Puppet-rearing a hooded vulture chick
If you have been following our social media networks over the last week, you might have seen that the Bird Team has been hand-raising a critically endangered hooded vulture chick! This is the first successful hatch of any vulture species here at Zoo Atlanta, so we are very excited! The chick hatched on April 9, so it is now 1 month old and weighs about 800 grams, or just under 2 pounds. It was very important that this chick recognize itself as a vulture and not imprint on humans, so we have been using the strategy of puppet rearing. We use a puppet made to look like an adult vulture to feed and interact with the chick while hiding the rest of our bodies with a visual block.
One of the chick’s first big milestones happened just a couple weeks ago. The chick was able to move to the inside area of the hooded vulture habitat on the opposite side of their shift door. This allows the chick to see the adults in the habitat at all times, and vice versa. To be honest, there hasn’t been much interaction yet! The adults are scared of the brooder keeping the chick warm, and the chick is much more interested in its reflection in the mirror than in what’s happening outside. Hopefully this will change in the coming weeks as it gets bigger and moves out of the brooder, and into a larger rearing area in that space. The chick will be much more visible to the adults at this point, and I’m sure it will pique their interest!
Stay tuned for the chick’s next big milestone!
Lead Keeper, Birds