Rare chick hatches at Cornish Zoo

A new hornbill chick – believed to be the only one bred in a European zoo this year – can be seen by visitors to Newquay Zoo for the first time this week.

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New hornbill chick first to be hatched in Europe this year

A new hornbill chick – believed to be the only one bred in a European zoo this year – can be seen by visitors to Newquay Zoo for the first time this week. Credit: Newquay Zoo

A new hornbill chick – believed to be the only one bred in a European zoo this year – can be seen by visitors to Newquay Zoo for the first time this week.

The Papuan Wreathed Hornbill chick has just fledged and been released into the Zoo’s main aviary.

The new addition to the Zoo is a major milestone in terms of the charity’s conservation breeding programmes as Asian hornbills are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity.

The parent hornbills last produced chicks at Paignton Zoo in 2001 but no eggs were successfully hatched over the next 12 years. The pair was transferred to Newquay Zoo in December last year as it was hoped a change of environment might spur them to breed.

"We were on tenterhooks for a month after the female went into the nesting box. When we first heard the sound of a new born chick we were over the moon as it’s been so long since they produced any offspring.

This particular type of hornbill is incredibly difficult to breed in captivity. These birds are very particular about choosing the right mate and they’re extremely sensitive to any environmental changes."

– Keeper Gary Ward

While the Papuan Hornbill is not currently endangered, the expertise gained from breeding them will help to ensure the survival of species such as the Sulu Hornbill and Visayan Wrinkled Hornbill which face possible extinction due to hunting and habitat loss in their native Philippines.

The sex of the new bird won’t be known for a while. It currently has pale brown feathers around its neck and face as the adult male has – if it turns out to be female, these feathers will start to turn black at around five months.

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