London Zoo

Boost for threatened species as 17 chicks hatch at London Zoo’s walkthrough aviary

Posted: 4th August, 2023

Social media may have lost its most famous bird recently, but London Zoo has been more than making up for it – with a baby bird boom at its avian conservation centre, the Blackburn Pavilion.

The historic tropical walkthrough has been transformed into a chick creche this summer as keepers at the conservation zoo welcomed 17 chirpy chicks - from Extinct in the Wild Socorro doves to mini-me Victoria crowned pigeons. 

“We keep track of all our birds’ individual behaviours, so when we noticed some were spending more time nesting, we were confident we were expecting some very important chicks,” explained bird keeper Camille Munday. “We take a hands-off approach while they’re incubating their eggs, but we made sure each of the birds were prepared for parenthood by giving them extra protein-packed crickets, and mealworms coated in extra calcium for bone development.” 

Keepers have been particularly delighted to welcome five Socorro dove chicks, a huge boost to numbers of this Extinct in the Wild species, which is currently only found in human care. The small brown bird was once endemic to the island of Socorro, off the coast of Mexico, but the species was wiped out when invasive species were introduced into the ecosystem. 

London Zoo is now working with conservation zoos across the world to plan the eventual reintroduction of the species to the island, using the safety net population saved by zoo experts.  

Camille added: “After sending feathers off for DNA analysis, we were thrilled to find out that two of our Socorro dove chicks are female: male Socorro doves outnumber females in the current population, so the arrival of these young females is a really significant step forward for the species.” 

A mini-mohawked Victoria crowned pigeon chick is also among the new chicks on the block and while the newest arrival currently weighs just 513g, the species is the world’s largest pigeon. Named after Queen Victoria and a relative of the now extinct dodo, these unique birds, native to New Guinea, are threatened by habitat destruction to make way for palm oil plantations. 

The full list of hatches also includes two mountain peacock-pheasants, one superb fruit dove, one purple-naped lorikeet, two orange-headed thrushes, two chestnut-backed thrushes and three emerald starlings. 

Camille explained: “For bird lovers, it’s like Christmas has come early: Five Socorro doves, three emerald starlings, two mountain peacock-pheasants... and a Victoria crowned pigeon in a fig tree.” 

As well as taking a leading role in vital conservation breeding programmes, ZSL, the international conservation charity behind London Zoo, protects birds across the world: From collaborating to bring New Zealand’s Hihi back from the brink of extinction to driving a resurgence of red kites in the UK.

“All 17 chicks are developing really well and are now confidently exploring their new home, where they’ve caused quite the flurry of interest,” added Camille. “Social media may be a bird down, but we think our baby bird boom more than makes up for it. 

“Our visitors can now come nose-to-beak with the chirpy chicks themselves when they visit the Blackburn Pavilion at London Zoo this summer.” 

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