Report from Liz Corry
Captive choughs at Durrell
The two breeding pairs now in the display aviary appear to have settled in well. Arthur and Gwinny still come down for insects before the other two birds when keepers are present, but Tristan and Issy are by no means going without. There are four food bowls distributed around the aviary so everyone gets a chance to eat and enrichment food is also spread out.
During the heavy rains at the start of the month it was noted that Arthur and Gwinny were roosting out in the open. There is a large area of shelter at the back of the aviary, but the concern was that Tristan and Issy might have been defending the entire shelter. With that in mind keepers built two small shelters that were positioned either side at the front of the aviary. Food bowls were placed inside to encourage the birds to use the new areas. Occasionally keepers observe chasing between the pairs but this is to be expected.
The start of the month was an exciting time for Durrell staff as a new addition to the chough cohort arrived all the way from Italy. Staff at the University of Turin’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine contacted Durrell during the summer regarding a juvenile chough they had hospitalised and wanted to re-home. They believed, through her very tame nature, that she had been taken from the wild as a young chick and kept in captivity and for this reason they could not release her back into the wild. They had, however, heard about Durrell’s captive breeding programme for choughs and wondered if she could be of use to the re-introduction project whilst also gaining a better quality of life.
Gianna, named by the staff in Turin, arrived on the 1st of October and stayed in the Les Noyers quarantine facilities until she had cleared her quarantine period. She weighed 260g upon arrival, slightly low for a female but expected after an overnight journey all the way from Italy. She was eating and drinking immediately and showed no signs of stress.
The Durrell Veterinary Department took blood samples and conducted a general health check during the first week in quarantine followed by weekly faecal screening. Once Gianna has cleared quarantine she will be moved to the display aviary to join the other choughs
NOTE it is presumed that Gianna is a different subspecies (P. p. erythrorhamphus) to the other birds (P. p. pyrrhocorax) and will not be allowed to breed with them. She will, however, be an invaluable asset to the flock.
All of the choughs being released on the north coast this year will have radio-transmitters attached so their movements can be closely monitored. Standard tail-mounted tags supplied by Biotrack will be fitted to each bird once they move up to the release aviary. Tail feather attachment means that the tags will fall off naturally when the birds moult, thus reducing stress. In order to assess if the tags have any impact on the birds’ health and/or behaviour once attached we are trialling dummy tags on two choughs in the Wildlife Park. This trial also allows us to test the durability of the tags, especially important considering the inquisitive nature of the choughs!
B6975 (♀) and B6976 (♂) were taken to the vets to have the tags attached and then released straight back into their aviary. Upon release, B6975 was observed preening and taking an interest in the antennae of the tag, but soon lost interest. She was caught up four days later to check her health and the condition of the tag. The tag was still intact although there had been extensive pecking at the glue used to attach the tag to the feathers. Her health and that of the other bird seem at present to be unaffected by the tag.