Ring ring... there's the starling!
No less than 23 bird species flutter between the Cape buffaloes in the Antwerp zoo. They are trained to come to their caretakers on command. Each species responds to a separate sound signal. This is called recall training.
In 2016, ZOO Antwerp launchhed its Savannah aviary, including a 2,000 m² outdoor bird park. A special training program was immediately started, which allows all bird species to get used to their caretakers voluntarily, progressively and at their own pace. This forges an ever closer bond of trust between animal and human. After seven years of intense training, the results are quite spectacular. All kinds of activities can now sometimes even be done on an individual basis: nest checks, sternum touching, scale training, leg care, medication administration ... more and more birds are coming spontaneously.
At first, the keepers let the birds get used to their presence in general and scattered some food around to see who was coming. Then they chose from a range of 23 domestic, easily audible sound signals, a different one for each of the 23 bird species, to lure them. A bicycle bell, a dog toy, a bunch of keys, a jar with pebbles, bottle caps strung together… Later they introduced the signals as a reward during the feeding moment. Now there are different locations and the birds only associate them with a food reward.
For such a large setting as Antwerp, with its 23 bird species, the recall concept is unique.