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Diary of a Palm Cockatoo (part 5)

Monday, January 24, 2011 1:20pm
palm cocky 90 days.jpg palm cockatoo chewing fruit kebab.jpg

Hi All

There have been a lot of developments since the last entry. The chick has continued to develop very quickly both mentally and physically, and has progressed from being housed in our incubation room to living full time in an aviary. This was a gradual change to ensure that she was ready.

The first step to moving outside was to place her tub inside a cage and leave it in the aviary for several hours. She quickly progressed to perching outside of the tub, which meant that we could take it away and just leave her in the cage. Next we left her outside all day and returned her to her tub in the incubation room for the night and finally progressed to leaving her outside permanently.

At 86 days old she took her first flight which was quite graceful although very short from the weighing scales to a nearby door. She stayed there until I rescued her and then tried to get her to concentrate on feeding. I guess anyone with a toddler will know how hard it is to get them to stay still for long enough to get food into them.

Now that she had fledged we could leave her out of the cage and give her the freedom of the aviary. This was a major milestone in her development. She had to improve her coordination and strength quickly to enable her to fly and land safely. She has improved fairly quickly but her landings still require a bit of polish as she has landed on my face. I’m not sure who was more surprised on each occasion!

The next big hurdle is weaning, a testing time for the her and us. It can take up to six months after fledging for parent reared chicks to be feeding independently. Learning to feed yourself is not that easy if you are a cockatoo. To start with you need to learn to hold things in your foot and manipulate it so that small bits can be broken off and swallowed. It seems that she knew instinctively that the foot is somehow involved in eating. When she first started perching and was holding a piece of food in her mouth she would clumsily wave her left foot about, or even just hold it up off the perch. She has progressed past this point, but it is still a challenge to hold some items.

In order to swallow food the palm cockatoos stick a bit of food to the tip of their tongue and then chuck it backwards to land in the back of the mouth. This is quiet a complicated procedure and after watching the chick try to achieve it I can see why it takes so long to learn. At one point I watched her as she concentrated with everything she had on a piece of boiled egg. She would break off a small piece and after several attempts get it stuck to her tongue only to have it fall into the bottom part of her beak when she chucked it. It must have been very frustrating!

She did manage it once while I was watching a there was a split second break in the constant begging call that she now makes. If you thought that the sound of a young magpie was annoying its got nothing on this noise! The coordination and concentration continue to improve which hopefully will mean that she starts to eat on her own soon, but of course she has us to feed her until she can. 

Cheers

Trena
Bird Keeper, Adelaide Zoo

Comments

She is gorgeous, I was delighted to actually meet her on a recent Zoo Encounter - Wow how fantastic!!!!! Everyone should meet 'our feathered friends' at the Zoo. Well done to Trena and Team, you do such a great job!!!
Anah
Posted By: Anah Guy on Monday, January 24, 2011 3:35pm
Hi, I've just discovered this blog and was most impressed with your achievement. I have in the past incubated & hand reared around 30+ Eclectus Parrots which in comparison was quite easy. I used to weigh them daily and can relate to some of the similar behaviors. I recently visited a zoo in Thailand that had around eight Palms but I was disappointed in there enclosures. I may go back there and volunteer to 'improve things'. Keep up the good work and hopefully this is the start of many a chick. I'll get down there one day for a visit; I'm north of Sydney. I bet you were stressed out on many occasions.
Posted By: Alan on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 12:28pm

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