Focus on African Finches: The Firefronted Bishop


"So! Now we're a pet store? Well gimme a couple of those $3.95 specials!" Doug Pernikoff, our zoo veterinarian, never misses an opportunity to be clever, and an opportunity it certainly was. In the early evening of January 23, 1992, a hundred birds of sixteen species arrived simultaneously at our zoo hospital, filling a quarantine room improvised from a large animal holding cage, now hung with rows of shiny new bird cages. As our assembled bird staff hastily unpacked shipping boxes from California and Chicago (and a cardboard carrier from the tropical fish store around the corner, containing Fischer's Whydahs astoundingly discovered
there), this vault-like room increasinqly brought to my mind the words of Howard Carter, on November 4, 1892, when he looked for the first time into King Tut's Tomb; "Wonderous things! Marvelous things! ...and everywhere the glint of gold!" Though in this case it was rather the glint of reds and blues and more subtle colors.
In one cage a dozen Peter's Twinspots adjusted to new surroundings. At an angle to the six Dybowski's Twinspots were a dozen St. Helena Waxbills, next to a dozen Orangecheeked Waxbills, across from the ten Black-cheeked Waxbills, suspended alongside the four pairs of Blackwinged Red Bishops. For the Fort Worth Zoo Bird Department, the arrival of these birds marked both a new direction and a renaissance. After nine years, we were preparing to once again exhibit bird indoors. Fort Worth's famous bird house, built in the 1920's, and brilliantly remodeled in...



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