Big Brother is watching...
Tuesday 8 June 2004
Big Brother contestants aren't the only species that are being watched 24 hours a day this week...
Our female Malayan black hornbill, who has sealed herself into her nest site will remain in isolation, under the watchful eye of her keepers for the next 100 days!
This amazing species demonstrates fascinating nesting habits- the female remains sealed in a tree hole for 100 days while she lays and incubates her eggs, then cares for her chicks. She will only break out of the nest when her offspring are fully developed and in full plumage.
Aided by a CCTV camera inside her nest, we are able to monitor the female bird making sure she is healthy and secretly watching the development of her offspring! You can see a couple of pictures from that camera on this page, and you can watch live footage on screen when you visit the Bird House.
Our male and female birds were seen performing courting rituals in their enclosure a few weeks ago and subsequently mated. Knowing that she was soon to lay an egg the female hornbill examined our imitation tree cavity (a barrel shaped cable reel with a hole cut in the side) and decided it would make an ideal nest site.
She began closing up the hole with mud before climbing in and getting settled, and for the next 100 days, the female bird is totally reliant on her lifelong male partner. He begins his support role by using his huge beak to pass her mud to finish sealing the hole. Soon, only a small aperture remains, just the right size for the male to poke his beak through, passing food to the incubating female and removing her excrement - now that's dedication!
The female hornbill has been in her nest now for 18 days and she has just laid her first egg- she will lay up to four. Once all the eggs have been laid, she'll have a 29 day wait before they hatch, during which time she needs to keep them warm and rely on her partner to keep her well fed and strong.
Watch this space - the story will continue with the hatching of the chicks at the end of next month.