08 30/08/2017

Meet Abbie Buxton: Bird Intern

Abbie is studying at Nottingham Trent University and had to do a one year placement as part of her degree. After doing an assignment at university that sparked her interest in birds, she decided to come to Chester Zoo to do her internship, splitting her time between taking care of our birds alongside carrying out a research study investigating the husbandry techniques and the breeding behaviour of the Javan green magpie (Cissa thalassina).

Abbie Buxton
In addition of carrying her research, Abbie was also involved in bird keeping activities. 

Abbie’s study represents the first behavioural dataset of its kind for the Critically Endangered Javan green magpie. Abbie used Go Pro cameras set up in six aviaries opportunistically to record the Javan green magpies’ behaviour, collecting more than a hundred hours of data. She then analysed the frequency and duration of behaviours she observed using a continuous sampling method.

Now that her internship is reaching an end, we asked Abbie to reflect on her year at Chester Zoo. 

Javan green magpie
Javan green magpies at Chester Zoo

Please could you tell us a bit more about you project?

I looked at the behaviour of the Javan green magpie, a Critically Endangered species. We knew little to nothing about them so any results that we got were basically good results!

“We found out that there was no sex difference in pre-breeding season behaviours between males and females. I didn’t know whether the males might be a bit more alert or aggressive but they weren’t. During the breeding season, we also found out that it’s the female who incubates the eggs and the male brings food to the nest. All my results will go towards the development of husbandry guidelines for this little studied species.

“This study was the first intensive study that I’ve ever done. I’m really interested in behaviour and I think it tells us a lot about a species. I’ve only watched about 33 hours of footage so far but I’ve got another at least 100 hours or so to analyse! So these results are not set in stone yet but I will keep in touch with the zoo as this is my dissertation project.”

Abbie Buxton

What was the biggest challenge you encountered during your research?

The biggest issue was identifying which bird was which!  Although the cameras we used are GoPro and are really good quality, it was still really difficult to tell them apart. Sometimes I just couldn’t tell and some other times I found some little differences on the birds, for example I noticed that some moult at different times so that helped me identify them.” 

How is this year going to help you with your degree and future career?

It will help my forward thinking! Thinking about what’s realistic and what isn’t because to start off, I was supposed to work on enrichment and look at all sorts of things but I realised rather quickly that I couldn’t do it all. Although it would have been good, it’s not possible so it helped me with logistical things.”

What is your best memory from this year at Chester Zoo?

“I’ve become really close to the team and they actually took me up to Snowdon not long ago so that was really nice. Also this year’s interns all get on really well so I will miss them a lot! There’s been so much, it’s really difficult to just pick one key thing because it’s all been really good and it’s all been useful.”