Zoo Animals “Talk” to Us…Through Animal Behavior & Body Language! Do You Know What They are ‘Saying?’

GLZS Caleb & Jamie

Do you ever wonder what animals are “telling” us through their distinctive non-verbal body language?  

Animals communicate loud and clear through their vocal sounds, colors, scents, and body gestures.

Zoo keepers Caleb Burden and Jamie Jackson from the Great Lakes Zoological Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan help us understand what their zoo animals are saying!!




Mi Hija, a Blue and Gold Macaw, ‘teaches’ Jamie Jackson, Education and Outreach Coordinator about Macaw bird language!

Macaw & Jamie


Akili the Black Throat Monitor


Here is Akili, a Black Throat Monitor, is in a threatening pose. Through body language, this Black Throat Monitor is telling the zookeepers to back off. Perhaps Akili is shy and does not want his picture taken.  Notice his head and direction is far away as possible from the camera lens.

You can tell because his throat is a little puffed out. His posture is a little defensive (his body is a bit curved).

Monitor lizards, in addition to their claws and teeth, will tail whip in self defense. So when their body is curved and their butt is a little raised, it means they’re getting ready to use their tail.




Snakes do what’s called “s-ing” when they’re mad or when they’re ready to strike (to eat), meaning their neck will make an s shape.

Snakes will sometimes just S for no real reason, but you know they’re ready to strike if they’re raised up and focused directly on something.

If they’re mad they will be hissing. You never have to wonder if a snake is mad at you, they will let you know!!


Mi Hija is a Blue and Gold Macaw 

Macaw on Cage

When Mi Hija a Blue and Gold Macaw first showed up at the Great Lakes Zoological Society, she was a little nervous.

When Macaws are nervous or unsure about a situation, their feathers will be pressed smooth against them.

Macaws also do a lot of bluffing and will sometimes come at you with their beak open like they want to bite you even though they (probably…) won’t, which Mi Hija did when she first came here.

Macaw Face Close-Up
Macaw Face Close-Up

Mi Hija happy. When Macaws are happy to see you the feathers around their face will puff up.

For more information, visit http://www.glzszoo.com and the Great Lakes Zoological Society to see all the interesting animals!

Great Lakes Zoological Society Interviewed Guests

  • Jamie Jackson, Education and Outreach Coordinator
  • Caleb Burden, Zoo Keeper
  • Sara McCune, Development and Marketing Associate at Great Lakes Zoological Society
  • http://www.glzszoo.com

“From Head-to-Toes, the BODY Always Shows…the TRUTH!!”

Janette Ghedotte

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