Park celebrates captive-breeding of a beach stone-curlew

How's this for a pair of feet? 

They belong to a beach stone-curlew chick (Esacus neglectus), the first to be bred in captivity.

The bird was hatched at the Territory Wildlife Park (TWP) near Darwin, Australia. The park was also the first to keep this scarce species - it is listed as Near-threatened on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - in captivity.

TWP assistant curator life sciences, Damien Stanioch, said: “Beach stone-curlews are choosy about their habitat and will only live and nest in areas with the right balance of mangroves, sand and rocks to assist survival of the chick. This newborn chick represents a great success in the breeding and research programme at the park.”

The beach stone-curlew has become rare on the eastern coast of Australia. It lays only one egg on the beach, just above the high-tide mark. This habit has left the species vulnerable to habitat loss and predation, since it needs undisturbed open beaches, exposed reefs, mangroves and tidal sand.  

Mr Stanioch said: “Beach stone-curlews have to contend with a great deal of environmental pressures. They must not only fend off birds of prey, egg-stealing monitors and other predators, but must lay their egg between the king tides to ensure an incubation period of 30 days.

“We didn’t really know whether they would successfully breed in captivity, given that the parents themselves were hand-raised to help them adjust into a captive environment.”

The chick is expected to live in the family unit for about 18 months – as in the wild, helping to raise the next season’s chick before becoming independent.

We first reported on this story in our August 20, 2009 issue.