Help, I'm a hornbill and I'm still in here!
Friday 20 September 2002
Malay Black hornbills give birth to record three chicks
Never mind the 'C' list celebrities that struggled to cope in the Australian outback, London Zoo's Bird House has the 'A' list appearing on a live TV for its visitors. Keepers have installed a monitor showing live relay of the daily goings on of Kerinci a Malay black hornbill as she rears her record three chicks inside a hollowed tree trunk.
Their three chicks were born on 31 July and the 4 and 7 August. They have provisionally been named Nell, Tara and Nigel, but that could all change once it becomes clear what sex they are.
Paul Harrington, Head Keeper of the Bird House, said, "It is wonderful for us here at London Zoo and for the visitors to be able to witness first hand Kerinci in her nesting hollow with her three chicks. To see her being passed food by Toba and feeding and caring for her chicks and seeing them grow in such a confined space really is an opportunity not to be missed".
During nesting the female hornbill incarcerates herself, with the help of her mate, in a hollow tree trunk or natural cavity becoming totally dependent on the male for food. The pair mud up the entrance to the nesting site with faeces and food matter, leaving only a small gap through which the male will pass food and remove waste, providing a safe predator free environment. The female will usually incubate for one month before her chicks hatch, and she will remain with them until they all leave approximately fifty days later with the youngsters being almost the same size as their mother. The chicks will usually remain dependent on their parents for up to a year after leaving the nest.
Tara, Nigel and Nell are being fed by the parents approximately ten to fifteen times a day initially with small mammals to provide the chicks with animal protein to aid their growth but they will eventually be made up of fruit, especially their favourite figs.
Notes to editors:
- Kerinci and her partner Toba came to London from El Retiro, Malaga in 1999 and the British weather must have agreed with them as a year later they had their first brood, producing two chicks
- Malay black hornbills are found in dense evergreen forest in Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo
- Male black hornbills have a cream bill and the female has a black one
- Their habitat is under threat from logging and 'slash and burn' farming methods
- Life expectancy is estimated at twenty years
- Hornbills are the only species of bird where the female will incarcerate herself using the mudding up process
- In the wild chicks are initially fed on lizards and other small mammals to gain animal protein before moving onto a staple diet of fruits
- Other species of hornbill at London Zoo include the Indian hornbill
- Kerinci and Toba are both areas of Sumatra
- Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in other countries world-wide.
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