation of fauna. Of course, the demonstration is very different from the traditional show; the birds show their natural behaviour and the focus is on educating the visitors.
These changes in keeping the birds is a new challenge for our keepers. Training has to be so much fun that the birds want to join, for in the new facility they have the option of staying out of reach. So, our trainers switched to a different training method; Positive Reinforcement Training. This method rewards desirable behaviour, ignores undesirable behaviour and leaves the choice with the birds. The focus is on the species’ natural behaviour. Is the bird not in the mood? Tough luck for the trainer. In The Netherlands this training method is not yet often used for birds of prey and owls.
Hoenderdaell is not just looking to set the right example in keeping the birds, but also in training them. As team Hoenderdaell we are very proud of the results. We hope you will enjoy our beautiful bird of prey facility.