Posted on 23rd October 2020 by Media Relations
Breeding success for the critically endangered Plains-wanderer has continued this year at Taronga Western Plains Zoo with four chicks hatching on 24 September 2020.
These four chicks are the second successful clutch to be hatched at the Zoo since the conservation breeding program commenced in late 2018, and follows on from the two chicks hatched in March 2020.
“It’s so exciting to see further breeding success with our Plains-wanderer population,” said Plains-wanderer keeper, Mark O’Riordan.
“Initially the female had five chicks hatch but sadly one chick didn’t survive. It is uncommon for Plains-wanderers to have five chicks in one clutch, so it was a possibility that one could be lost.”?
Incubation of the eggs are normally started by the female, followed by the male after all the eggs are laid. The female then leaves, seeking out another male to breed with and leaving the male to incubate and care for the chicks after hatching.
“With this clutch, the female completed the full 23 day incubation which has never been observed before in the wild or an aviary environment. The successful hatching of all five chicks initially may be due to the female’s larger body mass and the fact the male may not have been large enough to brood them all.”
Both parents are wild caught and were the pair that successfully produced two chicks early this year.
“It is really exciting to see this pair continue to produce chicks. Every chick hatched is so important to the long-term survival of this species as there is as few as 500 birds remaining in the wild,” said Mark.
“We have been seeing positive breeding behaviour from two other Plains-wanderer pairs, which we continue to observe daily via CCTV. If nothing eventuates these birds will be swapped with individuals from other pairs to allow them an alternate mate choice.”
Plains-wanderers can breed all year round provided the conditions are favourable but they commonly breed from August - March. They will generally hatch 2 – 4 chicks from up to 5 eggs in a clutch. The birds are fully independent from approximately two months of age.
Keepers take a very hands-off approach with the Plains-wanderer population. Monitoring the chicks’ growth, behaviours and feeding is done via CCTV and keepers won’t know if they are male or female until around six weeks of age when they can visually determine the sex. The chicks will also then undergo their first veterinary health check at six weeks of age.
“A large part of the program here in Dubbo is to continue to learn more about this unique, shy and elusive species so we can continue to build baseline information that will help all partners in the program and ultimately help save the species from extinction,” said Mark.
The Plains-wanderer conservation breeding program is part of the National Recovery Plan, aiming to establish a sustainable population that can support the reintroduction of wild populations.
The Plains-wanderer breeding conservation program at Taronga Western Plains Zoo is located behind the scenes in the 110-hectare Taronga Sanctuary, dedicated to the conservation of native species. The Plains-wanderer facility includes 30 purpose-built aviaries.