This weeks species spotlight falls on our:
A member of the Crow family, Grey Treepies are found in the wild mostly in China but also in the Himalayan foothills of India and as far east as Taiwan. The alternative name for this species in the Himalayan Treepie and this is because they are adapted to a much cooler environment than other members of the family, of which there are seven. There are several sub-species of the Grey Treepie. Their wild population is unknown but they are not believed to be threatened.
The natural diet is widely varied with invertebrates and small vertebrates taken, along with seed, fruit, nectar and berries
Sexes look alike with birds nesting away from other Treepies. The nest is constructed with a flimsy platform of sticks with a cup lined with fine plant material. They usually nest at a height of around 2 to 6 metres although they have been recorded in the wild nesting on the ground.
Between 2-5 pale green eggs, usually with spots, are laid and incubation is by both parents. The incubation period is unknown but believed to be between 16-20 days. Both parents feed the young at the nest as they hatch like all passerines – bald and blind. The chicks will fledge at between 2 and 3 weeks of age.
Our pair are rather unusual to the best of our knowledge, they are the only pair kept in a European Zoo. They arrived from a private breeder in March of 2006 and originally were kept in the old glass fronted aviaries where the aviary boulevard is today. They have produced eggs in the past (in 2006 and again in 2008) but the eggs have never gone on to hatch. One egg in 2006 had been fertile.
With the rebuilding of the boulevard aviaries, the Treepie pair have been moved into a couple of different aviaries in the last few years, but with no breeding success. Every year they have acted as if they have eggs, building nests in the baskets provided and sitting solidly in the nest for a couple of weeks. They have been kept both separately from other species and for the past 2 years with pheasants on the ground, who wouldn’t interfere with any nesting attempts and we constantly review diet, housing and all other factors. Age isn’t an issue as the birds are believed to be around 10 years of age so breeding should still be possible.
Being Himalayan, the Treepies don’t require the amount of shelter that many other of our birds do. They stay out all year round and cope well with the cold. They are fed on chopped fruit, a soft bill bird mix and live food, and can access corn and seed from the pheasant dish. The 2 are distinguished only by their coloured leg bands, with the male wearing yellow and the female red.
They are definitely one of the hardest birds to spot around the park (hence the poor quality photos, or library photos!) At present they reside in the middle section of the park with the Temmincks Tragopans so if you are visiting soon, take the time to spot a truly rare (in the captive sense) bird.
In park news this week
Wednesday saw the keepers sit down to plan for the forthcoming breeding season. We spent 90 minutes discussing diets, nest sites, aviary moves and other thoughts ready for Spring (!)
The river level has slowly crept back up this week with large puddles forming again by the Cassowary paddock, behind the Pelicans and in Marshmouth Nature Reserve. We had a bit of lightening and hail on Saturday afternoon and some sleet on Wednesday.
The wet weather meant that a smallish fir tree near the Caribbean Flamingo shed up-rooted slightly and had to be removed by Neil, our tree surgeon. The Flamingos and Pelicans were kept in for the morning and the pair of Blue Pies had to be moved from their aviary into one of the Trout Pond pens, and the male Muscovy Duck has gone into the Ibis aviary for now. The tree will be recycled, with some of the branches going in the Spectacled Owl aviary and the evergreen going into various aviaries to provide cover.
The Pink Back Pelicans, one of the species we have targeted for breeding this year, have been showing some promising signs this week. With the arrival of a new male and female, the group have been quite vocal (listen out for a huffing sound) and have been playing around with twigs. They have also been posturing to one another. All encouraging signs. We hope to bring in a couple more pelicans which will really boost our chances of breeding them.
The young pair of Striated Caracara are also starting to show some encouraging signs. Both birds are young and in previous years have squabbled but this week has seen the female up on the nest platform and the male being quite vocal.
The Big Garden Birdwatch on Saturday produced 14 species of bird, 5 down from last year and there were definitely less birds around in general. Highlights were 8 Bullfinch, 3 Lesser Redpoll, a Treecreeper and my personal favourite, 5 Long Tailed Tit. Chaffinch, Blackbird and Robin numbers were all down and there were no appearances from Woodpigeon or Collared Dove. A Kestrel male has been around all week again and for the first time I have seen 2 Coal Tit and 2 Greater Spotted Woodpecker at the same time.
In preparing for the Birdwatch I had a minor accident on Friday afternoon. When walking out to a bird table on one of the small reserve islands, I slipped on a plank of wood and fell into the pond. At the time I believed the pond to be about knee deep but I can now report it is much deeper than that. If I tell you I went completely under water you may gather how deep the pond is. No damage done thankfully beside a waterlogged phone, grazed shin and wounded pride!!!
I am away next week so there will be no news from the park, but a species spotlight will be available from Friday
Thanks for reading