Very often we hear the comment, “So ugly, only a mother could love it.” Well, here at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, we must all be mothers, or at least surrogate mothers, because we really do have an emotional as well as professional bond with these `alala Corvus hawaiiensis chicks. This year’s `alala breeding program has been slower than we anticipated, but productive nevertheless. The three chicks being reared at the Center are now out of their hatchers and are being reared together in a box brooder. These youngsters are reared together, as they would be in nature, to help them develop the behaviors appropriate for an `alala. At about nine or ten days of age, they are covered in pinfeathers and down with their eye slits just beginning to open. As soon as they can see, we will begin to feed them with an `alala puppet so as not to imprint the chicks on their human “mothers.”
When the developing birds begin to maintain their body temperature on their own, they will be reared in an outdoor aviary, exposed to older ‘alala to ensure the proper behavioral development. However, before going into their outdoor aviary, they will get daily sunbaths to help maintain a healthy level of vitamin D for good bone growth.
Alan Lieberman is the program director for the San Diego Zoo’s <a Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program.
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