Category Archives: Breeding

Two chough chicks being weighed

May Breeding Update

The chough breeding season is going well here at Paradise Park. So far we have only lost one chick this year. The second chick in nest three died just after hatching – giving an indication of what a traumatic experience breaking out of an egg can be.

We now have three nests with two siblings and one with a solo chick. This gives the parent birds every chance to rear the youngsters, while we closely monitor weight gains and general health. If a chick falls behind, we can give it a boost with supplementary feeding and medication where necessary.

Two chough chicks being weighed

Two chough chicks being weighed

However, the youngsters have kept us on our toes. The larger chick in nest five suddenly started “stargazing” – it’s head folded almost flat over its back. Very worrying. We gave it a course of antibiotics, along with gapeworm treatment and vitamin supplements. The head stayed in the same postion for two days, with the parent birds somehow managing to feed it. Then overnight, the head returned to normal position, much to our amazement.

We had a further scare when the younger chick in nest two had one eye closed, and did not open it even when being handled or fed. Once again, a course of antibiotics soon had it back to normal.

"Stargazer" looking casual and back in nomal health

“Stargazer” looking casual and back in nomal health

Most the chicks are now above 200 grams in weight, and it is at this point that we stop taking regular weights. One practical reason for this is that the chicks are beginning to get highly mobile, and when put back in the nest start climbing around.

Another reason is that their feet are now fully developed, and have unbelievably clinging claws. Sometimes trying to get the birds out of the nest can mean pulling some of the nest material out along with the chick, resulting in potential damage to the nest or chick.

We have noticed that the nests this year seem to be less robust than normal – possibly as a result of the birds being put into the aviaries at a late date (due to bird flu movement restrictions).

This is the first year we have seen the chicks sitting on the floor of the nestboxes, on the wood of the box itself. This could lead to the chicks having splayed or deformed feet.

The solution – the Trump Toupee! Once the birds were large enough, we slipped a coir mat underneath, giving them something to grip on to. (We did not do this when they were too small, as there was a risk of the parents pulling the whole thing out – along with the chicks.

Two contented chicks - "Stargazer" and sibling

Two contented chicks – “Stargazer” and sibling – and Alison

2017 Nest3 clutch

Egg Swapping Time

So far our choughs have laid sixteen eggs this year – and there may be more to come from nest four.

Given the ages of some of our breeding birds, we have taken the step of checking all eggs laid to see how many potential chicks to expect. We quickly took the eggs in turn from each nest and tested them by “candling”. (These days we don’t hold the eggs up to a candle, but use the LED light from a smartphone).

2017 Nest3 clutch

A stunning clutch of five eggs

The results were slightly disappointing – with only the eggs in nests two and three being fertile. However, as all the pairs have taken such great time and energy to produce nests, we decided to share the fertile eggs into the infertile nests. We would then put the infertile eggs back in to replace the fertile ones taken. This meant that each successful nest would only have to rear two chicks, spreading the load on the parents.

Five nests, sixteen eggs - possibly with more to come.

Five nests, sixteen eggs – possibly with more to come.

Each of the laying pairs now has two fertile eggs to deal with. Two chicks have hatched in nest three, but sadly the younger chick died almost immediately after hatching.

Nest five also has a chick, with another expected to hatch soon. Both sets of parents are doing very well, taking turns to feed the tiny chicks. Hopefully, in the next few days all the remaining fertile eggs will hatch. The infertile eggs will be left in the nests for a few days, as they act as good heat stores when the females are off the nests.

A Fourth Egg in Nest 3

A Busy Weekend

The fine weather has brought a flurry of egg-laying activity.

A Fourth Egg in Nest 3

A Fourth Egg in Nest Three

On Saturday we eggs were laid in nests one, two, and three. (It is likely that the third egg in nest 3 was laid overnight on Friday).

On Sunday, another egg arrived in nest 3, this was first noticed at lunchtime.

Monday brought three more eggs, with additions in nests one and three. Later in the afternoon we had the arrival of the first egg in nest five. This may be a record, as the female in the nest will be nineteen years old this year – making her the oldest known breeding chough.

It gets more difficult to give exact timings, as the females are now sitting on the eggs for longer periods, as incubation begins in earnest.

So, the total at the end of Monday 10th April – nine eggs in four nests, with more on the way…

2017 Female in Nest 3

First Egg of 2017

Just a few days later than last year, we have our first chough egg.

It was laid by the female in nest 3 – she was also the first of our birds to lay last year. She went on to lay four eggs in total. Two of the chicks which hatched were later taken away to be hand-reared.

This female is a seven year-old, and has laid several clutches in the past. Her male partner is a very good parent – taking good care of the chicks when hatched.

Screen shot of all five nest sites.

2017 Nest Cameras Online

Our breeding birds are now in the seclusion aviaries, and nest-building is under way.

Screen shot of all five nest sites.

Screen shot of all five 2017 nest boxes.

We have installed new high-definition cameras, which show amazing detail of the activities in the nest boxes.

So far, we have four good nests – all from proven breeding pairs. Nest four is a new pairing, and we are still hopeful of nesting soon.

The female in nest five was hatched in 1998, making her nineteen years old this year! She has built a wonderful nest, and will probably lay a clutch of eggs. The clutch she laid last year was infertile, but she may be used as a foster-parent if the opportunity arises.

The webcam can be seen here.

Part of the flock of choughs now on the Jersey coast

Birds on the Edge Summer Update

It’s been a busy couple of months here at Paradise Park – however over on Jersey things have been even more hectic.

July Headlines

Fostered chough chicks being fed in release aviary

Fostered chough chicks being fed in release aviary

July saw four chicks being fostered by the “Italian” chough Gianna, before being moved to the release aviary for training and orientation. They were joined by two parent-reared chicks, giving a total of six young birds to join the wild flock.

The wild birds were also producing chicks. Three nests were successfully built, and four wild chicks fledged in all. Last years’ wild male chough Dusty showed signs of maturing early, and was seen making amorous advances.

A wild chough chick being fed by its parent

A wild chough chick being fed by its parent

Full Birds on the Edge July report can be seen here.

August Headlines

All the new arrivals were given time to acclimatise to their surroundings, and their new flock-mates.The youngsters were given some training to respond to the supplementary feeding signals. In August, they were good to go.

Young chough learning how to fend for itself

Young chough learning how to fend for itself

The new birds quickly adapted, and are now part of the flock. So far, all are doing well, and have been seen taking lots of prey items from larvae to butterflies.

Part of the flock of choughs now on the Jersey coast

Part of the flock of choughs now on the Jersey coast

There are now thirty choughs in the flock – quite a remarkable feat!

Full Birds on the Edge August release report can be seen here.

 

A good year for Cornwall’s Choughs

In fact it’s been a very good year for Cornwall’s Choughs!

Chough update from Rare Bird Alert, 5th July 2016

Chough update from Rare Bird Alert, 5th July 2016

With 23 choughs chicks fledged, the 2016 breeding season has been really successful.

Of particular interest this year:

  • a pair bred in the Roseland area, probably for the first time since the 1820s
  • one-year-old birds successfully reared young
  • there are currently 54 choughs living around the coast of Cornwall

Read more on the Rare Bird Alert website here.

 

Feeding time for two hand-reared chough chicks

Chow Time

Here is a short clip of two hand-reared chough chicks being fed. The chicks continued to feed like this for almost two minutes, and will do so every two hours for the next four weeks, when they will fledge.

 

The two chicks were taken from nest 2, after it became apparent they were falling behind their older siblings. The smaller birds were simply being swamped by their older brothers or sisters, and were not putting on any weight.

If we had left these two, they would almost certainly have perished. It’s a small but tough world in a chough nest box.

We had a couple of worrying days, but then the chicks began to recover and put on weight. They have now grown from 22 and 15 grams, to 187 and 181 grams, and will soon be annoying us with incessant calls for food.

Video of chough nest at Paradise Park

Housework…

Here is a short video showing how Mrs Chough keeps the nest tidy.

It’s one of those questions people always like to ask, like “How do astronauts go to the toilet?” or “Why aren’t bird’s nests full of poo?”

In the case of a chough chick, it’s simply a matter of hanging your behind over the edge of the nest and letting go! Mum (or dad) then come along and take the poop away.

 

Quite often the adult female will stimulate the chick, by gently prodding the chicks rear end. The chick then produces a faecal sac, which the adult bird then disposes of away from the nest.

This serves two useful purposes – firstly it keeps the nest clean and free from a build-up of toxic waste, and secondly it keeps the location of the nest a secret. Some predators will home in on the build up of waste around a nest.

Four week-old chough chicks in the nest

Ten Chicks So Far…

Our breeding choughs have now produced ten tiny (and not-so-tiny) chicks, with possibly more to come!

Four week-old chough chicks in the nest

Four week-old chough chicks in the nest

All of the eggs in nests 1- 3 have now hatched (no eggs in nest 4). There were two infertile eggs in nest 1, which is unusual for this pair, as they have been very productive in the past.

Nests 2 and 3 have four chicks each. The chicks in nest 3 are now seven and eight days old. The nest 2 chicks are between two and four days.

Nest 5 still has five eggs, which are due to hatch this weekend.

The picture above is taken from the access door, which is used to monitor the young birds. At the top of the image is Alison Hales who goes in to the aviary to distract the adult birds, and to add to the large quantities of live food in the aviary.

The birds have learned that Ali brings lots of bugs (mini-mealworms, crickets and ant eggs), so it is a positive experience for them.