The breeding season is in full progress and numerous young birds can be seen everywhere in the park, but it is in particular behind the scenes that things are really busy at the moment. More than a third of our birds are kept off-exhibit for breeding purpose.
The notes below are a short summary of some of the developments in May:
The Bewick's Swan (Cygnus colombianus bewicki) incubated and hatched four young. This was good news as most of the other Swan species in the Park has been unsuccessful this season.
Nest-controls revealed that the colony of White-faced Whistling-ducks (Dendrocygna viduata) has produced more than 60 fertile eggs up until now. As it will be a significant problem for the park to surplus all of these ducks a restriction of the breeding has been introduced by puncturing a large number of the eggs in the nests.
The single chick produced by the Magellan Goose (Chloephaga picta leucoptera) is quite enough as this species is notorious for their aggressive behaviour, as any visitor coming too close to their enclosure will experience first hand. Placing the offspring can therefore be somewhat of a problem as they will invariably try to terrorize any other bird in the same enclosure.
African Pygmy-goose (Nettapus auritus) male died the third loss in this species over the past few months putting our breeding-population at jeopardy. In the recent years breeding with this species has been rather successful in Walsrode, however only a single male chick was reared this year and we also lost the old main breeding female which lived for more than 25 years in Walsrode Birdpark. We now hope that a younger female will prove to be just as prolific in the long term.
Northern Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) were among the first birds on the large ponds to start breeding behaviour, only minutes after being released from their wintering-quarters in March they started gathering nesting material and place it in the nest baskets. Currently the three pairs are rearing 11 chicks together. The pairs consistently favour the same nesting-site year after year even though the baskets are exchanged before every spring.
In contrast to last year were the Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) produced only a single egg clutch they this year incubates a clutch with two eggs. In the previous season the pair successfully reared the one chick with out any interference. The nest-site was directly on the ground which is rather unusual. The chicks are expected to hatch in the first days ofJune and this year it will be a challenge for the keepers to monitor if the parents will be able to rear both chicks.
For the first time all pairs of cranes which is exhibited in the park actually nested simultaneously, not all were successful in there efforts but it was interesting for the visitors to be able to directly compare the nesting behaviour of 9 different cane species. As the fertility in different eggs are determined it is part of our management to relocate fertile eggs from genetically important birds to be fostered by other pairs that are having infertile eggs or perhaps are less important for the breeding programmes. This allows us to reduce the need for hand-rearing in cranes quite significantly. This is unfortunately not quite possible to ovoid all together, in some cases chicks must be removed when there is a health problem and not all the parent birds prove to be perfect parents. These few birds in the hand-rearing also allow us to maintain the skills needed for this aspect of the breeding.
Several Cranes are still being artificially inseminated this is particular important in the birds that are pinioned and therefore not able to mate successfully themselves.