This week we are celebrating Penguin Week but as I have already blogged about of two species of Penguin that we keep, I am going to write about another Black & White bird that we keep that lives near water
A bird that is found near shallow water, Avocets are one of the species that we keep that can be found naturally in Britain. Once rare in this country, they are now starting to spread again and I saw them nesting in Worcestershire a few years ago and chicks have been successfully reared in Gloucestershire in the past few years.
Avocets are found mainly in the Middle East but also in Denmark, the Netherlands, Southern Spain & in South Africa. They are often social birds, living and feeding in small groups. The population in the wild is of least concern.
Avocets are easily distinguished from other wading birds by their unique, upwards curving bill, famously the RSPB logo. This has enabled them to become a specialist feeder, sweeping their bill along the water’s surface and taking food that other waders cannot easily obtain. Males and females look alike.
The preferred diet is small invertebrates, particularly molluscs, crustaceans and insects. Our birds are feed on a specially made meat mix (mincemeat, blended dog biscuit and flamingo food, boiled egg and grated carrot) as well as live food in the form of mealworms and blood worms. Having a pond in the aviary also attracts insects and the birds can be seen taking food throughout the day.
Avocets usually breed in colonies but solitary nesting can take place. The nest is usually just a small scrape in the ground, sometimes bare or sometimes lined with grass. Rivals are driven away literally by being shoved away. Four eggs are usually produced which are blotched and brown in colour for camouflage. Both parents incubate for around 24 days and the chicks are mobile when they hatch.
We currently keep a group of 9 Avocet in one of the first aviaries you see upon entering the park. We have 4 males and 5 males and we are seeing some very encouraging signs. In the previous 14 years we have yet to have Avocet eggs but the introduction of 5 new birds, and a move to this aviary has really set the birds off this year. There are 2 definite pairs in the group and the birds are really vocal, something we have not heard before. At the time of writing we have at least 4 potential scrapes in the enclosure and some pre mating courtship has been seen both today and yesterday so watch this space.
In news from the park:
Penguin week has been fairly quite in the enclosure, with not a great deal going on. Frank & Lily have finished their annual moult and Syd & Junior are just starting. There has been some calling and display so we are awaiting the first King Penguin egg of the year.
The 2 new Humboldt’s remain in quarantine but should be out by some point next week.
2 new arrivals this week with a male Nicobar Pigeon all the way from Avifauna in Holland & a male Orange Headed Ground Thrush from Cotswold. Both serving a weeks quarantine before moving into the park.
The Snowy Owls abandoned their clutch of 5 eggs for some unknown reason but she is back in the nest today with the first of a new clutch of eggs
The Grey Peacock Pheasant egg hatched under mum and the chick can be seen moving around the enclosure with her
The Roul Roul Partridges are sitting on 5 eggs
The Kookaburras, Burrowing Owls, White Naped Cranes and Rheas are also incubating eggs
The Crowned Plovers have 3 eggs
The Luzon Bleeding Heart Dove female has been actively nest building, no egg as yet
The Red Crested Turaco pair are vocal and displaying
The first two Pink Backed Pelican eggs have been removed from the incubator as neither are fertile, the 3rd egg also looks no good.
Most of the Fulvous Tree Duck eggs have also been removed as infertile but one looks good, as does the Northern Helmeted Curassow egg
Wildlife wise a Water Shrew has been seen behind the penguin enclosure a couple of times. A small Toad has been seen and the Greater Spotted Woodpeckers have chicks in a willow tree in the Caribbean Flamingo enclosure. Treecreeper fledglings have also been seen this week