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Billy the Brolga joins keeper, Brendan, for a stroll through the zoo

Don’t be surprised if on your next trip to Taronga you find yourself sharing a path with more than just keepers and other visitors!

One of the stars of Taronga’s Bird Show, Billy the Brolga is spending more time out-and-about these days as part of a new animal care program. The aim is to provide Billy with opportunities to experience more of the zoo grounds.

Billy has been a part of the Bird Show for nearly 18 years and, as one of Australia’s tallest flying birds, she certainly makes an impression!

With two metres worth of wings, Billy flies over our audience down to the stage from an elevated platform. From there, she shows off some of her unusual adaptations, including a specialised beak for probing into the earth whilst looking for grubs, and long legs that enable her to wade through waterways without getting her feathers wet!

To further enrich Billy’s world, we are now taking her on daily walks to different parts of the zoo.

Once there, Billy does whatever she likes, from foraging through leaf litter to maintaining her feathers (preening). These are all natural behaviours and having her undertake them is our goal.

This process is what keepers call ‘enrichment’. It’s a way of meeting all of an animal’s physical and behavioural needs – probably the most important job we have!

Although our main goal is enriching Billy, the added bonus of allowing people to share the same space as her is certainly fun. People join in on the walk, ask questions, take photos, and hopefully have an experience to take home with them and remember for years to come.

To keep things interesting for Billy, there is no set daily time, but if you’re up for a game of hide-and-seek, keep your eyes peeled on your next visit. You might just spot Billy out for a stroll!

- Bird Show Keeper, Brendan Host

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