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.
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.
The Grosbeak Starling (Scissirostrum dubium), also known as the Grosbeak Myna, Finch-billed Myna, or Scissor-billed Starling, is a species in the family Sturnidae. It is native to tropical lowlands, forests, and wetlands of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
They nest is colonies, sometimes numbering hundreds of pairs. Nests are built in rotting or dying tree trunks. The average clutch consists of 2 eggs laid about 24 hours apart. The eggs are pale blue with fawn and brown speckles. Both parents participate in incubation, generally for about 13 to 14 days. Usually, only one nestling survives to fledging. The chicks are fully fledged when about 21 to 23 days old.
Grosbeak Starlings feed on fruits, insects, and grain. The species is highly vocal in colonies and feeding flocks.
They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The population is suspected to be in some decline due to ongoing habitat destruction and fragmentation.