Crested Wood Partridges Raise Another Clutch
No zoo family can claim a busier year than the crested wood partridges at the McCormick Bird House. The zoo’s colorful breeding pair welcomed their second clutch in May, gearing up again to shepherd five new chicks through their exhibit.
Not that the little ones need much guidance. “The family is very tight knit, but the species is highly precocial, meaning direct parental care is limited,” says Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds Colleen Lynch. Mom and dad present insects soon after the chicks hatch, letting the new arrivals snatch meals right from their beaks. The chicks quickly start gathering meals on their own, part of a speedy growth curve.
Beyond meals, mom and dad provide shelter as well. In the early days, several little pairs of feet can be seen sticking out from beneath one adult set of feathers. “Often you can’t see chicks at all for the first few days because they squeeze in under mom’s ‘skirts,’” says Lynch.
In their native homes of Thailand, Myanmar and the Malay Archipelago, crested wood partridges spend their time on the forest floor, using their feet to probe for insects, seeds and fruit. Breeding pairs dig tunnel-like nests in the leaf litter, with the female laying anywhere from four–eight eggs. Chicks leave the nest within a day of hatching, able to keep up with mom and dad as they move through the forest.
In the wild and at the zoo, it’s easy to distinguish males from females. Males have bluish-purple feathers—and a large red crest on the head. (Hence the name.) Females have green feathers and lack any crest.
The newest hatchlings still lack these distinguishing features, but they’re growing fast. Soon they’ll be ready to leave for new homes, like the first clutch of three chicks, which hatched back in January. But in the meantime, they’re still with mom and dad.
“The family does everything as a group,” says Lynch. “But they do it all for themselves.”
by James Seidler • Published July 12, 2012
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