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In 2007 the first attempts to setup a real gulkolony in one of the large flight aviaries in the Crane-section started. Eleven Greyheaded Gulls (Larus cirrocephalus) and two Mediterranean Gulls (Larus melanocephalus) were placed together. Both are tropical and subtropical gull species both with classic colony based breeding behaviour originating from Africa but with their distributions separated by the Sahara.
In the past we were reluctant to keep too large groups of gulls on display due to the high degree of waste and corrosive excretes produced by gulls. However the increased attractiveness of the aviary through the liveliness of the birds and the fact that the birds are allowed to live out their natural behaviour certainly outweighs this problem. In return we have to accept the fact that some boulders contain white blotches that are difficult to remove in the realisation that this is as much a part of life in a gull-colony as the loud calls and the lively intrigues between pairs. We had fairly high hopes that breeding in the group would equally increase with the larger group of birds, the first eggs were also laid early but shortly thereafter went missing and later further clutches disappeared without a trace. It was speculated that the problems might have been caused by a weasel but to rule out that the gulls were not stealing each others eggs the colony were carefully observed.
To our surprise the culprits proved to be the two young Siberian Cranes (Grus /eucogeranus) sharing the exhibit the cranes would take daily swims to the gull colony and systematically "sweep" the grounds for fresh eggs. In the end we only managed to secure a few eggs before the end of the breeding season, however now that the problem has been recognized we will make the necessary adjustments for the 2008 season. The concept of a gulkolony proved popular with visitors and gulls alike.
The pair of Conqo-Peafowl (Afropavocongensis) on exhibit at the Pheasantry exemplarily reared a domestic chicken in 2007. The pair has been allocated restrictive breeding status from the EEP studbook in the past and as such was not allowed to rear its own chicks due to the risks related to inbreeding.
In order to give the pair enrichment we would let them have chicken eggs to rear, this also keeps the pair fit for the case that they might foster the young from another pair of ConqoPeafowl or another species. The most recent edition of the studbook however takes into consideration that there are now only very few founders left and that it is unlikely that new bloodlines from the wild will be available. As a result the pair has been allowed to breed for the coming years and we now hope they will produce fertile eggs and hopefully healthy chicks. A number of problems pursue the captive populations of Conqo-Peafowl all likely to be related to inbreeding issues including poor feather, poor fertility and a tendency to metabolic bone disease in chicks. A recent diagnosis of diabetes type A in a male Conqo-Peafowl at Walsrode is likely to be a new problem as this is the first time this mainly inheritable disease has been diagnosed in a Conqo-Peafowl
With the Crested Guineafowl (Guttera p. pucherani (granti) ) there were quite a few chicks in 2007. The birds kept by Walsrode can all be traced back to imports made from Kenya in the 1960ies. They were originally identified as Guttera eduardi granti but later the taxonomy was reviewed and they were renamed to Guttera pucherani granti. Meanwhile another review is prevailing which does not recognize this subspecies as valid and includes this taxon in Guttera pucherani pucherani. However the birds in Walsrode consistently present the black collar that is supposed to be diagnostic for the "Granti's". If this collar represents a colour morph, an intergraded population between two subspecies or if it is in fact its own distinctive geographical variation still unknown, it is obvious though that the Guineafowl as a group are taxonomically poorly understood by scientists. Crested Guineafowl are fairly social birds living in small groups of up to 10 birds throughout the year defending territory and rearing offspring together.