Monsoon Stories: Kyle Waites And James Hall At The Phoenix Zoo

By Lauren Gilger, Annika Cline
Published: Thursday, August 9, 2018 - 3:02pm
Updated: Monday, August 23, 2021 - 11:59am

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When a monsoon storm rolls through, there are really two ways to enjoy the spectacle: From inside, looking out — or right smack in the middle.

Today, as part of our monsoon series, The Show took a visit to the animal kingdom.

Kyle Waites works at the Phoenix Zoo as a bird keeper. The Show joined him at the greater flamingo yard at the Phoenix Zoo, where twenty-two rosy birds stand like a collection of 1950s lawn ornaments come to life.

The birds balance on one foot and stretch their long necks, sometimes to honk in each other’s faces.

"I love how kind of awkward they are in their social communities and stuff like that," said Waites.

For wild flamingos, the rainy season equals more food. Kyle said the rain stirs up the mud and brings in fresh water, which causes more algae to bloom. And more food means it’s time for more flamingos.

"Flamingos will actually do team courtship displays. So they’ll walk all together in one line and do kind of like a little dance together," he said.

It's clear that the weather can be a powerful influence on animal behavior, even for animals that are not outside. The reptile keepers, for instance, have to mimic the outside world within one square foot.

Senior Reptile Keeper James Hall held up a Sonoran toad that has a permanent frown stretched across its wide face.

Lauren Gilger/KJZZ

"These are really cool. These are one of our native animals," he said. "It’s a toad the size of a grapefruit."

This particular toad lives in a crate with a roommate and a water bowl, but you might come across one while hiking or even in your backyard — especially during monsoon season.

"When it rains they come up, Hall said. "They want that moisture, they lay their eggs in the water. Tadpoles develop very quickly because the water’s not there permanently. And then they go back and hide underground."

All sorts of toads and snakes and lizards emerge from their cool hiding spots after a good rain.

"Basically everything revolves around moisture," Hall said. "We would set up a full rain chamber. So we would simulate the monsoon to trigger that breeding. You’ll get some breeding but some of the animals really get that triggered response from the rains. So you set up a shower for them and they’ll take care of the rest."

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