Cotswold Wildlife Park Keeper Hand-rears The "Skunk of The Air"
July 16, 2014
This striking Tawny Frogmouth chick is being hand-reared by Bird keeper Jade Stott at Cotswold Wildlife Park. She took on the role of surrogate mother to the beautiful baby bird when, unfortunately, the breeding adults didn't prove to be the most capable of parents. To give it the greatest chance of survival, the Bird section decided to hand-rear the chick.
It is the first time Jade has hand-reared this particular species and she has dedicated the last month to raising the tiny chick at home. It was no small task as the newborn required twenty-four hour care in those precious early days and feeds every two hours. The youngster has been soley dependent on Jade for survival. The Park’s Bird section are delighted with the blossoming healthy chick, who is growing day-by-day thanks to Jade’s dedicated parenting skills. Weighing just 21 grams when it hatched on 4th June 2014, the fluffy chick now weighs 231 grams and has made quite an impression on its surrogate mother.
Jade Stott said: "Hand-rearing the Tawny Frogmouth has been a massive learning curve. Having a tiny chick absolutely dependent on you is a little daunting at first, but the rewards of seeing it grow and develop its own cheeky character are more than enough payback for the sleepless nights. I'm definitely a proud mother hen!"
Jade has named the chick Murray, but it is too early to determine the sex of the bird. Visitors can see the chick in the Park’s specialist incubation room (next to the Penguin enclosure) where it will remain for a few more weeks.
Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides) are a fascinating species but little is known about their behaviour. Professor Gisela Kaplan, who teaches animal behaviour at the University of New England in Australia, is the author of the most comprehensive single study* ever conducted about these intriguing and endearing birds. Her ten year project unearthed completely new and unexpected findings. She learnt that Tawny Frogmouths are very affectionate and pair for life. When a partner dies, the mate will stay with it for days and will grieve with a high trill for hours on end. The study also uncovered another side to these birds. Gisela describes them as “skunks of the air” as they can send out a foul smell with enormous force over a wide area, perhaps to ward off snakes and big lizards that eat their eggs and chicks. Frogmouths also scream like prowling Tomcats when distressed, fight with lightning speed and defend nest sites from reptilian predators by mobbing and spraying pungent faeces at these dangerous opponents. Even their eye colour changes when threatened by a rival. The irises of the males’ eye turn from yellow to red before they attack any male or female that attempts to enter their territory.