Friday, September 21, 2012

‘Extinct’ bird hatches at Bristol Zoo Gardens

‘Extinct’ bird hatches at Bristol Zoo Gardens

One of the rarest birds in the world has been bred by keepers at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

A Socorro dove chick has hatched and is thriving in the zoo, marking a major success for the species which is extinct in the wild. It is the first time Socorro doves have successfully bred at Bristol Zoo in five years. The chick was one of two that hatched but sadly one of them died at a young age.

The last recorded sighting of a Socorro dove in the wild was in 1972. Now there are around just 100 held in captivity in zoos around the world – including 25 birds in six UK zoos. Coordinated conservation breeding of the birds by organisations such as Bristol Zoo has prevented the total extinction of the species.

Bristol Zoo’s Curator of birds, Nigel Simpson, said: “Sadly these birds now only exist in captivity, so to have this chick hatch and survive 40 years after they were last seen in the wild is a great achievement.”

The chick at Bristol Zoo has been raised by foster birds - a pair of European turtle doves - which have a strong track record of raising healthy chicks. The precious Socorro dove egg was placed in the turtle doves’ nest as the adult Socorro doves have a poor history of incubating eggs.

Keepers monitored the chick via a hidden camera to follow its progress, capturing rare footage of these extremely endangered birds. To see a short clip of the two chicks (one of which unfortunately later died), click here:

Nigel added: “The foster birds have done a fantastic job of raising this very important chick and we are thrilled to say that another pair of foster birds is now incubating another Socorro dove egg which we hope will hatch soon.”

The chick is now fully fledged and can be seen in one of the aviaries near the zoo’s education centre. Bristol Zoo hopes the young bird, and any future chicks, will eventually be paired with Socorro doves from other UK zoos to continue the vital captive breeding programme for the species.

Socorro doves were native to the island of Socorro, 600 miles off the western coast of Mexico. They died out after falling prey to a rising number of feral cats in the area. Overgrazing sheep also destroyed much of their forest floor habitat and the birds were also hunted by humans for food.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.

For more information about visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens, visit the website at or phone 0117 974 7300.

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