- Our two chicks at 4 weeks of age
Did you know that parrots live in North America? Most people view parrots as exotic birds that like warm weather and only live in the jungles. Thick-billed parrots and the Carolina parakeet are the two species of parrots native to the United States. The Carolina parakeet was declared extinct in 1939 and the thick-billed parrots are also in grave danger of becoming extinct in the future. Zoos are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, and our two new chicks are a step in the right direction!
Thick-billed parrots were once found in the pine forests of southern Arizona and New Mexico but are now limited to northwestern Mexico. It is estimated that today only 1,000 to 4,000 thick-billed parrots exist in the wild due to loss of habitat from commercial logging.
Right now, there are about 91 thick-billed parrots in captivity at 19 different zoos. ZooAmerica is the only zoo inPennsylvania where you can see these beautiful birds. All of the captive parrots are involved in a breeding program, called a Species Survival Program (SSP). We have had a thick-billed parrot exhibit at ZooAmerica since 1989. The first chicks to hatch here came in 2001. Two were hatched- one stayed at our zoo and the other went to another zoo to breed. The female that stayed at our zoo is named Paula, and she is the proud mother of our 2 chicks that hatched in June.
Paula and Sunny are the parents of the two chicks. The eggs were laid in late May, in a nest box in their exhibit. The two parents guarded their eggs and in about 28 days, the first egg hatched on June 28. The second egg hatched on June 30. Paula and Sunny have been excellent parents- guarding their chicks and regurgitating food to them every day.
Today, the chick that hatched on June 28th, fledged (flew) from the nest box. The chick had been poking his head out of the nest box for over a week, teasing us. We kept waiting for his first flight, and tonight he was sitting out on a high perch. The second chick is still keeping watch from the nest box, but could fledge as early as tomorrow.
When you visit the zoo, you’ll be able to tell the adults from the chicks for an entire year because of the chicks’ white beak. After a year, the beak will darken to pure black. The parents will assist the chicks for at least 7 months, sometimes a year or more. The chicks will live at our zoo for 4-5 years before it is determined if they should go elsewhere to breed.
With the addition of the 2 chicks, we now hold 6 thick-billed parrots at ZooAmerica. These 6 birds are quite noisy- you can even hear some of their calls up to 2 miles away. Be sure to visit soon to catch a glimpse and get an earful of our newly expanded flock!
The chick is 3 weeks old here- are you able to see the large lump below the throat? It is called a crop, which is a muscular pouch where they store food. A large crop like this shows us that the parents are feeding them well.
This 4 week old chick is being weighed to be sure the parents are feeding him/her properly.
After being weighed, we attached a silver band with a number on a leg so we can keep track of each individual chick.
For 3 months, this is mostly what we saw when we went to feed the birds- watchful eyes of the parents!