Baby parrots cause a stir at Cayman Turtle Farm

In mid-May, the Cayman Turtle Farm’s veteran Cayman parrot breeding pair Sweetpea and Leo hatched the second clutch of Cayman parrot triplets ever known to be born in captivity.

The Turtle Farm staff have been monitoring the clutch to record nestling growth stages of Cayman’s national bird.

The Cayman parrot is a protected national bird, and it is illegal to take any, whether adults or nestlings, from the wild.

The Cayman Turtle Farm’s breeding program is undertaken with the authorization of the Department of Environment with a stock made up almost entirely of rescued parrots from over the years.

“There is a lack of documented information on nestling growth and development in our endemic parrots, so aviary staff have closely monitored the chicks’ progress via banding, weighing and photographing the various growth stages with a view to creating a document, or perhaps a research paper,” said the Turtle Farm’s terrestrial exhibits curator Geddes Hislop.

“The juvenile parrots were all fully feathered and flew out of their next box into the open Aviary on July 12, 2016, much to the delight and fascination of our aviary visitors,” said Mr. Hislop, who noted at the moment they are following their parents around the open aviary. He said they are now almost the same size as their parents, but with yellowish-crowned foreheads rather than the pinkish-white foreheads of the adults.

The triplets will be raised in the aviary for nine to ten months before being released into the wild around late March or early April 2017.

“Their release will bring to 12 the total number of Cayman Turtle Farm captive-bred Cayman parrots introduced into the wild since the program began in 2009,” said Mr. Hislop.

He said that as the bird breeding season slows down and chicks begin leaving the nests, parent birds will begin their moult, changing from breeding plumage back to their regular non-breeding appearance.

“During this process, it is not unusual to see birds in transition looking bald and scraggly as their old feathers drop off and they wait for the new plumage to grow in,” he explained.

It has also been a successful breeding year for the Turtle Farm’s white crowned pigeons.

“With about 10 breeding pairs, some of which have raised two or three clutches for the season, we have a bumper crop of juvenile captive-bred white crowned pigeons for wild release this year,” said Mr. Hislop.

There are already 16 juveniles undergoing preparations for wild release. After those birds have completed their transition to wild feed and are released, likely to be later this month, Mr. Hislop said there are at least another dozen juveniles to be taken out of the aviary for a second release later this summer.

Aviary handfeeding continues to be a highly popular experience for park visitors, and funds collected from donations have supported a number of local conservation efforts over the past financial year, added Mr. Hislop.

From July 2015 to June 2016, more than US$6,170 raised from handfeeding sales supported programs such as the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, fishing line recycling and the Grouper Moon project.