SPRING AT THE ZOO
The first thing you notice when you enter the zoo now - our ponds have become crowded and noisy. They were quiet in winter, but now the waterfowl birds make very loud noises while establishing pairs and dividing the territory. The Swans became the most agressive warriors and try to drive away from their territory all other birds, not only their conspecifics, but also the geese and ducks.
You can see a lot of the Ruddy shelducks, in pairs or groups, swimming or strolling along the ponds. In contrast to the birds from our collection, their wings are not clipped and they are free to leave the zoo. However, they have been staying here for the winter for many decades. In spring, the newly formed pairs of these birds fly away and you can see them all over Moscow, at the city ponds and rivers.
March is the time for birds of prey to build their nests. Our zoo keepers place tree branches and wooden sticks inside the birds' enclosures, to be used as building material. The Griffon vultures have already started construction of the nest. Another thing to be seen and heard at the zoo in spring - the Snowy Owl's male uttering the mating-call. At the end of the day, the male starts to sing and, having spread his wings, approaches the female, carrying his "present for the lady" - a mouse.
More and more often, one can hear loud shrill cries of the Cranes - this is the sign that the birds are establishing pairs, and it means that we can expect the offspring. As for the Storks, they do not sing any spring songs, but just make loud noises with their beak.
In spring, many birds shed their feathers, changing the old and worn out ones for the bright new plumage. It will be very useful during mating procedures - especially for the Galliformes and for the ducks.
For some mammals, spring starts when their winter hybernation comes to an end. This is true for the Brown bear, the Asiatic black bear and the Sloth bear. All of them spent the winter in their inside warm enclosures, and soon they will wake up. Bobak marmot, Racoon, Raccoon dogs and many other small mammals will also wake up soon. This year the animals were not sound asleep as the winter was mild, and they could be seen in their enlosures from time to time. Now it's getting warmer, and the animals become more active - you can see them at the Old Territory of the zoo.
The Pere David's deer start growing new horns - velvet antlers grow every spring, after the animals shed the old horns before the winter. The antlers are soft and velvety.
Mammals, as well as birds, change their appearance. Sometimes the visitors say that the animals look untidy. This is a normal process of changing hair - spring shedding. The Arctic fox, the Red fox, the Mountain hare, the Grey Wolf and many other animals will change their winter fur coat for the summer outfit. To enable the animals to tidy up themselves, there are special devices - like giant brush combs - inside the enclosures for the Rocky Mountain Goats, Muskoxen and Sichuan takins. The animals rub their coat against them and "comb" their hair.
As soon as the night temperatures rise above zero, and it gets warmer during the day, many heat-loving animals will come out into the open enclosures - the Asian elephant, the Giraffe,the Red- necked wallaby, the Grevy's zebra. The elephants have already started coming into the open enclosure when it gets warm enough at the daytime, so you may be lucky and see them outdoors.