Thick-billed Parrots are one of the long-term success stories at the Sacramento Zoo. In 1985, Susan Healy, the Zoo’s Supervisor of Birds and Herps became the studbook keeper for this species, and in 1988 she was given the added task of coordinating and managing the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) under the guidance of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The Sacramento Zoo has been a home to this species since 1975 and is the most successful zoo in the world to breed Thick-billed Parrots. The success continued this year with three chicks hatching on August 5, 6 and 10. The parents are both zoo-bred birds with the female hatching here is 2001 and the male hatching at the Queens Zoo in 2008.
Keepers were excited to see that two pairs laid clutches of eggs this season. After evaluating the pairs’ clutches they decided to move one egg (from a clutch of three eggs) into the nest of the other. The second nest contained two eggs (one known to be infertile). The newly introduced egg hatched but the seemingly-viable first egg did not. By making the decision to move an egg, keepers enabled the parents with the unsuccessful eggs to be able to still raise a baby, allowing both pairs the experience of raising healthy chicks. In essence, these three hatchlings have the same parents but were incubated by two sets of bird pairs. These chicks represent the fourth generation of successful breeding of an endangered species at the Sacramento Zoo.
Thick-billed Parrot chicks, including ours, fledge from the nest at around two months of age. While learning to navigate in their environment, the chicks continue to receive care and feeding from parents, occasionally up to a year’s time. As the chicks venture from the nest box you will be able to distinguish them from the adults by their juvenile white beaks; adults have black beaks.
Thick-billed Parrots are the only parrot native to the United States, but loss of habitat due to deforestation and fires drove them out of Southern Arizona and New Mexico in the early 1920s, to ranging only in Northern and Central Mexico.