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Houston Zoo announces hatchings of critically endangered birds

Houston Zoo announces hatchings of critically endangered birds

Houston Zoo blue-billed curassow chick hen
Meet the blue-billed curassow chick and mom. Photo by Bethany Shick

In August, the Houston Zoo rushed to the aid of some fine feathered friends with the successful breeding, raising, and releasing of 68 Attwater’s prairie chickens, one of the most endangered animals in America.

Now, the zoo has flocked to the aid of another critically endangered bird, with the announcement of the hatching of a blue-billed curassow. One chick is currently being hand-reared, while another is being groomed by the resident blue-billed curassow hen, per a press release.

Notably, parent-hatchling rearing by a curassow is rare and hasn't been attempted in more than 25 years at the zoo, the release notes. Typically, per the zoo, curassow chicks hatchlings are reared by a domestic chicken.

But, as a photo notes, all seems currently well. Visitors can get peek at the parent-reared chick in an exhibit in the zoo’s new South America’s Pantanal.

This hatching is major news for conservation; the parents of these two chicks are considered the most genetically valuable in the entire Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) population. The male was came from Portugal in 2011 as part of AZA’s Species Survival Plan, per the zoo.

A little about these rare fowl: Blue-billed curassows are native to Colombia and considered critically endangered; less than 2,500 remain in the wild.

Specifically, the large, mainly black species is the only curassow with a distinctive blue cere (the spot at the base of the bill), hence the name. Males are black with a white vent and tip to the tail, females are black with black and white crest feathers and fine white barring on the wings and tail.

Fostering hatchlings since the 1960s, the Houston Zoo is one of a mere few in the U.S. that breed these birds. The zoo also provides training for conservation staff in Colombia to protect the birds in the wild. 

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