A re you ready for some color and flash? On your next visit to Lee Richardson Zoo be sure to stop by at least one of the two outdoor walk-through aviaries. Things have changed over the last few weeks. Whitney, one of the keepers that covers the birds routine, has transformed the off exhibit area we call winter bird holding back to a general purpose holding area by tearing down perching and disinfecting floors, walls and mats. Why? Because all the birds that needed to be inside due to our cold winter temperatures are now outside in exhibits enjoying the spring and awaiting summer.

During the winter months when you visit the outdoor flight of the Marie Osterbuhr Aviary, you have the opportunity to observe some of our more winter-hardy birds. The stately white stork marches around the area while the bar-headed geese waddle back and forth. The Speckled pigeons flit from tree to tree while still maintaining their territories. All the while the smaller waterfowl, Mandarin and Ruddy ducks, stay in or around the water. When they do venture away from the ponds they can generally be found parading along the perimeter of the enclosure. At Wild Asia over the past winter you may have caught sight of our trio of Collared finch-billed bulbuls or elegant Red-billed blue magpies or Temminck's tragopans in one of the smaller outdoor aviaries. These birds also spent the winter in their exhibit areas under the watchful eyes of their keepers.

Recently, with net, bands, nail trimmers, dremmel tool, bird records, towels, scales and kennels at hand, the odyssey began. One by one, Stacy, a Lee Richardson Zoo keeper, would net a bird out of its indoor, temperature-controlled winter home. The bird would be gently examined for any issues that needed to be addressed and its body condition scored on a scale of 1 to 5. If nails or beaks needed to be trimmed, Katti (keeper II) was there to lend a hand. Leg bands, which are used as a form of individual identification, were checked against current records. If bands needed to be changed or added, the keepers, along with the registrar, Stephanie, who maintains the collection records, selected the right size, color and number and deftly put it on the bird's leg. Before the birds went into the kennels for their trip to the aviaries, weights were taken. By considering weights, body condition scores and other factors, staff can track the health of the birds and judge whether or not diet, housing or other husbandry changes are needed.

After their appointment at the "salon" all the birds were transported and released into their respective aviaries. To allow the birds some time to adjust to their new surroundings, the aviaries were closed to the public temporarily. This gives the birds a chance to settle in without the added confusion and stimulation of visitors going in and out. For weeks prior to this, staff had pruned, raked and added perches in the aviaries to give the birds just the right environment.

The bulbuls in the Wild Asia flight (aviary) have now been joined by our breeding pair of Bali mynahs. The female is sporting an odd "hairdo" thanks to her mate who likes to pick feathers. Two Luzon bleeding heart doves can most often be found on the ground and a trio of iridescent Nicobar pigeons round out the group.

Joining the birds who overwintered at the larger flight is a more diverse variety of feathered fauna. The kookaburras were calling just seconds after being released into the aviary. Hamerkops, extreme architects of the bird world, have already started considering on which nest to resume work. The colorful Lady Ross turaco pair is out and about. Usually the male is quite shy for a few days after a move and this time was no different. Our roadrunner, who is currently without a mate, is scurrying around often carrying a twig or some other prize to and fro. He is quite the suitor of keepers or other roadrunners. The Guira cuckoos on the other hand immediately took to the air, soaring quickly into the trees. The Little blue herons, four in all, were a mixed lot. Last but not least were the Blue-faced honeyeaters, new to the Marie Osterbuhr Aviary. Like the contemplative Little blue heron and the male turaco, they didn't dash right out. Due to size and coloration, the honeyeaters, like the cuckoos, can be a little hard to find at times. But like the kookaburra, if they sing out, you can find them in a heartbeat.

So if your day needs a little splash of color or you enjoy the challenge of Mother Nature's version of "Where's Waldo," come to Lee Richardson Zoo.

Visit our award-winning Web site at www.garden-city.org/zoo.