Nashville Zoo is pleased to announce the hatching of our second and third Blue-billed Curassow chicks, both male, the last of three eggs produced over the month of June to parents Albert, 3, and Victoria, 5. This critically endangered species is rare in zoos and can be challenging to breed. All three of the chicks needed assistance to hatch from the egg when they failed to crack through the eggshell.
Chicks usually do not need full assistance to hatch from their shell. A chick will internally pip, break through a membrane into the air filled pocket of the egg, and then rest a few hours, up to 48 hours, before externally pipping through the egg shell and hatching. Nashville Zoo Avian staff made the decision to assist the hatching once the chicks had pipped into the aircell of the egg for 48 hours with no signs of externally pipping.
The process consisted of Nashville Zoo Veterinary staff and Nashville Zoo Avian keepers, using tweezers and other small instruments to delicately remove bits of the eggshell, which is slightly thicker than an average chicken egg.
Once most of the shell was removed, they released the curassow chick from the egg and tied off the umbilical stalk that was attached to the inner membrane of the shell. The umbilicus usually heals on its own within one to two days after hatching.
The chicks, weak and damp at first, were fluffy and walking within 24 hours. The second and third chicks, which hatched two days apart, are now growing up together. Their older brother, born in the beginning of June, is starting to get his adult plumage and is growing up with his chicken “brother.”
There are only 56 blue-billed curassows in zoos across the country and only about 750 in the wild. The population has been in decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
Blue-billed curassows are believed to live in the same areas in Colombia as cotton-top tamarins, a primate species that was recently introduced in our Expedition Peru exhibit. The Zoo is contributing to the conservation project Proyecto Titi, helping to protect cotton-top tamarin habitat. This will potentially benefit the curassows and many other species. Houston Zoo has placed trail cameras to try and capture images of blue-billed curassow living in these protected areas.
People can help save this species by reading labels to make sure the products they are buying are from sustainable markets. Curassow and many other species need the protection of the forests to continue to thrive, so make sure to look for Rainforest Alliance Certified and Bird Friendly labels on products.