A Stunning Bird with a Stunning Surgery

Written by Dr. Lauren Smith, Veterinarian

If you’ve seen our Bird of Prey show at the Zoo, chances are you saw one of our shining stars – a red-legged seriema named Elton. He shows off the unique way he stuns his prey by using his beak to repeatedly slam prey items like small snakes on the ground. Don’t let the wispy beautiful feathers, long red legs and eyelashes of a seriema fool you – these stunning birds are effective predators!

As you can imagine, quick reaction time and visual acuity are essential for Elton’s daily life. The animal care team noticed his right eye appearing red and swollen, they also noticed he would misstep when walking to his habitat. The animal care team quickly notified the veterinary team to assist, both teams work hand-in-hand to give the best care to animals.

As part of the veterinary team at ZooTampa, it is our responsibility to work with the animal care team to examine animals for any health concerns. During our initial examination, we found that Elton had a maturing cataract of the right eye that affected his vision. Just like humans, animalsare also at risk for cataract formation which affects their vision and ability to carry out daily tasks. Fortunately for us, we knew of options to best help Elton recover.

We contacted Dr. Tammy Miller Michau of BluePearl Veterinary Specialists for a consultation. Dr. Miller Michau is a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with specialized equipment to perform this surgery. After several evaluations and discussions with the animal care team, we agreed that cataract removal surgery was the best option for Elton. There were a few things to consider before performing surgery in a case like Elton’s:

  • The unique anatomy of the avian eye
  • The ability to properly administer eye drops post-operatively
  • Keeping Elton’s stress level down before, during, and after the procedure

A big part of my job as the Veterinarian is to make a diagnosis, evaluate the options and risks, make recommendations based on what we know, and compose a plan to address all of the above. Following a positive health assessment, the veterinary and animal care team worked to outline the plan before, during, and following Elton’s surgery.

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In June, Elton was taken to BluePearl Veterinary Specialists for surgery. The ZooTampa veterinary team safely anesthetized and prepared Elton for Dr. Miller Michau to operate on his eye. Imagine the skill and precision required to make a tiny ocular incision through a microscope! Ryan, a veterinary technician with ZooTampa, and I focused on Elton’s anesthesia and vitals, while Dr. Miller Michau removed the cataract and sutured the eye closed.

Dr. Miller Michau informed us of potential risk, including infection and/or dehiscence (break down) of the sutures. It was important that just as much care went into recovery as it did during the surgery itself. Over the next few days, the animal care team worked closely with the veterinary team to ensure Elton received his eye drops for his eye to heal properly. Within two to three days, we could already tell that his vision improved on the right side and he was much more responsive when approached on his “blind side.”

One week later, Dr. Miller Michau returned to ZooTampa for follow up. Post-operative medicine compliance had been going well, and we hoped the hard work would pay off.  As Dr. Miller Michau evaluated Elton’s eye, we were elated to hear her say, “This looks amazing! And so clean!” She checked his eye pressure and performed a stain test to rule out any corneal ulceration – all clear!

We are currently in the final phases of Elton’s recovery and he continues to do fantastically. He is due for another check up with Dr. Miller Michau with the hope of being fully healed.  Once his eye doctor gives him the go ahead, Elton will be back to being an absolutely stunning bird!

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Job Fair



Please review our booking tips before continuing

1. Please make one field trip per reservation order. Complete one and start a new one if you have multiple days you are booking.

2. Headcount can be approximate. Please include children and adults in your headcount. Please do not include pass holders in your headcount for a ticket.

3. On the ticket page, choose the correct grade level (to the left of your screen) to receive the correct chaperone ratio.

4. On the ticket page, when on the calendar section, the number of tickets available will appear in the top right corner for each particular day. Tickets available include children and adults. If you have more people than tickets available, please choose another day.

5. Anyone that is ordering lunch, even pass holders and adults that receive free chaperone tickets, do need to pay for a lunch IF they are ordering one. Free chaperone tickets and pass holders are for admission only.

Boxed lunch orders must be received 5 business days prior to your field trip arrival. Groups will be responsible for all boxed lunches that were confirmed at that time.

6. Payment does not need to be paid at the time of registration. Choose the pay upon arrival option if you would like one person to pay for your entire trip on the day of your visit.

7. The prices of adult and children’s tickets are different.

8. You will receive a confirmation number and confirmation letter via email when your trip is confirmed. If you do not, please contact Jamie.Elkington@Zootampa.org right away.

Outside Food & Drinks Policy

ZooTampa at Lowry Park offers a variety of delicious food for guests at several restaurants and concession stands throughout, but we understand that guests may need to bring outside food for special dietary needs. Acceptable and prohibited food items are listed below. For the convenience of our guests, there is a picnic area located outside the park near the main parking lot.

 Acceptable Items
  • Bottled water (max 20oz bottle, sealed) one per guest
  • Small snacks for young children
  • Baby food/baby formula
  • Soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep (limit one per child)
  • Pre-purchased empty ZooTampa souvenir cups
  • Any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements
 Prohibited Items
  • Prepared or packaged food or meals
  • Alcohol
  • Glass or any open containers or water bottles filled with beverages
  • Hard-sided coolers of any size
  • Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep
  • Suitcases and soft-sided bags with wheels larger than 24” long x 15” wide x 18” high

Prohibited Items

For the safety of our animals, guests and employees, the following items are not permitted to be brought into ZooTampa:

  • Any type of explosive or weapon 
  • Knives or other sharp objects
  • Pepper spray
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Marijuana
  • Illegal drugs
  • Straws
  • Clothing likely to create a danger or disturbance
  • Any hazardous items or materials

The following items are also prohibited to avoid blocking of walkways and/or trip hazards:

  • Segways
  • Hover boards
  • Two-wheeled scooters
  • Self-balancing electric vehicles
  • Shoes with wheels
  • Drones
  • Hard-sided coolers of any size
  • Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep
  • Suitcases and soft-sided bags with wheels larger than 24” long x 15” wide x 18” high

Please leave any unnecessary articles secured within your vehicle to expedite your entry into the park.

We reserve the right to deny entry to anyone not observing Zoo Rules.

Pay For A Day Tickets

With a new Pay For A Day, Rest of Year Free ticket – for a limited time – you get unlimited admission through December 31, 2024 including access to our seasonal event series. Some blockout dates apply — see below for details. Not valid with any other discounts.

When does my Pay For A Day ticket expire?

Pay for a Day Get the Rest of the Year Free tickets purchased in October, November, or December of 2023, are valid from the day of purchase until 12/31/2024. Any Pay For a Day Get the Rest of the Year Free tickets purchased prior to October 1, 2023 expire on 12/31/2023.

What are the blockout dates?

11/24/23 – 11/26/23
12/26/23 – 12/31/23
3/9/24 – 3/17/24
11/24/24 – 11/26/24
12/26/24 – 12/31/24

Blockout dates apply to admission before 4:00 PM on the above dates.

Can I purchase a Pay For A Day ticket on a blockout date?

Yes! You can purchase a Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free ticket for first-time use on a listed blockout date and have full access to the park on that day. Blockout dates apply to repeat visitation.

Can I use my Pay For A Day ticket on blockout dates? If you already have your Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free ticket and wish to visit during a listed blockout date, please stop by the Zoo’s ticketing windows for alternate options:
  1. During blockout periods, Pay For A Day ticket holders have access to significantly discounted single-day tickets.*
  2. For a limited time from the date of purchase, Pay For A Day tickets can be upgraded to a Zoo Membership (with no blockout dates).
I purchased a Pay For A Day ticket online. How do I get my actual ticket?

Bring a copy of your confirmation (or show the confirmation email on your mobile device) to expedite entry into the Zoo. At your convenience during your visit you can stop by the Tours & Guest Services kiosk located just inside the Zoo to print your physical pass. No need to stand in line at the ticket windows. Walk right in!
Still have questions? Email us or call (813) 935-8552 ext. 0.