Bird

Great Argus Pheasant Chicks Hatch at Chester Zoo

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A rare Pheasant, usually found in the rainforests of South East Asia, has been successfully bred at Chester Zoo for the first time. Two Great Argus Pheasant chicks hatched on May 3, after a 24-day incubation.

With Great Argus Pheasant numbers in steep decline across much of its native range, keepers at the Zoo have hailed the arrival of the young pair.

The birds, which are found on the Malaysian peninsula, south Myanmar, South West Thailand, Borneo and Sumatra, are iconic in their homeland but are threatened by hunting and habitat loss.

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4_Rare pheasant chicks hatch in Chester Zoo first  (22)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo 

Andrew Owen, Curator of Birds, said, “The Great Argus Pheasant [Argusianus argus] is under real pressure in parts of South East Asia. Like so many bird species in that part of the world, they are the victim of rapid deforestation and illegal trapping.”

“Great Argus males, in particular, are amongst the most unusual and distinctive of all birds, with their astonishingly long wing and tail feathers adorned with thousands of eye-spots. It is their beauty, which is, in part, what makes them so prized by hunters. To have two chicks hatch here for the very first time in the zoo’s long history is a great achievement; they’re certainly important young birds.”

As part of its mating ritual, the male constructs a ring on the ground out of sticks and twigs, then calls to entice a female to enter into the circle. He then performs a mating dance, culminating in him spreading his wings wide to show off a complex pattern of eyespots in his plumage.

It is these ‘eye-spots’ that give the Argus Pheasant its name: Argus Panoptes (or Argos) being a many-eyed giant in Greek mythology.

The Great Argus Pheasant has been evaluated and is currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.

More great pics below the fold!

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Meet Pedro & Perdy the Penguins

Two penguin Chicks 2 - Paradise Park

Two rare Humboldt Penguin chicks named Pedro and Perdy are being reared by keepers at Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary.

Penguins typically lay two eggs a few days apart. When the first chick hatches, it receives all of mom and dad’s attention. Penguin chicks are very demanding and squeal loudly as they appeal for food, which is regurgitated by the parents.  By the time the second chick hatches a few days after its sibling, the older chick, which may have nearly doubled in size by now, continues to get all the attention and parents may ignore the younger chick. The younger chicks in penguin nests often do not survive in nature.

Because Humboldt Penguins are rare, keepers took the Pedro and Perdy, who were both second chicks, into their care to ensure the birds’ survival.

Two penguin Chicks - Paradise Park
Two penguin Chicks 4 - Paradise ParkPhoto Credit: Paradise Park
Keeper Bev Tanner explains, “Pedro and Perdy are being hand-reared as often in a nest with two chicks only one is successfully raised by the parents. As this is an endangered species it is very worthwhile for us to take the second chick and rear it to increase our flock.”   

When chicks are in the nest, they have fluffy grey down feathers. They remain in the nest for about three months, at which time they have developed the waterproof plumage needed for swimming. Juveniles are grey and white, developing the distinctive black-and-white adult plumage at one year old. The pattern of dark speckles on the adult’s lower chest is unique to each Penguin and helps to identify each individual.

Humboldt Penguins are native to the western coast of South America, where they fish in the cold Humboldt current for which they are named.  They are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Historically, Humboldt Penguins were threatened by extensive mining for their guano (accumulated droppings), which was used for fertilizer. Today, the main threats are habitat loss and competition with invasive species.

See more photos of Pedro and Perdy below.

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Frogmouth Chicks Hatch at Paradise Park

Tawny Frogmouth Chicks 2 - Paradise Park CornwallTwo Tawny Frogmouth chicks that hatched in early April are being hand-reared at Paradise Park in the United Kingdom.

“The parents have sadly not been very successful in the past at raising their own chicks. So the decision was made to hand-rear these two to give them the best chance of survival,” explains zoo keeper Sarah-Jayne Cooke. The chicks are weighed regularly and are thriving on a diet of tasty worms.

Tawny Frogmouth Chick - Paradise Park Cornwall
Tawny Frogmouth Chick eating worms - Paradise Park Cornwall
Tawny Frogmouth Chick - Paradise Park Cornwall
Tawny Frogmouth Chicks - Paradise Park CornwallPhoto Credit:  Paradise Park

Tawny Frogmouths are native to Australia and are known for their ability to sit nearly undetected in the trees during the day. Their cryptic coloration allows them to blend in against tree trunks, and their habit of sitting immobile with head pointed upward gives the appearance of a broken branch.

Frogmouths are considered one of Australia’s most important pest-controlling birds. They feed at night on spiders, worms, slugs, wasps, ants, and other invertebrates.  

These birds mate for life and typically raise one to three chicks in loose grass-and-stick nest.

At present, Tawny Frogmouths are not threatened with extinction, but human activity is having an impact on the wild population. House cats prey on these birds, and Frogmouths are often struck by cars as they pursue flying insects illuminated by vehicle headlights.  Because Frogmouths tend to remain in the same home area for up to a decade, they become vulnerable when forests are cut for development. 

 


Exotic Hatchlings Are a First for Zoo Miami

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Zoo Miami is proud to announce the recent hatching of two remarkable chicks. For the first time in the Zoo’s history, keepers welcomed the arrival of a Secretary Bird and a Great Blue Turaco.

The Great Blue Turaco hatched on February 7th after an incubation period of 31 days and weighed just over 40 grams.

Great Blue Turacos are the largest of all of the Turacos, reaching an overall length of 30 inches and a weight of close to 3 pounds. They are found in the canopies of forests in Central and Western Africa and feed on a variety of fruits, leaves, flowers, shoots and insects.

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Blue Turaco adult 1A

4_Blue Turaco adult 2APhoto Credits: Ron Magill / Zoo Miami (Images 1-5: Great Blue Turaco hatchling and adult / Images 6-10: Secretary Bird hatchling and adult)

The Secretary Bird hatched on February 15th after an incubation of 42 days and weighed just over 86 grams.  

Secretary Birds are found in African savannahs and woodlands, south of the Sahara, and have the longest legs of any bird of prey. They grow to be almost 5 feet tall with a wingspan that can approach 7 feet.

Though they will eat a variety of reptiles and small mammals, they are famous for hunting and eating snakes, including venomous ones. They hunt by walking on the ground and, when they see a prey species, will stomp on it with great quickness and force until it is incapacitated and can be eaten.

They get their name from their resemblance to male secretaries of the early 1700’s who wore gray tail coats and placed quilled pens behind their ears, which are replicated in appearance by the specialized feathers that stick out of the back of the head of Secretary Birds.

The Great Blue Turaco is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. However, the Secretary Bird is classified as “Vulnerable”.

Young Secretary Birds are preyed upon by crows, ravens, hornbills, large owls and kites, as they are vulnerable in their Acacia tree top nests. As a population, their main threats are loss of habitat and deforestation.

More great pics below the fold!

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Critically Endangered Magpie Bred at Chester Zoo

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Four Javan Green Magpies have hatched at Chester Zoo. This is the first time the world’s rarest Magpie has been bred in a UK zoo, which provides a major boost to conservation efforts to save this species from extinction.

Conservationists and bird staff at the Zoo are making every effort to try and save the species, which has been trapped to the very brink in its native Indonesian forests. Chester Zoo has been working with assistance from Taman Safari Indonesia and conservation partners, Cikananga Wildlife Centre.

In late 2015, six pairs of the birds were flown from Java, Indonesia to Chester to establish a conservation breeding and insurance population for the species in Europe, before the birds vanish in the wild altogether.

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4_Javan green magpies at Chester Zoo (2)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The Javan Green Magpie (Cissa thalassina) is native to western Java in Indonesia and inhabits dense montane forests. Their bright green plumage is attained through the food the birds eat: insects, frogs and lizards.

The species is listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but bird experts are warning that the situation may have worsened in recent months, amid fears that the rare Magpies may now be close to extinction in the wild, with no recent sightings reported.

However, the breeding of the four new chicks at Chester Zoo has given a huge lift to conservation efforts to save the birds. Andrew Owen, the Zoo’s Curator of Birds, explains the importance of the breeding successes, “I have had the privilege of working with many rare and beautiful birds, but none are more precious than the Javan Green Magpie: one of the world’s most endangered species.

“We’ve been working with our conservation partners in Java - the Cikananga Wildlife Centre - for more than six years. In that time we’ve seen Javan Green Magpies disappear almost completely from the wild as they are captured for the illegal bird trade. Huge areas of forests that were once filled with beautiful songbirds are falling silent.

“Knowing that our first pair had nested was a momentous occasion for us - seeing the first chick was even more special. All four chicks have now fledged and are currently sporting blue feathers, which will eventually turn apple green as they mature.

“So far we have successfully bred from two adult pairs and these four chicks are a vital addition to the worldwide population. Every individual we breed here could help save the species as the clock is ticking and time is running out.”

Mike Jordan, Collections Director at Chester Zoo, added, “The rapid decline of the Javan Green Magpie in the wild is due to on-going trapping pressures, agricultural intrusion and a continued loss of suitable forest habitat in west Java in Indonesia.

“We started the first ever European conservation breeding programme for the species when six pairs of Javan Green Magpies arrived in Chester in December last year. Our specialist team, in conjunction with two other top European zoos, is aiming to ensure their continued survival.

“Our long-term aim is to return birds bred here in the UK and Europe to the forests of Indonesia.”

The arrival of the four chicks brings the total number of Javan Green Magpies at Chester Zoo to eleven. The Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre currently has 19 birds, all under the expert care of Chester Zoo staff and local Indonesian experts.

Chester Zoo’s Act for Wildlife conservation campaign has recently launched a new initiative to raise vital funds to build new aviaries at the breeding centre in Java, which are in danger of collapse due to the destructive humidity and termites. Find more information here: http://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/act-for-wildlife   Or here: www.actforwildlife.org.uk 

More beautiful pics, below the fold!

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Turaco Chick Comes Out Of Its Shell

Great Blue Touraco Chick at Paradise Park CornwallWhat did zoo keepers do when two little chicks were reluctant to leave their eggs?  At Great Britain’s Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary, keepers helped the tiny birds come out of their shells, ensuring the survival of two healthy Great Blue Turaco chicks.

Great Blue Touraco Chick feeding at Paradise Park Cornwall
Keeper Becky Waite with Great Blue Touraco Chick Paradise Park
Photo Credit:  Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary
 
Zoo keeper Becky Waite explains that the zoo’s adult female Turacos are temperamental nesters, sometimes pushing eggs out of the nest or failing to feed their chicks.  To give the Turaco chicks the best chance of survival, keepers decided to hand-rear the pair.

For the first ten days, keepers fed the chicks moistened pelleted food.  Gradually, the chicks were introduced to greens and steamed broccoli, then bits of banana, mango, figs, and blueberries.

Turacos are altricial, meaning the young cannot move or feed themselves after hatching and require care from their parents (or zoo keepers).  The chicks start out with sparse downy feathers, which are replaced by smooth feathers when the chick fledge (leave the nest).

Great Blue Turacos are native to western and central Africa and are the largest of all Turaco species.  These birds are not considered under threat by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

See more photos of the chick below.

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Chester Zoo Keepers Lend a Hand to Exotic Starlings

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Bird keepers at Chester Zoo, in the UK, recently provided around-the-clock care to six exotic Starling chicks.

The tiny Grosbeak Starlings, which are native to Indonesia, have been successfully hand-reared after being fed a combination of pinky mouse and papaya every few hours for five weeks.

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4_Zookeepers give helping hand to exotic starling chicks (10)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

 Now fully fledged, all six birds have made their first public appearances in the Zoo’s new Monsoon Forest exhibit (the biggest zoological building in the UK and part of an Islands zone at the zoo, which is aiming to put a spotlight on the conservation of animals and plants from South East Asia).

Bird keeper Leanne Lowton said, “The birds started out each weighing just a few grams, and helping such tiny little chicks to eat requires a high degree of patience and lots of gentle encouragement.

“We use delicate little tweezers to deliver food to them and then it’s really important to keep track of their development along the way. To do this, we pop them on to a mini set of scales and check their weight every day – making sure they’re getting everything they need.

“For a good few months it’s a time consuming process; and life does tend to revolve around the chicks’ feeding schedule, but it’s ever-so-rewarding to see them go on and fledge.”

Curator of birds, Andrew Owen, added, “It’s vitally important that our bird staff have opportunities to hone their hand-rearing skills at the zoo as it’s these very same techniques that we can use to help seriously threatened species in the wild.

“Right now, for example, we have two keepers from the zoo based in Mauritius working with some of the world’s most critically endangered birds. It’s all of the knowhow and intricate techniques that they’ve learnt at the zoo that’s enabling them to play a key role in helping to conserve the likes of the Mauritius olive white-eye, Mauritius fody and Mauritius cuckoo shrike. ”

Chester Zoo works towards the conservation of numerous bird species around the world including projects in Bali, Java and Sumatra.

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Zoo Staff are Surrogate Parents for Tufted Puffin Chick

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When a Tufted Puffin chick hatched in the Oregon Coast Aquarium's Seabird Aviary on July 24, it seemed as if everything was going to plan.

The baby bird, nicknamed Stella, weighed in at a healthy 2.26 ounces (64 grams) and was under the care of experienced parents.

By Stella’s day-two checkup, something was clearly amiss. The chick was not gaining weight. The parents were not delivering fish or brooding the chick to keep it warm as Puffin parents should. 

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3 puffinPhoto credits: Oregon Coast Aquarium

 

 

Following a second day of careful observation, it was clear Stella needed an intervention. The aviculturists brought the chick behind the scenes to be hand-raised.

“We do not want Stella to imprint on us, so we limit interactions to feeding and cleaning time, and make adult Puffin noises as we feed,” said CJ McCarty, curator of birds for the aquarium. 

“Stella is so fluffy it is a little hard to resist cuddling, but because we plan to reintegrate this Puffin with the population in the Seabird Aviary, minimizing human contact is in its best interest.”

During the early days, a heat lamp kept Stella warm, and a feather duster stood in its parents’ stead for snuggling. The aquarium’s aviculturists fed it every two hours, and even came in late and early to ensure it receives the nourishment it needed.

See more photos after the fold!

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Rare Horned Guans Hatch at Saint Louis Zoo

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The Saint Louis Zoo announced that two critically endangered Horned Guan chicks hatched at the Zoo on August 7—the first for the Zoo and only the second recorded breeding of the species in the United States. 

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Horned guan chick 8-19-15_Ray Meibaum_Saint Louis Zoo_2297_hires
Horned guan adult_David Merritt Saint Louis ZooPhoto Credits:  Ray Meibaum (1, 2, 3); David Merritt (4)

Because these are the first offspring for the inexperienced parents, the chicks are being hand-raised behind the scenes.

At two weeks old, the chicks weighed five ounces, stood about 8 inches tall and had fuzzy brown and black downy feathers. Their unique horns will start to develop at approximately 3 months of age. The horn begins with two bumps on the top of the head. These bumps gradually twist and grow together.

One of the rarest bird species in the world, the Horned Guan population in the wild is down to only 1,000 to 2,000 individuals in southeastern Mexico and Guatemala because their cloud forest habitat has been destroyed for logging, coffee plantations and other cash crops.

“This hatching is an important development in what has been a great effort to save this species; it was the result of many years of hard work,” said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Dana Brown President and Chief Executive Officer at the Saint Louis Zoo. “It took great attention to the welfare of the parents and enormous patience and persistence” from the zoo staff to achieve this milestone.

The parents of the two chicks are a male, age 12, who arrived at the zoo nine years ago and a female, 7, who arrived five years ago from the Cloud Forest Ambassadors Program at the Africam Safari Zoo in Puebla, Mexico, where they hatched. In 2007, the Saint Louis Zoo became the first accredited zoo in the nation to exhibit this species. Currently 56 Horned Guans are found in five institutions primarily in Mexico.  

Large and dramatic, the adult Horned Guan (seen in the bottom photo) has a unique two-inch-long red horn of bare skin extending from the top of its head. This horn is thought to be ornamental to attract a mate. This bird has a bright white chest laced with fine lines of black feathers and a body covered with a jet black plumage that shines an iridescent blue in the sun. They are about the size of a small turkey and are arboreal, rarely coming to the ground in their native mountain forests. Horned Guans are related to some of the most endangered birds in the world—Curassows, Guans and Chachalacas.

The Saint Louis Zoo began working intensively with other species of Guans in 1997, when it received a $25,000 Institute of Museum Services grant to investigate artificial insemination techniques in this highly endangered group of birds.  The zoo was also the location for the first ever hatching of a chick—a common Piping Guan—from the artificial insemination of a cracid species. Cracids are a family of game birds, like the Horned Guan, that are found predominantly throughout the Latin American tropics.

Since then, the zoo has worked with this endangered family of birds in Trinidad and Columbia and, in 2004, founded the WildCare Institute and the Center for Conservation of the Horned Guan. The Horned Guan Conservation Center staff has worked for a decade with its partners to conduct research on this elusive species. The complex dynamics of seed dispersal and habitat utilization are little understood.

The Center also is encouraging improved habitat management—advocating for increasing the protected area that is home to the Horned Guan and working to limit the factors that threaten vulnerable wildlife in this area. In addition, the Center has initiated an education program to teach local communities how to farm in more habitat-friendly ways and to strengthen community conservation participation.

“These programs, coupled with enforcement action, are expected to help reduce the threats caused by illegal timber removal and hunting,” said Center Director Michael Macek. “There is hope for this species thanks to efforts to reduce coffee plantations and to form additional reserves that can provide potential for eco-tourism, resulting in alternative economic opportunities for local communities.”

 


'Chicks Rule' at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

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A Steller’s Sea Eagle, a Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chick, and three Spur-Winged Lapwings are among the significant hatchings reported in the past two weeks, at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

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[Photo Credits: Cassandre Crawford (Image 1: Steller's Sea Eagle chick; Image 2: Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chick; Image 3: Spur-winged Lapwing chicks)]

Steller’s Sea Eagles are one of the most rare raptors in the world. They are twice the size of, and much more aggressive than, their close relative, the Bald Eagle. The Cincinnati Zoo was the only Zoo in the U.S. to breed this species successfully, until the Denver Zoo hatched a chick last year. Cincinnati has now bred three pairs, and produced 12 chicks, in cooperation with the Species Survival Plan (SSP). There are currently 22 Steller’s Sea Eagles in 11 North American institutions.

Chick watch began on April 29, when Aviculture staff noticed the Sea Eagle parents looking down at their nest more frequently. A chick was first observed on May 3, and by May 7it looked to have doubled in size. Their incubation period can last 39 to 45 days and they lay one to three eggs (but only one chick usually survives).

As of 2009, the Steller’s Sea Eagle population was estimated at 5,000 birds worldwide, but that number is dropping. Although legally protected in Russia, Japan, China, and South Korea, other threats to these rare birds include fossil fuel energy developments, wind farms, pollution, habitat loss, hunting, and possibly global warming.

The Cincinnati Zoo hatched its first Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chick on May 2. To date, San Diego, Honolulu, and Miami are the only Zoos in the U.S. to produce Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chicks that lived at least 30 days.

The Cincinnati Zoo’s chick has almost reached that milestone and keepers are optimistic that it will stay in good health. The chick’s 13-year-old father is the most genetically valuable of his species (meaning his genes are the most needed in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) collections to keep the population as healthy/genetically diverse as possible).

The Cincinnati Zoo has mimicked the life strategy of these birds in the wild.  Males get together and show off in a central tall tree (called a “lek”), while the females gather around to view the spectacle and select a mate.  They breed and she flies off to build her nest and raise her chick all by herself while the male goes back to dancing!

Bird-of-Paradise chicks often do well as hand-reared youngsters. They eat mostly insects, pinkie mice pieces, and papaya and are extremely intelligent birds that can learn to mimic many noises and sometimes speech. All Bird-of-Paradise species are protected, in Papua New Guinea, from the large-scale hunting that occurred there in the late 1800’s and nearly drove several species to extinction. Their feathers and skins were exported, by the thousands, for fashionable hats. Their biggest concern now is rainforest habitat loss.

Three Spur-Winged Lapwings also join the list. Although they are not rare at all in the wild, they are still special to the Cincinnati Zoo and genetically significant offspring from first-time parents.

The Spur-Winged Lapwing breeds around the eastern Mediterranean and in a wide band from sub-Saharan West Africa to Arabia. The Greek and Turkish breeders are migratory, but other populations are resident. The species is declining in its northern range, but it is abundant in much of tropical Africa, being seen at almost any wetland habitat in its range.