This weeks blog is dedicated to the mums of the bird world to celebrate this weekends Mothers Day (still time to buy the card/flowers/chocolate so don’t panic!). With many of our species both mum and dad take it in turn to incubate the eggs and rear the young but with some groups, mum does all the work.
Probably our most dedicated mother at Birdland is our Trumpeter Hornbill female. When it is time to breed she will seal herself into her nest using mud, saliva and droppings. She will leave a small gap through which the male can feed her and once in the nest, there she will stay for the next 3 months. During this time she will lay up to 3 eggs, which are then incubated for 15 days. Once the eggs hatch she will brood the chicks and won’t break out from their nest until the chicks are fully grown. All in all she will remain entombed for 94 days. This is a great way to protect the eggs and young in the wild.
Most pheasant females are solely responsible for incubating eggs and rearing the young, hence why males are so elaborately coloured – they don’t have to worry about standing out when sat on the floor. Although the youngsters can feed themselves and are mobile straight away, mum will stand guard. The same is also true with many duck species.
Female Temmincks Tragopan with chicks.
The worst of the bird mothers are those of the ratite family. Ratites are the group of large flightless birds that include Ostrich & Emu, and at Birdland, Cassowary & Rhea. With both species the females will lay the eggs in a scrape made by the male and it is the male who will go on to incubate the eggs and tend the young. With Cassowarys, the female will go on to find another mate once her clutch of eggs has been laid.
With Mothers Day fast approaching we do have a few expectant mothers at present. The female Black Necked Swan continues to sit tight on at least 4 eggs with the male patrolling the fish pond, chasing whoever he doesn’t like the look of. The eggs are due t hatch from Sunday at the earliest and would make a lovely Mothers Day treat. Any cygnets will be fairly mobile almost straight away but will often hitch a lift on the back of one of the adults.
Humboldt Myrtle and her partner Chloe are sitting tight on their 2 eggs, swapping incubation duties every couple of days. They are continuing to build a nest around the eggs which will be due to hatch sometime around the 26th
Our Green Imperial Pigeon female is still sitting on a solitary egg. As I’ve stated in previous blogs we are yet to have fertile eggs from this pair. The Bartlett’s Dove (or Mindanao Bleeding Heart) are currently nest building and we expect an egg any day now. Last year this pair successfully reared 3 out of 3.
In the Discovery Zone the Emerald Dove female has been up on the nest all day today, if she stays up there tomorrow I’ll assume we have an egg or two. Some of the Plover species are starting to get vocal which is an encouraging sign. Both the Blacksmith & Masked Plovers are calling. The Coscoroba Swans are also starting to become territorial.
we have delayed providing nest sites just yet for many of the birds as it is still a little chilly. Its been a lovely day today but at 6.30am temperatures were still below minus 3. The keepers are busy making, repairing and painting box, getting nest materials ready and planning which aviaries to provide cover for nesting in – always the best time of year.
In other news the 3 new Humboldts have gone into the main enclosure today, all 3 are in good knick and have mixed well with the existing group.
The female Ross Goose has also gone out and has been inseperable from the male.
The Flamingos have been seen displaying for the first time today, inspired by the sunshine. We are looking to move the Greaters back to their enclosure tomorrow and work will start immediately to get the nest island ready for them.
Towards the end of the week we are expecting a female Brown Breasted Barbet to arrive as well as a 2nd female Ross’ Goose.
Work is going on around the gift shop as the start of a redesign
A pair of Kestrels were the highlight of the wild birds this week.
Have a happy Mothers Day