A Palm Cockatoo chick named Herbert is being hand-reared at Paradise Park in the United Kingdom, and he is charming the zoo keepers who care for him.
Keepers are raising the chick because his parents, Tess and Ziggy, have produced eggs before but the eggs broke before they could hatch. When keepers noticed Tess and Ziggy squabbling over their newly-laid egg, they were concerned that the egg would be crushed. “We stepped in and took the egg to an incubator,” says keeper Leanne Gilbert.
Parrots, including Palm Cockatoos, are completely featherless upon hatching, and Herbert was no exception. Despite his tiny size and helpless state, Herbert managed to be quite demanding of his keepers, who of course meet Herbert’s every need.
Now three months old and covered in sleek black feathers, Herbert is almost ready to eat solid food. For now, he eats a mixture of blended carrot, apple, broccoli, macadamia nuts, smooth peanut butter, Macaw formula, called “Witches Brew,” from a syringe. He is already interested in nibbling carrot sticks with his sharp and powerful beak.
Herbert is the first Palm Cockatoo chick to successfully hatch at Paradise Park in more than 20 years.
Parrot chicks start small but grow rapidly, reaching near-adult size within just a few months. One way to tell adults from juveniles is by the length of the tail feathers – those of adults are longer.
Herbert the Palm Cockatoo started out completely featherless, but within three months sported shiny black plumage. Adult Palm Cockatoos like Herbert's mother Tess (shown in bottom photo) use their dramatic crest to convey excitement or in reaction to a threat.
Palm Cockatoos are native to Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands, plus the extreme northern tip of Australia. They inhabit rain forests and feed on fruits and nuts.
For now, they are listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Though not under specific threat, they are beginning to be affected by habitat loss and overcollection for the pet trade.
While parrots such as Palm Cockatoos are popular as pets, potential owners should be aware of the birds’ loud calls and longevity – some Parrots live more than 50 years.