Western Grey Plantain-eater - Extra Information


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Western Grey Plantain-eater

One of my Western Grey Plantain-eaters (Webmaster)

Breeding the Western Grey Plantain-eater.

(With kind permission from the Cotswold Wildlife Park, where this article originally appeared in their park annual magazine 'Wild Talk' in 2001.)

We have kept many different species of touracos, among them the Western Grey Plantain-eater (Crinifer piscator), which has been a difficult bird to breed in captivity; in 1996 nine chicks hatched but none survived past twelve days. Since then we hope we have found the secret. In 1997 our pair hatched two more chicks, which survived our twelve-day record and continued to do well. We noticed this time that many plants in the aviary were being eaten by the parents, in particular rose-bay willow-herb (Epilobium angustifolium). To divert the birds from eating our well-planted aviary, we spiked whole lettuces onto branches; these were readily eaten, but the birds' hunger for the other plants remained. One chick survived, which was only the second time that this species had been bred in the U.K.

Soon another clutch of three eggs hatched, but the chicks died before reaching twelve days. There had been no rose-bay willow-herb in the aviary this time; perhaps it had been a vital ingredient in the chicks' diet?

In 1998 the season's first clutch of three chicks hatched, and we supplied plenty of lettuce and rose-bay. At 35 days the smallest chick was pushed out, so we hand-reared it. It survived and became a big hit with the public, even making a TV appearance on Rolf Harris's Animal Hospital. Since then, we have bred 12 further Grey Plantain-eaters, always ensuring good supplies of rose-bay in the aviary, which seems to have made all the difference. The plant is currently being scientifically analysed in the hope that we may find other species with similar qualities, to help us give the best diet for breeding endangered birds in captivity.

Nathan Crockford and Louise Peat in Wild Talk 2001

Western Grey Plantain-eater chick

'Erica' the first one successfully hand reared.

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