April Update

The chough breeding season is now in full swing, with all of our paired birds building nests, and most laying clutches of eggs.

Twenty eggs!
Twenty choughs eggs!

Three pairs laid eggs very early, and we now have chicks in two of these nests. Sadly, the two chicks in the third nest were ejected by the male. He has been paired before (last year), and his partner produced eggs, but they did not hatch. It would seem he understands the process up to the point of hatching, but has yet to get to grips with chick feeding. The male was removed, but the remaining eggs did not hatch.

Another nest laid four eggs and then the female dutifully removed them almost immediately after! We thought that their season was over, but the female has now started a second clutch. This is quite a rare occurrence in choughs, and time will tell if these eggs are fertile.

Chough egg being removed from nest
Chough egg being removed from nest

Two nests now have two chicks each – nest 302 in the new seclusion aviaries, and nest 29S which is in the main park. The chicks in 302 hatched on the 23rd & 24th of April, and both are progressing well. Chough chicks weigh 10-12 grams when they hatch, and we will be weighing them regularly as part of our monitoring.

Two chough chicks aged 1 & 2 days
Two chough chicks aged 1 & 2 days

The nest 29S is the aviary in which we first bred choughs way back in 1979. It does not have the service hatch which we have added to our seclusion aviaries, but we have been able to install a camera, which unfortunately has stopped working! This means we are relying on nest observations from keeping staff listening for feeding calls and looking for egg shells. Happily, we have confirmed two chicks, as Curator David Woolcock’s phone picture shows. These two are between 8 – 10 days old.

Two chough chicks approximately 8 - 10 days old. Picture D Woolcock
Two chough chicks approximately 8 – 10 days old. Picture D Woolcock

These two chicks are very well developed, with the tiniest of wing feathers just starting to appear. The two remaining eggs are unlikely to hatch.

As the end of April approaches we now have four chicks, with a further twenty-one eggs being incubated in the other nests…

and we have a nest in one of the polytunnel aviaries which has an egg (with more to come).