This week we have been catching up some of the birds that we are uncertain as to what gender they are. With many species of bird there are obvious differences between the sexes. You can go on size (male flamingos are taller, female Owls are larger), by colour (think male ducks & pheasants) & sometimes by call. With many species however, there is no discernible difference between the sexes.
When this occurs we rely on feather sexing techniques. This involves catching the bird and removing 4-8 feathers. This does no damage to the bird and the feathers are quickly replaced. The feathers are then sent to the lab for DNA testing and from these feathers a small tissue sample can be collected from feather shaft. This sample will contain enough DNA which will enable the technicians to determine the sex of the bird with almost 100% certainty.
Other options for sexing can include taking blood samples (more stressful), surgical sexing by the vet (more invasive) or sending off some egg shell fragments (could be contaminated by droppings etc), so feather sexing is the quickest & easiest way to go. We use a company called Avain Biotech, who have a UK office in Truro
This week feathers have been taken from 10 of ours birds and we are awaiting the results for 2 Humboldt Penguins (arrived this year), 2 Bartlett’s Doves (chicks), 1 Emerald Dove (chick), 1 Tawny Frogmouth (last years chick), 1 Chaco Owl (chick), 2 Masked Plovers (a supposed pair but no eggs being produced) & 1 Green Imperial Pigeon (a supposed male but we have our doubts!)
Feathers waiting to go
Yesterday saw the arrival of 3 new birds to the park. A female Marabou Stork, male Burrowing Owl & an unsexed Blacksmith Plover all arrived from Birdworld in Surrey, with 2 male Crowned Plovers and our male Black Winged Stilt going in the opposite direction. All 3 will serve a weeks quarantine before going on public display.
The Marabou is approximately 16 years old and will pair with our male, who lost his mate earlier this year. She was the trickiest of the birds to move at over a metre tall, requiring a large upright crate which meant having to hire a van for the day. The Plover, currently unsexed, is hoped to be a male as we currently have 1 male & 2 females and despite running the current male with both females, no fertile eggs have been produced. It is also because of the lack of fertility that we have taken the 4 year old Burrowing Owl. Our current pair are egg laying but with no success. It’s always great to have a look around at other collections and meet keepers and thanks to Duncan for his time, showing us around Birdworld
Helen’s Chaco Owl chick is now starting to fly and she is now training the bird daily. The best way to train an Owl is through bribery! Food is what the bird will fly for so whenever the Owl flys to the glove, it will get a reward. Helen is starting off with short distances for now but this will increase as the chicks strength & confidence improves
Robs Kookaburra chick is coming along very nicely. The eyes are now open and the feathers are developing rapidly. Rob is gradually reducing the number of feeds each day (down to 4) and getting the chick used to room temperature.
The Macaw & Amazon chicks are also doing well. Both are on 4 daily feeds and are noisy & active. The Amazon, being reared by Chris, is particularly active, standing straight up and begging for food with a call that sounds like a machine gun. The Macaw, my project, is less noisy but is getting more inquisitive by the day. Both chicks are beginning to get some colour on their feathers and we will hopefully start weaning soon
The rather enthusiastic Amazon
The Macaw chick, subject of much debate in the Alistair household as to whether to be named Monty(short for Montgomery as he/she is a Military Macaw) or Max (just because)….see if you can guess which name I prefer?
Also this week a second Emerald Dove chick has been found in the nest
Our female African Spoonbill has been taken ill and has been moved off show. She has been laying this week so there is a chance she may be egg bound. We have her under heat and she is on anti-biotics and taking water. Her 2 eggs have been placed in the incubator
Humboldts Hagrid & Luna have been mating
In Marshmouth, Meadow Brown Butterflies are being regularly seen
Thanks for reading