Easter 'Egg and Spoon (Bill) Race' at Blackpool Zoo

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Specialist bird keepers at Blackpool Zoo are hoping a pioneering technique will lead to the successful hatching of some very special African Spoonbill eggs….just in time for Easter.

Blackpool Zoo Spoonbill eggs

John Paul carries out checks on the Spoonbill eggs as part of the pioneering technique

John Paul Houston, Senior Bird Keeper at Blackpool Zoo, explains: “The African Spoonbills in our Waders and Waddlers Aviary have bred in the past but this technique allows us to check that the eggs they are laying are fertile.

Specialist bird keepers at Blackpool Zoo are hoping a pioneering technique will lead to the successful hatching of some very special African Spoonbill eggs….just in time for Easter.

It is the first time they have used this procedure for African Spoonbills, which involves swapping newly laid eggs for hard boiled chicken eggs to fool the parent birds into thinking they are still ‘sitting’.

The Spoonbill eggs are whisked off to the incubator where keepers can monitor fertility and growth until they are ready to hatch....when they face a real life “egg and spoon (bill)’ race to get them back into the nest in time.

John Paul Houston, Senior Bird Keeper at Blackpool Zoo, explains: “The African Spoonbills in our Waders and Waddlers Aviary have bred in the past but this technique allows us to check that the eggs they are laying are fertile.

“If we find that they are not, we can remove the dummy chicken eggs from the nest and the Spoonbills will lay more, potentially fertile, eggs.

“When we take the away from their parents we place them in an incubator and monitor them by using a technique called ‘candling’ which involves us shining a bright light through the eggs to see if they are fertile and growing well.

“If you take eggs from parents without replacing them with something else they will automatically assume they are no longer going to be parents, so will not raise the young chicks when we return them.

“By putting hard boiled chicken eggs in the nest the parents will continue to ‘sit’. We then carefully monitor the eggs to watch for signs that they are getting ready to hatch – and then we quickly put them back!

“We have successfully replaced five eggs so far and so we have five adorable chicks and another six eggs to but back in the coming weeks. This is the first time we have carried out this procedure with this species and I am absolutely delighted to see that it has been a success.”

African Spoonbills hail from Africa and Madagascar and have a large bill that is shaped like a spoon. They are large white birds that nest in trees, marshes or rocks and they feed on insects and other small creatures.

Blackpool Zoo’s Waders and Waddlers Aviary was opened in 2011 and is home to bird species from around the world.

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Picture shows: Various images.

More information about Blackpool Zoo:
Blackpool Zoo celebrated its busiest year to date in 2012, which was also its 40th anniversary.

Blackpool Zoo is owned by Parques Reunidos, the second largest European leisure parks operator and a leading world-wide player. The zoo is home to over 1,500 mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates set amidst thirty-two acres of mature woodland and lakes.

The zoo’s signature animals include elephants, giraffes, big cats, gorillas, orang-utans, sea lions, primates, zebras and kangaroos. It is open every day of the year, apart from Christmas Day, from 10am.

For further information please contact:
Paula Holden or Julie Hackett at ICG on 01772 679383 or email paula(at)icgonline(dot)co.uk or julie(at)icgonline(dot)co.uk

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Paula Holden
ICG PR
07772268378
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Julie Hackett
ICG PR
01772 679 383
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