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Zoo: 2 macaws become fast friends in Scottsbluff

February 3, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) — Otis and Cruze sat next to each other on top of the fencing of Otis’ winter enclosure at the Riverside Discovery Center in Scottsbluff. The blue-and-yellow macaws watched people as they dropped by to see how the two are getting along. The pair was introduced less than 15 minutes ago, but it’s an instant friendship. Neither wanted to part with the other’s company.

Their introduction was supposed to last just a few minutes to see if they liked each other. Otis was hanging out on top of his winter enclosure. As soon as Cruze entered the room, he joined Otis. The pair began squawking. Education Curator Alex Henwood left them alone for a few minutes before she started training with both.

After two weeks together, the pair became best friends.

“They are enjoying each other’s company,” Henwood said. “We have seen them groom each other and they’ve already learned each other’s names.”

Zoo Director Anthony Mason told the Scottsbluff Star-Herald that Otis and Cruze got along from the moment they saw each other.

“They started getting along and grooming each other right away,” Mason said. “They were interacting and showing signs of enjoying each other’s company.”

At the end of the first day together, Mason spoke with Head Zookeeper Nancee Hutchinson about what they should do. The decision was to give them extra enrichment and make sure there was enough food to get the two birds through the night.

“When we tried to separate them, they didn’t want to,” he said. “So we thought, ‘OK we will keep extending their time and see how it goes.’”

Otis and Cruze have been inseparable ever since.

Their squawks are also distinctive if you listen attentively.

“Cruze has higher pitch sounds than Otis,” she said.

When Cruze says, “Hi,” Otis will often respond, “Hello.” Though the words are English, they may not actually be greeting each other.

“They do talk to each other, but it doesn’t mean the same thing,” Mason said. “It’s not words.”

The sounds are still beneficial to the birds even if they aren’t conversing in English.

“They do make vocalizations in call and response to each other,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean what we think it means.”

The move is a good one for both birds, who have been alone for a while. Cruze’s longtime friend passed away and Otis has been the only macaw at the zoo for a number of years. Recently, both birds began to show signs of being stressed, most likely due to loneliness.

For Cruze, he had begun to pull his feathers out. Otis was more needy with humans than a macaw would normally be.

“The stressors can be a variety of things and it’s hard to determine why they are doing it, but he had never done that until his friend, who was a lot older, had passed away,” Mason said. “The stressors were there, but there’s no way to know 100 percent why they are doing it.”

Being together has eased any stress the birds had. The squawking has also been reduced.

“Overall, it’s been really good for their physical and mental health,” Mason said. “It’s good for them to have another macaw for them to interact with.”

Otis and Cruze will be in their summer enclosure in late spring/early summer when the weather is adequately warm enough for them to be outside.

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Information from: Star-Herald, http://www.starherald.com

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