On Thursday of last week the keeping team sat down to discuss thoughts for the forthcoming breeding season. This included which aviaries the birds will be kept in, changes in diet, what nest sites/materials to use and any specialised requirements. I thought I’d share some of the things that we talk about.
When it comes to breeding birds the first consideration has to be which aviary/enclosure you are going to attempt to get the birds to breed in. Several things have to be considered when it comes to this. Aviary size, mount of planting, appropriate substrate, ease of providing a nest box/basket (and or checking) must all be taken into account. There’s no point trying to breed penguins in the Desert House when its too hot and there is very little water available! Similarly, putting a parrot in a nicely planted aviary will look good for a few weeks until they have chewed their way through everything.
In larger aviaries we should be able to house more than one species together but the temperament of the species. Our Azure Wing Magpies are successful in an aviary containing Ibis, Hammerkop, Plover and Teal but or Red Billed Blue Pies are kept solitary due to their aggressive nature. If you are keeping several species in the same aviary then we must provide enough nest sites, nest material; and food so that the birds don’t compete with each other.
Obviously if a species has been successful in their current aviary then we will leave them where they are but if they have had no joy for a couple of years then we like to try a change of scenery to see what difference that makes.
Some of the birds we are looking to move about in the next few weeks include some of the Touracos, Pheasants, Waders & Doves.
When discussing nests we go through what boxes we have from last year and how many are reusable. Do the boxes need painting, can we inspect them easily enough and what nest material will we provide are all things that are discussed. Other species need baskets or platforms. Many of the storks/ibis/herons will make their own nests but will require the keepers to provide twigs at regular intervals.
In terms of diet we start to increase amounts of certain feeds to bring the birds into condition. Lots of live food is a sure fire way to encourage many of the Jays, Starlings and Thrushes to start thinking about eggs. Some of our birds are on specialised diets and you can get mixes designed to bring the birds into optimum condition. The Flamingos change from a maintenance pellet to a breeder pellet, as do the pheasants.
Some birds need a bit more consideration. When our young Cassowaries are old enough to breed in the next few years we are going to have to go about mixing them together in a slow and steady way. This may involve 5 minutes together under close supervision, building up slowly.
Our male Grey Peacock Pheasant has been an egg breaker in previous years so we discuss how to counteract this. An egg filled with a foul tasting substance may be the answer, otherwise close monitoring of the birds will be the way we go, taking him away as soon as the first egg is laid.
The White Naped Cranes have never produced fertile eggs as yet so this time we are thinking of clipping the already clipped male. This will give him more balance when it comes to mating and he shouldn’t leave his mates side. Failing this we may investigate artificial insemination.
We also discuss if we want to artificially incubate and/or hand rear any species for the coming year. Sometimes taking a single egg from a clutch to incubate is a way for us to see if there is any fertility in the main clutch of eggs. All King Penguin and Flamingo eggs will be removed for incubation because of the risk of the eggs breaking.
We’ll keep you up to date with all the moves as they happen.
This weeks news includes the arrival of another female Ross’ Snow Goose from WWT Slimbridge. We have also received a female Brown Breasted Barbet from Bristol.
The Black Necked Swan eggs have not hatched as yet but mum was looking very fidgety on the nest all day today.
The Greater Flamingos have moved back to their enclosure and have settled straight back in.
The Emerald Doves have 2 eggs and the Bartlett’s Doves look like they are sitting.
The cold weather in the past couple of day have pushed back many of the breeding plans as the temperatures of minus 4 and the snow meant that we are shutting some of the birds away again at night.
The new website is close to launching.
Chris is busy preparing the Encounter Zone for the Easter period. He is off on presenter training next week and he will be manning the Encounter Zone along with the Scops Owls Cariad & Leia, along with snakes, lizards, giant land snails and others. We are hoping to have some of the birds flying later on this year.
We will be on CBBC this coming Monday when Officially Amazing is aired at 7.45am. Sir Nils Olav will take centre stage along with Spike, Seth & maybe Kayto.
Work will begin shortly on paving the area outside the cafe, along with extra decking and turf to give a great view overlooking the river and our group of Caribbean Flamingos
Thanks for reading and see you next week for the latest update