The flock at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has announced its first-ever hatchings of two rare blue-billed curassows. The milestone comes on the heels of Riverbanks receiving the Plume Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Avian Scientific Advisory Group. Riverbanks has long served as a leader in aviculture among the AZA community, and these achievements underscore the Zoo’s outstanding work in bird care and conservation.
Blue-billed curassows are found only in a few tropical forests of Colombia, South America. The species is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with a total population estimated between 150–700 individuals, making the hatchings at Riverbanks a major win both for genetic diversity for those in human care and awareness of this species at risk.
Riverbanks’ Curator of Birds Colleen Lynch says, “Curassow chicks are precocial—they can fly, perch, eat and drink on their own on day zero. But they do need protection and brooding from their parents. Carl and Claudia are first-time parents and failed to incubate their eggs.” Luckily, the bird team at Riverbanks has substantial expertise in artificial incubation. “That’s when the keepers stepped in to care for the eggs in the Bird Conservation Center. We hope to reunite our growing curassow clan as soon as possible.”
Riverbanks continues to make significant advancements in bird husbandry and chick rearing. In March, Lynch accepted the 2022 Plume Award recognizing the success of the Zoo’s flamingo program. The Parent-Assist Rearing of Caribbean Flamingos Project was hatched in 2011 by then senior keeper of birds at Riverbanks, Kate Lyngle-Cowand, to optimize care for flamingo eggs and chicks by mimicking parenting behaviors seen in wild flamingo flocks. While Lyngle-Cowand has since moved to the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City, Utah, the bird team at Riverbanks carries on her work to this day and shares the honor with the Tracy Aviary.
This is the second time Riverbanks received the Plume Award. In 2021, Riverbanks was honored for significant contributions to the sustainability of bird populations in an AZA facility.
For those planning a visit to Riverbanks, guests may notice an abundance of nesting activities around the park. From flamingos to fairy bluebirds, vultures to penguins, many plumed residents at the Zoo are actively engaging in nesting behaviors (or will be soon). While nest building does not guarantee eggs or chicks, with so much fluff and circumstance, the Zoo remains hopeful for some new feathered friends to join the Riverbanks family in the not-too-distant future.