Winter at Sea Lion Sound

February 19, 2019

By Valerie Olstad, Pinniped Keeper

You may have seen a First Bank Sea Lion Show in the summer, but have you ever wondered what our “stars of summer” do in the winter?

Well, regardless of the time of year, at the end of each day, our animals have the opportunity to choose between their public habitat and behind-the-scenes habitats. In the winter, as long as the stage doesn’t become icy, training sessions will occur along with the daily scheduled feedings.

Our off-season is when we train new behaviors to the animals, which may be in the show the following season. We train the sea lions to participate in husbandry, which allows them to participate in their own health care (for example, opening their mouths for inspection). We also work on other behaviors that we don’t get to focus on as much during show season.

In addition to heating the pool in the winter, we increase our animals’ diets and add in another fatty fish called mackerel. This helps the animals gain weight to make sure they are comfortable throughout the cold winter months.

A Valentine’s Love Triangle

February 14, 2019

"The siren, the parking lot owls and the handsome owl from back east.”

Love is certainly in the air at the Children’s Zoo—most of it, sadly, unrequited. Staff hearts are also torn as we approach Valentine’s Day and watch this romantic drama unfold.

The Children’s Zoo has been home to Hawthorne, the barred owl, since 2009. Hawthorne came to the Zoo from a rehab center in Illinois as she was found injured and deemed non-releasable. Staff was unaware at the time that this donation would prove to have serious ramifications for the male barred owl population of Forest Park.

What slipped under the radar was that the Zoo was acquiring not just any old barred owl, but a beauty, and a siren. One who, as in ancient fables, calls to her suitors, drawing them in to roost near her habitat each night. These suitors work to win Hawthorne’s favor with their plaintive love calls. These wild owls form “the parking lot boys” of this complicated tale of love, roosting in the trees by Hawthorne’s habitat, calling and calling, their love ever unrequited.

Enter Aspen, the handsome owl from back East. Aspen is another rehab owl, formerly of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Aspen was acquired to keep Hawthorne company in her habitat.

Talk about a plot twist! Who is this interloper? How did he manage to get in Hawthorns habitat?

“The parking lot boys” double down at the nerve of this handsome intruder. The nightly serenade gets louder and louder as Valentine’s Day approaches, coinciding with the owls’ natural breeding season. “The parking lot boys” continue vying for Hawthorne’s heart, Aspen defends his place and our lovely siren continues to send out her promising call.

The North Parking Lot, once just an everyday spot for cars, has become a cacophony of owl calls as this love triangle plays out to its Valentine’s Day conclusion! #ZooCouples - Alice Seyfried, Curator of the Children’s Zoo

Be sure to Check out our other #ZooCouples!

Click here to learn about our Penguin “love birds.”

Penguin Pairs

February 13, 2019

Penguins are known for their “pair bonding,” and Penguin & Puffin Coast may just be the place with the most couples here at the Zoo. You have probably read stories or saw memes on how penguins mate of life or on their excellent parenting skills. This Valentine’s Day, we wanted to spotlight some of the couples at Penguin & Puffin Coast. Click on each picture to learn about our “love birds.” #ZooCouples – KC Donaldson, Bird Keeper.

Be sure to Check out our other #ZooCouples!


Kong and Ethel are true besties and go everywhere together. These single ladies have no time for unwanted flirting. They can often be seen sassing Arthur when he attempts to flirt with them.

"Empty Nesters”

Enrique and Paris are two of our oldest birds, but they have found new love with each other.

“Song Birds”

Niner and Shy always greet each other with a song. Sometimes they even greet keepers with a duet.

“The Married Couple”

Cabo and Loca have been together for 12 years and can often be seen bickering like an old married couple.

“A Family Affair”

Nathan and B. B. have had five kids together: Triton in 2015, Andi in 2016, Arthur in 2016, Louie in 2017, and their youngest hatched on December 1, 2018. Nathan is a very dedicated dad and even gives B.B some “mom time.” She happily takes this time to practice some self-care.

“The Sophisticates” 

Juanita and Heraldo have a taste for the finer things. They often line their nests with more than triple the amount of grasses that other pairs use. As a result, they have a large grass “porch” in front of their nest. Juanita can be shy around the other birds, so Heraldo will often guard her while she eats so the other birds don’t bully her. They are the parents of Pedro, who you may recognize from his big debut as a caroler in Explore St Louis’ holiday card.