Two New Chicks Add to Saving Micronesian Kingfishers


The Smithsonian National Zoo's Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA., is celebrating the recent hatching of two Micronesian kingfisher (Todiramphus c. cinnamominus) chicks, a female and male, on July 25 and Aug. 20, respectively.This species has been extinct in the wild for more than 20 years. They are extremely difficult to breed due to incompatibility between males and females and the inability of some parents to successfully raise their own chicks. But these two bring the total population of Micronesian kingfishers to 131 birds. 

“We are encouraged that this pair showed an interest in one another and delighted that they produced fertile eggs,” said Warren Lynch, bird unit manager at SCBI. “We are hand-rearing the chicks, which involves feeding them at two-hour intervals, seven to eight times per day. Should the adults produce fertile eggs again, we will likely let them try to raise the chicks themselves while closely monitoring their parenting skills.”

Both chicks are thriving. The female flies short distances and is increasingly confident and vocal, and the male is beginning to grow feathers and has a healthy appetite for crickets, mice and small lizards.

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Photo Credit:Smithsonian National Zoo

Micronesian kingfishers are about 6 inches tall and have wide, dorsoventrally-flattened bills. Both sexes have a plume of blue-green feathers on their wings and brown-orange feathers on their heads. Males can be easily identified by their brown-orange breasts and females by their white breasts.

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Rare Maguari Stork Hatching at Zlin Zoo

The Zlin Zoo in South Moravia has become the second in all of Europe to successfully breed a young Maguari stork. 

Zoo representative Pavel Shromazdil said, "The stork mother laid three eggs. They were the first eggs a Maguari stork ever laid in our zoo's history. The parents sat on the eggs assiduously, but after a fortnight they destroyed the nest." 

Only one of the eggs was left intact. Keepers put it in an incupbator and it hatched a chick on May 21. The baby stork was not accepted by it's parents so has continued to be hand raised and is a healthy little bird.

Maguari storks have been kept only in ten European zoos. Their successful breeding is very rare. "It is definitely unique. Since 2009, only the Berlin zoo has had a similar success with its [Maguari stork] couple that regularly raises young," Shromazdil said, referring to the stork offspring in Zlin. The Zlin Zoo has been keeping Maguari storks since 2004.

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Photo Credit: Zlin Zoo

Are You My Mother? Guinea Fowl Chicks Raised By Peahens!


There's something a little different going on at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, but it's working. Two clutches of Guineafowl chicks were incubated by Feta and Blue, the Zoo's Indian peahens. The chicks hatched on July 7 and 14, and though an entirely different kind of bird, Feta and Blue are now raising the chicks too -- even though they look, act, and sound nothing like them. Their roles have been simple: help the chicks avoid common zoo quandaries such as pedestrians, Motor Safari trams, and predators like the occasional overhead hawk. This is important since both species have free range of the zoo grounds every day and night.

The practice of switching eggs is not as unusual as it may seem. Other zoos have had success with chickens incubating pheasant eggs, and the method has been tried with cranes, many of which are endangered in the wild.

“Zoogoers may not notice anything unusual between the moms and chicks, but there are definitely differences and several barriers that they needed to overcome, including language and behaviors,” said Tim Snyder, curator of birds for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “The first two weeks were a little precarious because the chicks needed to learn what the peahens’ vocalization meant and adapt to different behaviors that are not instinctual to them.”

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Photo Credit: Chicago Zoological Society

For instance, Guineafowl chicks naturally scatter and hide when frightened or threatened, while peachicks run toward their mother. Additionally, Guineafowl moms and chicks move as a group and help care for each others’ young, which is the opposite of independent peafowl. Another difference between the two species is the length of time the juvenile birds stay close to Mom. Probably much to Feta and Blue’s dismay, the Guineafowl chicks will be tagging along with them for about a year until the next breeding season, which will be in the spring. In the wild, Guineafowl tend to stay together as a flock, including the males, while peafowl juveniles tend to become independent of Mom much sooner.

This is Feta’s second time and Blue’s first of being successful surrogate moms to Guineafowl chicks at Brookfield Zoo. Although they have free range of the entire park, the family groups can generally be found roaming near The Swamp, Tropic World, or the Formal Pool.

In the wild, Guineafowl are found throughout western, northeastern, and southern Africa in open areas, including forest edges, savannahs, scrublands, and cultivated areas. Indian peafowl, also known as blue peafowl, are the national bird of India and are protected in that country. The species prefers the open forests of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Second Rare Hatching of North Island Brown Kiwi Chick

Kiwi #2  G. Jones

It was big news when a North Island Brown Kiwi Chick hatched on Mar. 23, 2011 at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, which you can read about HERE. And now, just months after their historic first hatching of this unique bird species, a second hatched on Jun. 25. Only six Kiwis, including the two chicks at the Columbus Zoo, have hatched in the past five years in the whole of North America.   

“The first hatching of a Kiwi at the Columbus Zoo was a notably rare occurrence” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Dale Schmidt. “To have a second Kiwi hatch, especially so soon after the first one, is further proof our animal care team’s efforts are firmly based on science and expertise.”

The newest chick, whose sex will be determined through DNA testing, is currently being cared for behind the scenes. The first chick is a male and animal care staff named him “Ariki” (ah-ree-kee), meaning first-born or chief in the species’ native New Zealand. Including these chicks, there are now five kiwis at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and a total of 21 kiwis in three United States zoos.

Kiwi #2 hands- G. Jones

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Photo Credit: G. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

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A Trio of Fuzzy: Southern Screamer Chicks

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Three Southern Screamer chicks hatched at Paignton Zoo, UK, on May 13, 2011. The father of these chicks came to Paigntion Zoo from Paris in September 2006.The mother arrived at Paignton Zoo in December 2006 from Blackbrook Zoo in the UK.

The Southern Screamer mates for life (the bird is thought to live around 15 years). Courtship involves loud calling by both sexes; this can be heard some two miles away. They nest on a platform of reed and straw near water. The female lays up to seven white eggs. The pair share incubation duties, which takes around 46 days. Chicks leave the nest as soon as they hatch, but the parents care for them for several weeks. The fledging period takes 8 to 14 weeks. Southern Screamers are native to South America.

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Photo Credit: Ray Wiltshire