Baby parrots among several new Turtle Farm arrivals

Some tiny new arrivals at the Turtle Farm aviary are caused a stir.

Sweetpea and her mate Leo are expecting some chicks shortly.
Mother parrot Sweetpea has two new chicks.

Home to about 120 birds, the Turtle Farm’s aviary covers approximately 5,300 square feet and houses nine species native to the Caribbean, including both subspecies of Cayman parrots and white-crowned pigeons.

“It is breeding season and we have many nests, eggs, hatchlings and juveniles in the aviary flock, including our veteran pair of Cayman parrot breeders, Sweetpea and Leo,” said the farm’s terrestrial exhibits curator Geddes Hislop.

“This year, they laid three eggs and hatched ‘twin’ hatchlings over the [Discovery Day] long weekend.”

Mr. Hislop said in 2015 the pair raised the first ever set of Cayman parrot “triplets” born in captivity.

The aviary’s ongoing captive rearing and wild release programs for the Grand Cayman parrot and the white-crowned pigeon have been in place for five and eight years, respectively.

“Sweetpea and Leo’s ‘triplets’ were released into the wild in February this year, and these two will join them when they are between 9-10 months old,” explained Mr. Hislop.

“Our other, more recently bonded Cayman parrot breeding pair, Rosie and Ralph, will hopefully mate and add their own offspring to the program in 2017.”

Mr. Hislop said the Turtle Farm’s white-crowned pigeons, also known as bald pates, are also breeding well, and some are already on their second clutch of chicks for the season.

“We will definitely need to soon thin out the flock as they fight for breeding space in the aviary,” said Mr. Hislop.

“White-crowned pigeons mature much faster than parrots, so we look forward to a sizeable release of about two dozen birds in mid to late summer 2016.”

The aviary visitors can choose to hand-feed the birds, and the funds raised are donated to local conservation projects each quarter.

“The aviary is also used as a learning exhibit for school groups on … field trips to study animal adaptations, for example, looking at their different beak adaptations, reminiscent of Darwinian finches,” said Mr. Hislop.

In other Turtle Farm updates, Mr. Hislop noted that the recent dry weather means the Butterfly Garden is looking a bit empty at the moment.

“Despite the irrigation, there are nowhere as many flowers as in the rainy season, and consequently not as many butterflies,” he said.

“Some of the colorful insects can still be seen in the early mornings, but once the season changes and the flowering plants ‘wake up,’ so will the butterflies.

Hopefully, the rains will return sometime in June.”

Mr. Hislop also noted that work continues on slowly adding to the population of fish in the snorkel lagoon, both in terms of overall numbers as well as with new fish species.

The 2016 turtle nesting season, which traditionally peaks in June, is well under way and the first set of hatchling turtles are out for viewing at the hatchery window. The babies can be viewed from behind the glass, both in the sand hatching box as well as in the hatchling tray, hatching from the nest boxes.