The Bank Cormorant Project - Diary Of A Keeper - Part III
Published: Apr 21, 2015Living Coasts’ senior keeper Lois Rowell has gone to spend 6 weeks in South Africa with local bird charity SANCCOB to help with our joint bank cormorant project. Here’s her third blog entry.
Chicks are hatching! First comes the pipping – when they break the shell. Around a day later they are out. Then the hard work begins…
The chicks are fed every three hours from 6.00am to 9.00pm, that’s six feeds a day. The first two chicks are on a diet of liquidised pinkies (dead baby mice bred for the purpose) mixed with water warmed to body temperature and syringed into the mouth. If you tap them gently around the beak and face it stimulates a feed response. They open their beaks and nod and the food is syringed into the throat and they swallow it. They are quite vocal, they have a raspy, quite harsh call which you can also hear while they are still in the egg. The next one is on a diet of sardine, hake and harder (a species of South African mullet).
We have five chicks now, one was struggling a bit at first but it has picked up and we have a good feeding response now. The oldest chick has very short black fluffy feathers rather like velvet. Its eyes are opening now. He can’t see very well yet but can detect movement when you approach. They are all very noisy when they want to be fed! Three are on the pinky diet and two on the fish diet. Both diets seem to be working well so far. Their bones are checked daily by the resident vet; birds grow very fast and their bones are soft at first, so we need to be very careful that the diets meet their needs, hence the daily vet check.
The other five eggs are all fertile and seem to be developing well in the incubator. The chick rearing unit is also very busy rearing penguin chicks at the moment. Nest monitoring takes place at the colonies around the coast including the ones on Robben Island and Boulders Beach. Eggs that are abandoned or chicks that are not doing well are brought in to the facility to be reared and released. There are also Cape gannets, Hartlaub gulls and swift terns being rehabilitated.
Lois Rowell, senior keeper, Living Coasts