The spotlight this week falls on
Native and widespread in South America where various sub-species are located around the continent. They tend to frequent cultivated fields and damp meadows, which probably explains why I saw several in Argentine whilst filming Winter Wipeout in 2011. They are of least concern on the IUCN list and there are reports of the population spreading.
They are similar in appearance to our native Lapwing other than in colouration. Southern Lapwings tend to have coppery greens and metallic purple feathers on the back and wings. They have spurs on the wings which are used to intimidate rivals and fend off birds of prey. They also have beautiful eyes, with a deep pinkish red colouration. Males and females appear alike.
The diet is largely made up of insects, although some vegetable matter such as grass and seeds may be taken. We feed our Lapwings (and all or waders) on a meat mix we make ourselves, consisting of mince meat, blended dog biscuit, grated carrot and boiled egg, all mixed together with vitamin powder also thrown in. Livefood in the form of mealworms are provided in the food dish and also scattered around the aviary to encourage foraging behaviour.
With regards to breeding, Southern Lapwings breed during the winter in the wild (July!) with the nest a sparsely lined scrape on the ground. 2-3 eggs are laid and are of an olive brown colour, with speckles to help camouflage. The nest is defended aggressively with threatening poses, lots of noise and occasional low flights to mob any predator. Incubation lasts for 24-26 days and the chicks are mobile from an early stage but will relay on the parents for protection for some time.
We currently house a pair of Southern Lapwing in what was the old Toucan House. Here they have a large sheltered aviary and are kept on a combination of sand, gravel and bark. Also housed with them are a pair of Red Winged Starling and a single Sulawesi Dove.
For the first time in 2013 our pair showed signs of wanting to breed. There was lots of vocalisation and a couple of nest scrapes were made. Keepers left the aviary alone other than to feed but no eggs were produced. This year they are already starting to get noisy so fingers crossed that the next step will be taken.
In news this week….
The Humboldts are really starting to show signs of breeding. Hagrid & Luna continue to spend a lot of time in one of the nest boxes, with a scrape being made and some nest material collection noted. Neville and Ron have been having some serious disagreements of possession of one of the boxes and a couple of major fights have taken place, with both birds suffering cuts around the face. Neville appears to have emerged the victor and despite Millies best attempts, he is still more worried about Rons presence than pairing up. Arthur & Molly are quietly going about their business but have been seen in a third nest site this week.
The male Caribbean Flamingos have also been squabbling this week, with 4 males squaring up. This is encouraging behaviour as they need to defend mates and nest sites if we get to that point.
The Bartlett’s Doves have 1 egg
We have been moving a few bits around again this week with the male East African Crowned Crane being moved to the White Naped Crane shed. In the shed he is being introduced to the female slowly, they can see one another but not have direct contact and we will keep them like this for a while before introducing them properly.
This is also what we have been doing with our Red Billed Blue Pies, who have been successfully introduced to each other this week.
The recently arrived Red Rumped Parakeets have gone out on display in the Discovery Zone aviary where Morris the Hill Mynah used to live. HE is going into the Finch block aviaries soon and will be joined by a female shortly.
Our young male Southern Ground Hornbill is now back out after flooding in his pen. He is being held in an aviary next to the female as we slowly introduce them to another.
The male Grey Peacock Pheasant was seen displaying
The male Black Swan is back on the river after the flooding/storm damage.
Work is continuing in the Discovery Zone building our new hatchery area. We will also be taking the chance to repaint the floor in front of the tanks.
Gift shop repairs are also ongoing and hopefully Penguin Web Cam will be back on line shortly. We are also planning on have a web cam on the Greater Flamingos and, if we can manage it, in one of the Humboldt nest boxes.
Wildlife wise the highlight this week was undoubtedly a first for Birdland when a Mealy Redpoll was spotted by a season ticket holder in the Nature Area on Wednesday. The bird was hanging around with a flock of Lesser Redpolls but can be distinguished by its silvery appearance. Pictures are on the Gloster Birder website ( http://www.birder.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/ – click on sightings Jan 2014)
We also may (I stress may) have had an early Osprey fly over on Wednesday. It was certainly a large bird of prey and the wrong shape for Red Kite or Buzzard but the raptor was just a little too high for proper identification.
Thanks as always for reading