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The big news from CTC’s Caribbean Free Flight Aviary is all about the newly completed accommodation for quarantine and ‘transitioning’ which await the latest batch of rare birds that have been hatched and grown to adulthood within the Caribbean Free Flight Aviary. Grand Cayman Parrots and White Crown Pigeons, part of CTC’s successful ongoing Captive Breeding Programme, are going to spend their last month in captivity there before being released into the wild. The new cages are big and spacious, enabling them to explore natural behavior patterns, while interaction with humans is kept to a minimum. “It is actually a ‘duplex, because we are going to put the Grand Cayman Parrots on one side, and the White Crown Pigeons on the other,” said Geddes Hislop, CTC’s Curator of Terrestrial Exhibits and Education Programmes. “It is all ready, except that it is still waiting for a little ‘furniture,’ such as perches and shade-boxes, before the birds are moved in.”
Explaining the ‘transitioning’ process, Mr. Hislop said: “We need to isolate the birds from the rest of the birds in the flock, as well as for humans, because we need to de-sensitize them. We cut out commercial feed pellets and sunflower pellets, and introduce more of the kinds of fruits they are likely to see in the wild. We give the fruit to the parrots complete with part of the branch which we found the fruit on, so that when the parrots are flying over the tree, they will recognize the fruits better. What is given to the parrots will depend on the kinds of wild fruits which are in season, but they might include sea grapes, Wild Turmeric, almonds, and Silver Thatch berries. The only time they see us is when we feed them, and apart from that, we don’t interact with them in any way.”
Four parrots, including the group of three ‘triplets’ which hatched together in 2016, and one younger parrot, named Fiona, in addition to the White Crown Pigeons will be the first ‘tenants’ of the new accommodation. The parrots are of particular interest, because, unlike the White Crown Pigeons, Grand Cayman Parrots cannot be found anywhere else in the world apart from the Island of Grand Cayman, and despite surveys which have put their population number at around 6000, they are still endangered because so much development, for example, the building of new roads, hotels and condos on Grand Cayman, as well as the draining of swamplands have all served to diminish their habitat. Parrots like to nest in old, hollow trees, Ms. Hislop said, and they will go back to the same tree year after year, but if it is cut down, that means that the parrot pair will have to compete with other parrots for a suitable nest.