Spring is in the Air!

May 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Spring seems to have finally arrived at the zoo, the trees are looking greener, the weather is slightly warmer (with plenty of spring showers) and birds all over the zoo have been getting in to their courtship rituals! As promised last week we have an update on just some of the courtship behaviour that is getting underway on our bird section.

Could it be love for our Steller’s Sea Eagles?

We have recently seen our Steller’s Sea Eagles  (Haliaeetus pelagicus) showing some promising courtship behaviours.  Regular zoo visitors may know that we have a pair of Steller’s sea eagles, Orlan, a 7-year-old female and Caspian, a 6-year-old male. Caspian has only recently reached maturity and so it is not sure yet if they will produce any eggs this year but they have been showing some promising signs!  They have been seen carrying nesting materials and performing vocal duetsNesting platforms have been put up in different areas of their enclosure so that if they do want to build a nest this year they will have plenty of choice as to where they build it. Even if they don’t produce offspring this year all of this is good practice and shows that they get on well so it could be a good sign that they may breed successfully in future years.

Looking for Nesting Materials?

Captive breeding of this species is very important as Steller’s Sea Eagles are classed as vulnerable by the IUCN and their survival is threatened from habitat loss, over fishing of their prey species, pollution and human disturbance of their nesting sites.  There is only a very small captive population of this species and Caspian and Orlan are one of only two pairs in Britain and none have yet bred successfully in this country.

East African Crowned Cranes

Another pair we are hoping to see breed for the first time this year are our East African Crowned Cranes (Balearica regulorum gibbericeps).  This pair was only introduced last year and so 2010 is the first opportunity for them to breed but we are happy to report that they are beginning to show courtship behaviours.  They can be seen and heard performing their courtship so if you’re coming to the zoo in the near future watch (and listen!) out for our cranes performing their head bobbing and jumping along with loud, almost ‘throbbing’ vocalizations.

It is hoped that our two Crowned Cranes will become a Breeding Pair

Female East African Crowned Cranes lay 2-3 eggs and as with many bird species it’s a co-operative effort from both parents to raise them with the male and female incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

They can be found in the African Aviary by the painted hunted dog enclosure.

Extinct in the Wild but Breeding at the Zoo!

With plenty of big, colourful and elaborate courtship behaviours going on with our bird species all around to zoo it is easy to miss the fact that our Socorro Doves  (Zenaida graysoni) have begun their courtship.  These birds aren’t particularly colourful and may be easily passed by in the aviaries on the road behind the Rhino enclosure but they are a very important species as they no longer exist in the wild and so captive breeding is vital to the survival of these birds.

Extinct in their Native Habitat

Socorro Doves are native to Socorro Island off the coast of Mexico but the introduction of alien species such as sheep (who fed on the plants that the doves relied on for food and shelter)and feral cats (who hunted them) is thought to have led to the decline and eventual extinction of these birds.

Socorro Doves are part of an EEP (European Endangered Species Breeding Programme) where they are bred in captivity in the hope of reintroducing this species back to Socorro Island.  Just last year we were able to contribute to the next step of the eventual reintroduction of this species as 5 birds from the captive population at Edinburgh Zoo, along with a group from Paignton Zoo were transferred all the way to Albuquerque Zoo in America where it is hoped that they or their offspring will eventually go on to be part of a breeding group on Socorro Island.  This is an example of the importance of captive breeding programmes in zoos; if it wasn’t for the captive breeding of this species there would be no hope of Socorro doves ever returning to the island, resulting in yet another species to add to the decline of the biodiversity of our planet.

Watch out for Nest-Building Behaviours!

So next time you’re visiting the zoo don’t forget to look out for these birds, the males are pursuing the females around their enclosure which is part of their courtship and nesting has also begun!

School Closed for Voting?

Is your child’s school closed for tomorrows election day (Thursday, May 6th)?  Then why not take advantage of our election day ‘kids go free’ promotion where you can bring up to 4 children free per paying adult on 6th May 2010.  All you have to do is fill out a form! Further information on the terms and conditions and where to get a form from can be found at: http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/news-and-events/news/articles/news_0094.html


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