A pair of female Crested Screamer chicks hatched in early March at Woodland Park Zoo. The little birds represent the first offspring between the 15-year-old mother and 23-year-old father. The last successful hatching of this species at the Seattle, WA, zoo was in 2002.
At just a few weeks old, the chicks are fluffy and downy and currently weigh about 6 ounces.
“So far, we’re pleased to report the chicks are experiencing good weight gains,” said Mark Myers, bird curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “They’re eating well and the parents are very attentive. The chicks need lots of food and exercise to grow. Based on how they’re doing, we’re optimistic they’ll continue to thrive under the care of their parents and our animal care staff.”
According to the Zoo, Crested Screamer parents do not regurgitate food for their chicks. Instead, they lead the chicks to food and drop tasty treats as a lesson on how to peck for food. Myers said the Zoo’s family dines on a blend of game bird, waterfowl pellets, lots of fresh romaine, and broccoli florets.
The Crested Screamer (Chauna torquata) is aptly named for its loud, distinctive call, making it among the loudest of any bird. Native to Bolivia and southern Brazil, to northern Argentina, these large goose-like birds are common in tropical and subtropical wetlands, including marshes, estuaries and lowland lakes.
Another distinctive feature of the species is a large, sharp spur on each wing, which the birds use to defend themselves against predators. Adults reach and average size of 81–95 cm (32–37 inches) long and a weight of around 3–5 kg (6.6–11.0 pounds).
Screamers form monogamous relationships, and both adults take part in incubation and caring for the chicks. The female lays between two to seven white eggs, and incubation takes 43 to 46 days. Chicks leave the nest as soon as they hatch, but the parents will care for them for several weeks. The fledging period takes 8 to 14 weeks.
Although the Crested Screamer population is not threatened in their home range, Screamers and many other species of waterfowl are threatened by habitat loss due to human-imposed activities.
The new family at Woodland Park Zoo is currently off-exhibit, to allow animal keepers to monitor the chicks closely and weigh them regularly to ensure acceptable weight gains.