Above: One of the parent Socorro doves at ZSL London Zoo with the first clutch of chicks


FOUR EXTINCT-IN-THE-WILD SOCORRO doves have hatched at ZSL London Zoo as part of a collaborative breeding programme formed between 36 zoos worldwide to secure the species’ future.

The parent birds were only paired up in May. Their chicks now increase the global population of Socorro doves (Zenaida graysoni) to 162.

Gary Ward, ZSL’s curator of birds, said: “We welcomed a female, named Esperanza, from Bristol Zoo in May, in the hope that she would get on well with our male, Andrés, in our Blackburn Pavilion tropical birdhouse. It’s safe to say that they hit it off, as we discovered two eggs in their nest in June, which successfully hatched on July 13.”

The chicks were followed by a second clutch of two that were laid two weeks later and hatched on August 18. The first two chicks have been confirmed as male and keepers are awaiting DNA results to find the sex of the last two.

“All four chicks are doing really well,” said Mr Ward. The Socorro dove is a small brown bird that was endemic to the island of Socorro, off the coast of Mexico. When invasive species were introduced into the island’s ecosystem, the doves were wiped out. The last reported sighting of the species in its natural habitat was in 1972.

Experts say the species’ worldwide collaborative breeding programme gives hope for the Socorro dove to be reintroduced to its native island.

Mr Ward added: “It’s successes like these that could ultimately lead to the birds being reintroduced to their native island in the future, once their habitat has been fully restored.

“Reintroducing the species will then serve to rebalance the island’s interconnected ecology, with the doves taking up their former role of seed-dispersal – vital for the endemic flora, also unique to the islands, to thrive.”

To read more about the ZSL’s important bird projects, visit: www.zsl.org/conservation/species/birds 

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