AZA News Releases

Association of Zoos and Aquariums Recognizes 3 Facilities with Avian Husbandry Awards Recipients

SILVER SPRING, Md. – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Avian Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) recognized the achievements of three member facilities in the fields of avian husbandry and conservation.

“The Plume Award celebrates individuals who have gone above and beyond in safeguarding the future of countless bird species,” said Avian SAG Advisor Steve Sarro.

In any given year, Plume Awards may be awarded in five categories including long term propagation; husbandry; contributions to zoo aviculture; in-situ programs; and lifetime achievement. Award applicants must be paid employees of an AZA accredited facility (or current AZA member in good standing), working in a position that involves the care and management of birds in zoos and aquariums.  Applicants may apply as a multiple-facility entity for any award for collaborative efforts such as a breeding consortium.  Each Plume Award candidate is judged on the program’s content, proactive focus and level of professionalism.

The 2019 Plume Award recipients are as follows:

Long-term Propagation Program: This award recognizes excellence in husbandry and future management of a species or group of similar species.

- WINNER:  African Penguin Breeding Program (Maryland Zoo in Baltimore)

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore maintains the largest African penguin colony in the country and has had the most successful breeding program for this species.  The Maryland Zoo’s African penguin colony began in May 1967 with thirty birds and, to date, the Zoo has successfully produced more than one thousand penguin chicks. Their work with African penguins has greatly benefitted the population of penguins in zoos and aquariums, as well as the wild population, and has contributed significantly to the science of husbandry and medical management of these endangered birds.

Noteworthy Achievement in Avian Husbandry: This award recognizes excellence in one facet of husbandry such as strong dedication to breeding/husbandry efforts, reintroduction programs, breeding consortiums, the reproduction of a difficult species, taking a leading role in population sustainability, first-time breeding, etc.

- WINNER: Captive Breeding and Rearing of the Endangered Sage Grouse (Calgary Zoo)

The Calgary Zoo’s breeding and rearing program for the greater sage grouse is a species first. The program, in partnership with federal and provincial governments, began in 2014 with the establishment of a breeding flock. In 2017, with 15 individuals, the program achieved its first breeding success. Juveniles were introduced back to their native habitat in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan over a two-month period in fall 2018. Over the past 5 years the program has made considerable improvements in greater sage grouse husbandry and management.

Noteworthy Achievement for an Avian In-Situ Program: This award recognizes an individual’s or facility’s exceptional achievement in an avian in-situ program and may be awarded only periodically.

- WINNER:  American Kestrel Monitoring Program (Brandywine Zoo)

In 2013, the American kestrel was listed as endangered in Delaware. The Brandywine Zoo has, to date, 79 nest boxes installed on both private and public lands across the state, ranging from parks to conservation tracts. The Education Department coordinates the data collection for the project and shares this data with various research partners involved with the Delaware Kestrel Partnership. This project is Brandywine Zoo’s first in-situ project run by the Zoo and it provides the Zoo and its staff many opportunities to contribute to national research projects while also directly studying a local endangered species.

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and ten other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit

Posted by Ashley Jones at 12:00 PM

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