Condor chick leaves the nest
Thursday 30th January 2014
Bird keeper Erin weighs the Andean Condor chick
Bird keeper Erin weighs the Andean Condor chick

As Piglet from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ once said, “It’s hard to be brave when you’re only a very small animal”. But every chick, no matter how big or small, eventually has to leave the nest and for our yet-to-be-named Andean Condor chick, it appears that time is now.

On the 1 January, our chick weighed only 955 grams. Less than a month later she is a whopping 3600 grams, nearly four kilograms! Birds generally grow incredibly quickly and by six months of age this chick will reach adult size.

Amazingly, that is quite slow by bird standards. A Peregrine Falcon for example, would be fully grown by eight weeks of age.

At this stage of the chick’s life, we need to ensure she is making regular weight gains and we monitor this by weighing her daily. We started by weighing her on a small set of kitchen scales, but now as you can see, like the chick; the scale set is much larger.

Only yesterday something very exciting occurred. Our rapidly growing chick decided it was time to leave the nest of her own accord!

In the weeks leading up to this point we could see the chick becoming stronger and putting more weight, for longer periods, on her stubby legs. It was by no means graceful, but honestly a humbling moment to watch as one of her handlers, and something I’ve personally never witnessed before. It was a reminder that no matter how much you’ve seen, our animals never cease to make an impact.

Initially it was just a quick head movement by the entrance of the nest box and I nearly missed it. Next her head popped out again and lingered for a short while before disappearing. It then took a minute or so, but our young chick poked her head back out of the nest box and held it stretched out into the night den area.

Her dad Bruce was in the off-display area with her and whether he was the confidence boost she needed or not, she then set a foot firmly outside the place that has been her home for the past two months, followed swiftly by the next.

The chick looked quite odd just standing there; a round ball of blubber and fuzzy, brown down feathers. Her mother Connie tried to come in a few times, but Bruce kept chasing her off. That worried me for a second, as the chick was gradually shuffling closer to dad and I didn’t want her to be on the wrong side of Bruce if he was in an excited state. Bruce proved to be nothing but an attentive parent though, lightly nudging the chick away if she got too close and providing her with globules of fresh meat to nibble on.

Whilst the chick still has a lot of growing to do before she will waddle out onto exhibit, these are all really good signs that she is healthy and normal.

Keep checking back as we’ll provide some more photos when she’s even bigger again, and maybe not so much of a “very small animal”.

Bird Keeper, Brendan

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