Identification leg rings fitted to Scarlet Ibis chicks
August 2021 - Vet Blog by Paul Hall
For the first instalment in our Vet Blog let’s start positively. Our resident flock of Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber) have been hard at work this summer looking after their new chicks. In total four chick are being reared. It won’t be long before they are out of the nest in full view but until then if you are visiting the park look carefully at the nest boxes on the far wall of the aviary and you may see one.
To aid the day-to-day care and management of our animals as well as complying with zoo regulations, all animals should be individually identified unless not possible such as with small invertebrates. Scarlet Ibis are beautiful birds but look identical whether old, young, male or female so we can’t use photos to identify them. Therefore, we need to identify them by other means. For the ibis, like many other birds, we use leg rings. We need to fit the rings before the chicks fledge the nest as it is much harder to identify which chick belongs to which parents. Not to mention much harder to catch them when they can fly! Identification is important to prevent inbreeding, maintain a healthy genetic population and allow accurate health record keeping.
Today was the day we fitted their rings. Each chick was collected from the nest and a coloured ring placed around their tarsometatarsus (lower leg). To prevent us having to catch them a second time we also took the opportunity to perform a quick health check and collect a sample for DNA sexing. For this a pin prick of blood is taken from the side of the toe to send to an external laboratory. Although this may sound stressful or painful the birds don’t react at all, and it doesn’t hurt them.
Our four chicks all look really healthy, and the oldest ones are only days away from leaving the nest. They were unperturbed by the experience and back to their normal activities once back in their nests.