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Great bustard chicks aid reintroduction project

Posted: 6th June, 2017

The bird keeping team at Birdworld are delighted to announce another successful year of helping to hatch a number of vulnerable Great Bustard Chicks at the Park in Farnham, Surrey as part of the Great Bustard Group’s (GBG) reintroduction project.

Originally from Spain, every detail of the egg’s harvest location and measurements, including length, breadth and weight were recorded allowing the Birdworld team to accurately estimate hatch dates using the established density loss techniques employed at the park. 

Data for each egg was entered into the Birdworld egg-management database so that their progress could be monitored with new weights taken every second day. This helped staff to ensure that each egg received the best possible chance of hatching. 

When close to hatching, the eggs were checked three times a day, and as soon a chick started to hatch it was carefully moved to a special hatcher unit with high humidity where the chick continued its epic journey to the outside world.  Most of the eggs hatched within 24 hours of being moved to the hatcher units and keepers had to keep a close eye on this process as each chick was then weighed just after hatching and fitted with a unique identifier ring so that each one could be traced back to its original nest site.

The chicks were then moved into a drier brooder where they dried off and began to stretch their legs before being transferred to the GBG’s Wiltshire project site for rearing and subsequent release into the wild.

Great Bustards were once very much part of British wildlife but sadly these spectacular birds were hunted to extinction in this country by the 1840's and are now currently listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Globally Threatened Species. The GBG aims to vastly increase the prospects of creating a self-sustaining Great Bustard population once more in the UK.

Birdworld has a long history with the Great Bustard Reintroduction project, annually giving a percentage of all money raised in raffles, collections and other initiatives to the GBG. Alongside essential fundraising, Birdworld has also been raising awareness of the plight of the Great Bustard with information boards and its very own pair of male Great Bustards, which are unable to be released and therefore reside at the park as ambassadors of their species.

Duncan Bolton, Birdworld Curator said: “It is always a great opportunity when avicultural skills can be used to aid in the conservation of threatened species. With the Great Bustard project, knowing that we have continued to contribute to such a momentous and ambitious reintroduction project has filled the whole team with pride. Birdworld is providing advice and expertise relating to incubation and transport of eggs which will hopefully continue into the future and we have also provided advice relating to captive husbandry of these enigmatic birds. Through our visitors we are able to raise both awareness and funds and look forward to the Great Bustard Project enjoying even greater success in the future.”

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