Above: The grey-faced liocichla: found cold in the nest, so keepers at Paignton Zoo decided to hand-rear it. Photo: Paignton Zoo  


UK CONSERVATIONISTS ARE pleased to report their first breeding of a rare endemic Chinese softbill.

Dedicated staff at Devon’s Paignton Zoo have successfully bred their first-ever grey-faced liocichla (Liocichla omeiensis) chick, also known as the Mount Omei babbler or Emei Shan liocichla.

In the wild, this species is confined to the mountain ranges of southern Sichuan, China, and is classified on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable due to habitat loss in that restricted range.

Paignton Zoo has one pair of this species. The female arrived in spring 2015 and was joined by the male last July. The pair’s first clutch this breeding season failed, but the second produced one chick. The park’s senior keeper of birds, Tom Tooley, said: “We knew roughly when the adult pair had laid the eggs and when they would be due. The adult pair’s behaviour suggested they had chicks, as they were regularly taking livefood to the nest bush. But, after three days the livefood wasn’t going.

“This was monitored over a period of time and no feeding attempts were made by the adults. We like to give the parents the chance to raise their young, but we were concerned about the chick’s health. The nest was checked and the lone chick was cold, so the decision was taken to remove it.”

Staff decided to hand-rear the chick at the Zoo’s Avian Breeding Centre, which involved feeding it at regular intervals from 8am until 9pm every day on a diet of papaya and small pieces of meat.

Grey-faced liocichlas are part of a European Studbook and Paignton Zoo is one of six zoos in the UK to breed them so far this year.

This species also falls under the EAZA Silent Forest Campaign (see News, November 22, 2017). EAZA studbook keeper and Cage & Aviary Birds columnist Chris Green, will make transfer recommendations as to where the bird will be moved to at the end of the season. He said: “This chick will be very important for the breeding programme.”

For more information on Paignton Zoo, visit: www.paigntonzoo.org.uk

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