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.

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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


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. 

Dozens Of Babies Steal The Show At Cincinnati Zoo

2015-04-02 Lion Cubs 1 626The Cincinnati Zoo is celebrating a baby bonanza – dozens of babies have been born at the zoo in the past few months.  In fact, there are so many babies that the zoo is celebrating “Zoo Babies” month in May.Kea

2015-03-16 MonaJeffMcCurryPhoto Credit:  Cassandre Crawford, Jeff McCurry, Cincinnati Zoo

All the little ones have kept their parents – and zoo keepers – busy.  The three female African Lion cubs are particularly feisty, testing their “grrrl” power on a daily basis with their father John and mother Imani. 

Other babies include three Bonobos, two Gorillas, a Bongo, a Serval, two Capybaras, a Rough Green Snake, Giant Spiny Leaf Insects, Thorny Devils, Little Penguin chicks and Kea chicks.  “This is the largest and most varied group of babies we’ve had. We’re particularly excited about the successes we’ve had with the endangered African Painted Dogs and the hard-to-breed Kea,” said Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo Executive Director.

See more photos of Cincinnati's Zoo's babies below.

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Zoo Praha Breeds an Endangered Philippine Scops Owl


Zoo Praha has managed to parent-rear a Philippine Scops Owl chick. The endangered species of owl lives only in the northern part of the Philippines. Prague Zoo actively contributes to its protection in cooperation with the rescue station for owls on the Philippine island of Negros. So far, the sex of the chick is unknown. Currently Zoo Praha has one breeding pair of Philippine Scops Owls. The female came from Luzon Island and the male was reared at Wroclaw Zoo.




Photo Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo

Marshbirds On the March


It is the peak of the nesting and hatching season in the Marsh Aviary at NaturZoo Rheine, the home of a large mixed colony of coastal birds like Ruffs, Redshanks, Lapwings and Avocets. NaturZoo Rheine has been renowned as an expert for breeding waders for decades. Every year at least dozens and up to more than a hundred chicks of the different species are reared and distributed to zoos worldwide. However, working with these birds is never routine and there are always challenges in husbandry.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) chicks are extremely agile from hatching on. This is evidenced in their food searching skills – their ability to filter and pick up small particles of food from the water surface. Adults care well for the chicks, guiding, defending and warming them and scooping them up into their plumage. However, most of these chicks have been reared by zookeepers to ensure balanced care as it's not guaranteed in the large colony in the aviary because of territoriality and rivalry among the birds.





Endangered Siberian Crane Hatches at Franklin Park Zoo

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Franklin Park Zoo in Massachusetts has announced the successful hatching of a rare Siberian Crane chick. Hatched on May 6, the chick is the offspring of Sneetch, age 20, and Shakti, age 22.

In the wild, Siberian Cranes breed in the high Arctic regions of Siberia. These Endangered birds stand about 4 feet (120 cm) tall and are noted for their pure white plumage and black flight feathers. It is estimated that only 3,000 of these birds remain in the wild.

There are only 21 Siberian Cranes in captivity in four North American institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Franklin Park Zoo has six Siberian Cranes including the new chick. Since 1999, there have been eight chicks, including the newest chick, hatched at the zoo.

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3 cranePhoto credit: Franklin Park Zoo

This success is the result of a lot of hard work and technical expertise. The chick at Franklin Park Zoo is a result of artificial insemination. The chick’s parents, a breeding pair, have resided at Franklin Park Zoo since 1996. Because these birds hail from the high Arctic regions, each year on February 14 the zoo staff increases the amount of light in the birds’ exhibit by one hour a week to simulate the light cycle in their native environment. The light is increased until the birds receive 21 to 22 hours of light a day. Once the light cycle reaches this point, the birds typically begin breeding. Franklin Park Zoo is actually the first zoo in North America to have successfully bred this endangered species.

“Siberian Cranes are an incredible species with an important conservation story to tell. Every successful hatch is important as it helps to hedge against this species’ extinction,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England president and CEO. “With any new birth or hatch, there is always risk but we are hopeful that this new chick will continue to thrive and will contribute to the survival of its species.”

Rare Pigeon Chicks Get Special Care at Chester Zoo

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This tiny chick might currently look more like a Brillo Pad than an exotic bird – but it’s soon going to scrub up well! Twenty-one-day-old Kola is one of two rare White-naped Pheasant Pigeons to have hatched at Chester Zoo in England, where they are receiving around-the-clock care in their early days.

After being rejected by their parents, the chicks are being hand-reared by keepers who have devised a special diet suited to their needs. And amusingly, given their startling resemblance to Brillo Pads, keepers are actually using scouring pads to help look after their new charges.

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4 pigeonPhoto credit: Steve Rawlins / Chester Zoo

Keeper Gareth Evans (pictured above) says, “Hand-feeding them is a tricky business but we use a scouring pad to make things a little easier. It gives them something to grip onto to make sure they don’t slip and slide around, helping their feet and legs to develop properly. Normally they’d be on a nest on the ground made up of lots of little sticks and twigs so a scouring pad acts to create the grip they’d get from the nest.

“Adult Pheasant Pigeons produce a unique crop milk which they regurgitate to feed to their young. So when we have to hand-rear we have to try and replicate that using a set of special ingredients, featuring egg, water and vitamin pellets. I give Kola his first feed of the day at 6am and his last is at 10pm. So I really am playing the full-time parent.”

In the wild, White-naped Pheasant Pigeons only inhabit the Aru Islands, close to Papua in Indonesia.

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Monterey Bay Aquarium Raises Snowy Plovers for Release

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Staff at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are raising three Snowy Plover chicks, an Endangered species. The aquarium's experienced rehabilitators believe these little guys have an excellent chance of being successfully re-released back into the wild. 

Some well-meaning beachgoers brought two tagged chicks to the aquarium for care, thinking that they had been abandoned. Because breeding pairs and nest sites are carefully monitored, it was possible to figure out what nest the chicks had come from and to discover that the father was still caring for his one remaining chick. 

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4 ploverPhoto credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Representatives of California State Parks and Point Blue Conservation Science carefully placed a cage over the chick to keep the parent close by until aquarium staff could arrive with the other two chicks. They then placed all three chicks in the enclosure to give the dad a chance to see them.  After ensuring that the male was interested in the chicks, the cage was removed the cage and he began caring for all three once again. 

Unfortunately, the father seems to have changed his mind, and all three chicks are now being raised at the aquarium. Fortunately, they have been rehabilitating Snowy Plover chicks since 2000, with dozens of successful releases. 

See and learn more after the fold.

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Colorful Chicks Hatch at Zoo Basel

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Here’s a sure sign of spring from Zoo Basel in Switzerland: eight colorful Silkie chickens have hatched and are now cheeping and pecking away.

The colourful little balls of fluff are exploring their surroundings and pecking at anything that looks remotely like grain. At the first sign of danger they fly back beneath their mother's protective feathers. The eight chicks can be seen in the stall in the coming weeks, and will join the rest of the chicken brood once they are a little larger. 

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5 chicksPhoto credit: Zoo Basel

The hens at the children’s zoo incubate their own eggs and then rear the chicks. A few days before hatching, the chicks begin to cheep, hearing their mother’s sounds through the shell of the egg. After a brooding period of 21 days, the chicks break out from inside the eggshells using their 'egg tooth’, a protuberance on the beak which recedes after the chick has hatched. The newly hatched chicks are already able to feed on their own.

The Silkie chicken is a breed of domestic fowl. Its distinctive feature is its plumage, which almost resembles fine fur. This fine silkiness stems from the fact that the chickens do not have the little hooks, called barbules, which ‘zip’ the barbs of a flight feather together to create a stiff surface.