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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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.

See and learn more after the fold.

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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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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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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. 

Tawny Frogmouth Chick is a First for Denver Zoo

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Keepers at Denver Zoo in Colorado know from experience that Tawny Frogmouths are difficult to breed. Over the years they have struggled with problems such as infertility and finding compatible pairs. Two birds hatched at Denver Zoo in 1996, but they passed away less than two days after hatching. Now all the work has finally paid off: the zoo has successfully hatched and raised a Tawny Frogmouth chick for the first time!

The chick, named Kermit, whose sex is still not known, hatched on January 27. Lucky visitors may be able catch a glimpse of the new chick in its home of 'Bird World', where it is being brooded by its parents. Zookeepers monitor the chick's weight closely each morning and supplementally feed it as needed.

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Kermit is the first chick for both father, Nangkita (Nang-kee-tah), and mother, Adelaide. Nangkita hatched at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo in June 2009 and came to Denver Zoo in January 2010. Adelaide hatched at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo in July 2012 and arrived at Denver Zoo a year later. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals by recommending pairings that will prevent inbreeding. Fortunately, this pair has proved to be an excellent match.

As their name indicates, Tawny Frogmouths are known for their wide frog-like mouths, which they use to catch insects and other small animals. They are sometimes mistaken for owls as they have very similar body types, but are actually more closely related to birds like whippoorwills and nightjars. Tawny Frogmouths are also masters of disguise. Their beige and brown feathers remarkably resemble the tree branches in which they roost. When they feel threatened they sit perfectly still and rely on their camouflage to hide from predators.

Tawny Frogmouths inhabit forests and open woodlands in Australia and Tasmania. Scientists are not sure how many Tawny Frogmouths exist in the wild. Their greatest threats come from being hit by cars while feeding and exposure to pesticides. 

Endangered Micronesian Kingfisher Hatches

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The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute rung in 2014 with the hatching of the most endangered species in its collection—a Micronesian Kingfisher— on January 1. The chick, whose sex is unknown, is the first offspring for its 8-year-old father and 2-year-old mother. This boost brings the total population of Micronesian Kingfishers to 129 birds. They are extinct in the wild.

Micronesian Kingfishers are extremely difficult to breed due to incompatibility between males and females, and the inability of some parents to successfully raise their own chicks.  Animal care staff are hand-raising the chick, which involves feeding it at two-hour intervals, seven to eight times per day.

Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo can see these critically endangered birds on exhibit in the Bird House.

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See a video of the hatchling:


Micronesian Kingfishers flourished in Guam’s limestone forests and coconut plantations until the arrival of the brown tree snake, an invasive species that stowed away in military equipment shipped from New Guinea after World War II. Because these reptiles had no natural predators on Guam, their numbers grew and they spread across the island quickly. Within three decades, they had hunted Micronesian Kingfishers and eight other bird species to the brink of extinction.

In 1984, Guam’s Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources captured the country’s remaining 29 Micronesian Kingfishers and sent them to zoological institutions around the globe—including the National Zoo—as a hedge against extinction. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums created a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the birds. The SSP pairs males and females in order to maintain a genetically diverse and self-sustaining population in captivity.

As the captive population increases, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Guam’s Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources continue to look for suitable release sites in Guam. The availability of release sites continues to shrink, however, due to deforestation and human expansion. Controlling the brown snake population remains a significant challenge as well. Scientists are hopeful that initiatives for snake control and forest protection signify that the reintroduction of the Micronesian Kingfisher may soon become feasible. Additionally, field studies of a different subspecies of wild kingfishers are underway on Pohnpei, another Micronesian island, to secure essential biological information on wild populations and to test various reintroduction techniques for use on Guam.

A Victoria Crowned Pigeon Hatches at Zoo Miami

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Zoo Miami has announced its first successful hatching of a Victoria Crowned Pigeon!  The single chick hatched on November 30 after being artificially incubated in the zoo’s brooder building for 28 days. 

Victoria Crowned Pigeons are the world’s largest living pigeons, reaching a length of nearly 30 inches (76.2 cm) and weighing close to five pounds (2.27 kg).  They are one of the closest living relatives of the now extinct Dodo bird.  Found in the lowland forests of New Guinea and portions of Indonesia, these stunning birds are classified as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Species' Red List. Main threats are deforestation for logging as well as by hunting for food and their ornate feathers.  These birds are found in small flocks on the forest floor foraging for seeds, fruit and snails.  Distinguished by their ornate fan of crest feathers and deep red eyes, adults are mainly blue in color with accents of deep burgundy and small highlights of white.   

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Victoria Crowned Pigeons are monogamous birds that mate for life. The male courts the female by lowering and bobbing his head, fanning his tail, and emitting rapid booming sounds. He then brings the female sticks which she uses to construct a nest and both parents share in the incubation duties. Unlike most other birds, pigeons, both males and females, produce a special 'crop milk' which is used to feed the single chick for the first few weeks of its life. Once this chick is weaned, the hope is to introduce it into Zoo Miami’s “Wings of Asia” aviary exhibit.

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Great Gannets! Three Healthy Chicks Hatch at Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven

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Three healthy Northern Gannet chicks hatched at Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven on the Northern coast of Germany, on May 21 and on June 5 and 18. In the early 1980s, Zoo am Meer was the first zoo to successfully breed Northern Gannets in captivity. Up until today, Bremerhaven has remained one of very few European zoos to have successful hatchings of Northern Gannet chicks almost every year.

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Photo credits: Joachim Schoene / Zoo Am Meer Bremerhaven

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the bird is listed as a species of Least Concern. Found along both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Northern Gannets are a common bird with an uncommon ability: with an adult wingspan measuring nearly six feet (175 cm), these marine birds catch shoaling fish by nose-diving from heights of up to 130 feet (40 m). In the wild they are colonial, making nests of grasses and seaweed on coastal ledges and hilltops. Colonies breed in northern France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, and the eastern tip of Quebec. Pairs produce a single egg in the month of May, which is brooded with the feet for about 45 days. After five years, young Northern Gannets develop the elegant white and black plumage of mature adults.

Endangered Ornate Hawk-eagle Hatches at San Paulo Zoo

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A new Ornate Hawk-eagle hatched at Sao Paulo Zoo, on April 15. The chick is a male, and has been named Chronus by the biologists of the park. Like most birds, this species grows very fast. It was hatched weighing around 50 grams, and after just one month he weighs 10 times as much! Since the first day, the hatchling has been fed a diet of mice. At this stage of development, he's comsuming meals 3 times a day, and is expected to grow to an adult weight of close to 1000 gms.

Once fully grown, this bird will have strikingly colored plumage and piercing golden eyes  He will also develop strong muscular feet bearing long, sharp talons, used along with a sharp, hooked bill to tear the flesh and break the bones of it's prey. The Ornate Hawk-eagle is a highly endangered species in the state of Sao Paulo, and not many zoos in the world have the privilege of keeping and breeding this formidible animal.

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Photo Credit: Carlos Nader

Click here to see this fuzzy chick strengthening his legs taking wobbly steps and coming out of the incubator to get a snack. (The narratoin to the video below is in Portugese)

See more pictures after the jump:

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Wild Spoonbills Nest at Lowry Park Zoo

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There's a nest with four Roseate Spoonbill chicks at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, but these guys aren't 'on the inventory', so to speak: a pair of wild Spoonbills chose to nest right outside of the zoo's Spoonbill exhibit!

Born earlier this month, all four chicks have survived and are growing fast. At just six weeks old, the chicks will fledge and leave the nest. But for now, they're still losing their fuzzy down and starting to show their first flight feathers. Developing flight feathers are at first surrounded by a protective sheath made of keratin, which the bird eventually removes by preening, allowing the feather to continue its development. In the photos below, these new pinfeathers look a bit like plastic straws. 

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Photo credits: Lowry Park Zoo

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First Condor Chick of Season at San Diego Zoo Safari Park


Wesa, a two-week-old California Condor chick, hatched on February 24, 2013, making this chick the first of the season at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Wesa has maintained a healthy weight and has quite an appetite according to keepers, eating up to 15 mice daily.

Ron Webb, a San Diego Zoo Safari Park senior Condor keeper, has been monitoring Wesa closely and has been puppet rearing the chick as part of preparing Wesa to be released into the wild one day.


Photo credits: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park


"The puppet is like a fancy glove," said Rob Webb, senior Condor keeper, "It covers our hands so the chick does not get any beneficial experiences from people. We do not want it imprinting on people or getting used to us when it goes out into the wild.  We want it to be a nice, wild animal, not relying on people for food."

Wesa is a part of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park's highly successful California Condor breeding program.  Since the California Condor Recovery Program began in the 1980s, when there were only 22 condors left in the world, the Safari Park has hatched 173 chicks and released more than 80 birds into the wild. Today, there are over 400 condors, half of which are flying free at release sites in Baja California, Mexico, California and Arizona.