Tagging parrot chicks - S02E06 Loro Parque LIFE
Loro Parque Life, live, working with the animals in the breeding centre, in the largest parrot breeding centre on earth. Here we have a hectic day to day schedule, we work with parrots of more than 350 species and subspecies from all over the world, each one is a project in itself and perfectly complements the projects we develop in the wild. Today I got a question from Guatemala about how the nest worked, for example, for the Ara macao, and from here we can tell you how well it has worked, how many eggs each clutch has and what we can expect from each pair.
Why? Because we have been working with these animals for more than 47 years and we know perfectly well their breeding rhythm, when they are going to reproduce and what their needs are, this is vital in the field and, for this reason, there are a series of very interesting processes that I would like to tell you about. We have been asked, in the "livestreams", how we identify the animals, Rafa, tell us how it works, how you are able to differentiate one from the other. We have several methods and one of the key moments is the moment of identification, of banding, the moment when we put a ring on the animal that will act as its ID card, as its identity document that will stay with it all its life. Sometimes this is not the case and I am going to explain to you how and how important it is to control each nest, to control each animal and each pair when they have their young, the age they have to put that ring on them, how it is done and how we do it here at Loro Parque Fundación.
Well, I meet Marcia and Pedro Martín, you know Marcia, she is our general curator at Loro Parque and Loro Parque Fundación, and she doesn't have a second's pause because every day there is a hatching and an egg laying. Pedro Martín, someone who has been with us for 35 years, we have been working for 36 years, since he was 18 years old, working with all kinds of parrot species worldwide. I tell you the truth: I don't think there is anyone on earth right now who has handled as many parrots as Pedro Martin.
Surely Pedro has had in his hands... if here we have a population of 1000 chicks per year and we have a population of 3,500 to 4,000 parrots, he may have handled more than 30,000 to 40,000 parrots throughout his professional life, a very important resource and a reference book, a human book, a book with legs, with which we work daily and with which we learn a lot. They are doing a daily task, Pedro controls each pair, makes a daily check of the whole breeding centre and observes the moment when we can intervene and look at a nest inside it, why? Because we have to know the age of each chick and, for her part, Marcia has a list that she draws up, a computerised list, where we have all the clutches, all the species that have laid eggs during the season to be able to control the age of birth of each animal and the key moment is one at this time. We regularly carry out an inspection that controls this ringing, this certification that says that the animals have the ring on at the right time. That's what we are doing today, isn't it Marcia? Exactly, this is something very important, we have all the weekly control in this document of 4 sheets this week and we have cage by cage from the park and also from the breeding centre of everything we have to do. The colours tell us what is necessary, the blue colour is what we are starting now which is ringing, the yellow colour is that we have to check the egg, if it is fertile or not, the green colour is that it has a hatching date and the red colour is the eggs that the parents have not reared well and we have a problem or we know that they are not good parents so we take the egg out.
Without this control it is much more difficult to supervise. Look at the amount of parameters that the whole conservation team has to handle to be able to do it well, because this is not like having a pair of parakeets in your house that breed and you can observe how they are doing a month later... no, here it has to be a real team work to be able to do it well, and to do things at the right time. Imagine not only this, but we also have the aviaries where the chicks are already ringed, what does this mean? These are the cages where we already know that the chicks can come out to do all the tests that Loro Parque does with the veterinary team, so we know that we can take them out as soon as they are weaned, to take them to the vets and do all the tests, separate them from the parents and be ready for the new couples.
Well, a whole technological infrastructure that, thanks to today's computer systems, allows us to keep records that clearly depend on the human factor. Each enclosure, each aviary is going to have a sign like the one you see here where we have the Latin name, in this case the Pyrrhura rupicola rupicola, the Latin name allows us to talk to anyone in the world and understand what species we are talking about, because it is a common language. Then we have the name in German or in English, we use both names because we usually interact with people from all over the world and some of them do not know the scientific name because they are not professionals in science, so, in the case of Pyrrhura rupicola it is the "Steinsittich" for the Germans, for the Germanic people, the "Black-capped Conure" for all the English and, with the three languages, we are going to see that we manage very well because in Spanish the Pyrrhura, the horned cuckold that we have here is fundamental. We handle all the languages to understand each other well at all times and that is very important. And we also register, over the years, the breeding success that each animal has had and that is useful for us because we can predict next year in the month that they are going to reproduce and how the couple has performed, if they have fertile eggs or if they are sterile.
But let's get down to action, what are we going to see here? We are going to see chicks, I see that the couple has young chicks and we are going to show you how this couple that has already reproduced, that has its chicks already ringed and already, practically, eating on their own, but it is so good that there are more in the nest. Yes, this is their last clutch, there are 5 chicks that are already outside the nest and the couple already has more chicks in here, let's see how many there are. They could have up to 7 chicks in the nest, let's see, I'm sure you can already see some of them.
Perfect. Well, Marcia and Pedro have here a table with rings of different calibres, this is very important, each species has a different calibre that is going to be put on at an early age and it has to be at an exactly age because it is going to go through the leg and it is going to be placed on the tarsus and, for that it has to go through the fingers. It is a closed ring, made of stainless steel, apparently unbreakable, although some species of parrots are even capable of erasing the numbers and, for them, we will explain what system we have to keep this identification intact or to put other accessory identifications.
It is very important that the rings bear the year, the year, which in this case is "LPF 21" because it is the year in which the bird is ringed, and all of this has a record that is passed through CITES so that the animal is well identified internationally. These are animals that will live for many years. Let's see what we have inside... well, inside the nest we can see how the little ones are keeping each other warm, the parents are outside with the bigger chicks, and they are feeding.
This one you see in the front has its crop completely full, let's see if you can see it here, this is the food that the parents have given it, the animal is warm because they keep each other warm and there are a lot of them in there, how many do we have? One that Pedro has in his hand, his eyes are already open, two, three, four, incredible... and five. We're going to need two hands. No! There are even more, six... you could get as many as seven. There's a small one, I think. Oh, how small! But this one is just born. There are seven. And this pair is... there are seven chicks.
Look, a clutch, something exceptional, because in the world of parrots clutches are usually small, in the case of the Pyrrhura, these numerous clutches can occur and it's a super couple that is able to feed them all well. And there is something interesting in this group of parrots, as we know from our work and our field projects, sometimes the other chicks that already eat on their own help the parents, too, to feed the little ones. That is, they enter the nest and bring food and it is a colony breeding, something very favourable that happens in the world of the Pyrrhura and other birds in the world, in this case it is surely happening because I see that they are all well nourished and the little one that is so small I still don't see any food but there is something in there, like yeah, there is a little bit. Wonderful! We are witnessing a miracle of nature, what parrots are capable of, and these are the true ambassadors of parrots in the natural world. Well, now we have to identify which of them we can now band.
Ok, an important and interesting thing, normal is that when they already have a dark leg it' s more or less the right date for banding, look how the leg already has a darker colour, and the ones that Pedro has in his hand have a pinker colour. This one I think can already be banded, and the smaller one is pinker. So, when the colour is darker is, more or less, the right date when they can be ringed and when they also start to open their eyes.
There's the little one yawning there... Because parrots also yawn, it is something that sometimes attracts attention... we have some parrots here to ring, and we are going to see what the process is like because in the case of parrots their fingers are distributed in a different way to the birds that we usually know: canaries, the birds that we usually know in a controlled environment usually have 3 fingers forwards and one backwards, in this case this is going to be inverted little by little. At the beginning they have 3 forwards... let's see... but this little finger that is here is going to go backwards, this is called zygodactyly in parrots, woodpeckers also have it because they are climbing animals that have adapted, they have evolved to move this finger that should be like this, they move it here but, to ring them, we have to move this finger forwards to pass the ring through the first three fingers and reach the tarsus.
For this figure it would be about 6 millimetres. Six millimetres is the calibre... 21 is the year, 060 the calibre, and the sequential number is 170 for this pigeon. With gloves it's a bit more complicated... You fix the three fingers, then go through, and the little one at the back I take it out. Exactly.
The easiest thing to do is to keep the three fingers longer and then the ring goes through well and, with that, the ring doesn't come out anymore. So this one has 060170. The leg will grow in the next few days and this will make it impossible to remove the ring. Sometimes the parents may reject the ring, for that we also have systems, we can cover the ring with a sticking plaster, or there are breeders who cover it with the dirt that may be in the nest, which is something that the birds are already used to and they disguise this new element that is put on the animals. This same operation has to be done in the field when we want to identify these animals and be able to see them with telescopes or binoculars to know where the parrots that have been born under this care, with this extra care, are.
For the CITES inspection we have a register, the inspection sheet is where you put the person who sends and the species, the aviary where the breeding pair is, and there you indicate the date of birth of the animal and this will mark the day of the ringing, here you can put the species and sometimes we even exceed 80 individuals that have been ringed and that is a huge job that takes many hours... Daily! Hahaha Yes, yes, every day, just imagine, Marcia reinforces it, it is daily, this is not something that is done sporadically every week, no, the control has to be exhaustive so as not to skip any of them, because if any of them are left without a ring we will have to microchip them, which is a more complex process and for which we need veterinary intervention, we cannot do it here directly. And up to four siblings can be put on the same inspector's sheet. Here is the first pigeon, here is the ring number of the second, the third and the fourth. As we have 7 pigeons I will need some more spaces.
More gaps to register them all. Maybe not today because the others are small. Yes, now, with the evaluation that they have just done, they know when to band the rest of the chicks according to their size and age.
I mentioned before, and I didn't finish, that we used to be able to band without gloves. Now, as a precaution and for biosecurity measures, we do it with vinyl gloves. That takes a bit of sensitivity away, but it is necessary because we will change gloves when we move to another nest in order not to pass any possible contamination from one place to another. And here comes another one, which hasn't opened its eyes yet, but it's about to, look how the little eye is starting to open... Look how the leg is already black...
And it's always the same, three fingers forward... It's easier to get in, but it can be ringed because it doesn't come out. This is 172. They will also check later that the parents do not remove the ring, which is something that, as I said, could happen. Something interesting is that some species, like this one, keep the nest quite clean. The chicks, of course, make their droppings, they leave them on the edges and sometimes they need help or assistance or you don't have to touch them because the parents are very sensitive to new elements or new interventions in the nest.
That one is almost there. This one is almost there, but it stays, yes. One of the things that I get asked a lot is, and you are going to ask me now, about this species, the Pyrrhura rupicola. Well I want to tell you, especially for people who love this animal as a pet.
It's because it has a very sweet character, it is very manageable. It is an animal that really likes company, it is a sociable animal. The number, the number that creates the family says a lot about them because it is a bird that is usually in flocks. It is typical of South America, its habits are to eat seeds, but also a lot of fruit. So, to all these people who have asked us before, when they ask for a recommendation of an animal that will be good for them, a pet, the Pyrrhura rupicola is perfect.
It is a small animal, it is not very big, and its character is very friendly. Part of the work is now done, but we want you to see it with other types of parrots because it is not the same to band Pyrrhura, which is a small conure of a small size, as it is to band amazons or macaws. Let's see what's there because we want to show you more examples. We are now with a pair of amazons. A pair of amazons that, according to the calculations,
according to what we have on paper, they are saying that there is one animal that is banded because it was banded before because it had the right size, and there is another one left to be banded. We are going to check it, to see how big the banding is, how it is growing... And we have to put the little one... Pedro warns them, he knocks on the door so that the female has time to go out...
Ooohh, this one already, look at the sizes, we had seen Pyrrhura, a much smaller genus. The age corresponding to the amazons is the size we are looking at, which is much larger. Well, Pedro now picks up a small piece of cardboard so that he can, let's say, prevent the parents from entering the nest during the inspection. We can hear them protesting because they want to protect them, they want to defend them, but this way it is much less uncomfortable for the parents and we can handle the little ones well, and if you look at the one that is banded, the big one, let's see if it still has the ring... This animal, oh God! How nice, how beautiful! Yes, this one already had the one from last week, the ring.
Try to get the ring out, Marcia, see if it can come out. No, it won't come out. It's impossible. One week later. This is going to be its identification for life. In fact, the amazons don't usually destroy the stainless steel nor can they remove the printing, which is usually laser, on which the incisions of the numbering and the letters that each animal carries are made.
Well, the animal is already feathering, look at the wings, how beautiful! They are beginning to take on the green colour which is characteristic of amazons. It is an amazon xantholaema, these are the parrots that are very talkative. The line of the royal parrots that are able to imitate the human voice in an extraordinary way. They are very cheerful animals. The amazon ochrocephala xantholaema is another of those parrots that are striking. Green in colour, but with a lot of yellow on the head in characteristic areas.
This is what differentiates some subspecies from others in the amazon group. A very large group that is distributed in Central and South America and is characterised by being cheerful and perfectly imitating the human voice. Let's see the other sibling. It is not yet banded. You can see the difference. Its beak is a bit dirty there, because of the parents, who feed them from above, look.
Where Pedro is picking up, with his index finger and thumb, that's where the parents come in with their beak to spill all the food in here. Let's show them the glass, this is like a sideways glass. I'm without gloves, but I've disinfected my hands before touching the animal. This way the father picks it up and goes to empty it and he picks it up like a pan with the lower spout.
This is the stimulus as well, which is like a little skin. The bulb that he has there, which is sensitive. A pad or bulb. It's a softer skin and that's where you have the most stimulation. Notice that the beak, which is corneous, it hasn't formed yet, is in the process of shaping and it will become hard. Well, right now: three fingers forward, one finger backwards, it passes through that area… Well, it passes very well.
Very well. In other words, it is the perfect moment. And it doesn't come out. The leg is going to grow now and it will be impossible to remove that ring. Look at the bird's crop, how it is also super full.
So the parents are feeding them very, very well. And, well, we always want to clean the part of the beak a bit, which the parents also do, but sometimes it is good to remove those remains, sometimes of food or excrement itself, that are inside the nest, which is part of the biome. Because each nest has a fauna, an internal life where bacteria and fungi develop that are specific to each nest. And this is exactly the same in nature. Well, by writing down the banding data, the day, the ring number, the place of the aviary and the date on which we have done it, we say goodbye to this Loro Parque LIFE, asking you to follow us, to activate the notifications so that you can follow us continuously, it is very important.
I ask for your support, because by supporting Loro Parque LIFE you are also supporting nature. See you in the next Loro Parque LIFE!