SENSATION: the birth of the Balinese starling, one of the rarest birds on Earth!
We are excited to announce the birth of the Balinese starling, one of the rarest birds on Earth! This species pays the highest price for its beautiful, white plumage, believed by the inhabitants of Bali and the surrounding islands to bring good fortune.
The beautifully feathered, singing Bali starling is considered extinct in nature. Its conservation breeding is carried out by zoos around the world. Wrocław has recently joined the circle of institutions that managed to reproduce this species. Two chicks hatched in November and they already have feathers. You will be able to see them in the newly renovated Bird House in spring 2021.
The zoo in Wrocław, like most enterprises, cannot consider this year as good economically. However, in terms of breeding, it has been a successful one. We successfully bred rare and endangered species, contributing to their protection. When visiting the zoo, which is open every day, you can watch this year’s juniors grow: African penguins, manatees, Sumatran tiger, L'Hoest's monkey, Solomon Islands skinks, plain's zebra, spotted eagle rays, mountain hares, Henkel's leaf-tailed gecko, African spurred tortoise, eastern long-necked turtle, Titicaca frogs, ring-tailed lemurs, golden takins and the rare Philippine mouse-deer. And now Bali starlings (Leucopsar rothschildi) have joined this group of exceptional kids.
- It's a beautiful bird that also vocalizes often. Its plumage is white with black tail and wing-tips and bright blue skin around its eyes
It is a small bird, around 25 cm, with a wingspan of 55 cm. It eats mainly fruit and seeds, although it also hunts insects and small vertebrates. The breeding season is our fall - October, November. The female then lays up to 3 eggs, which she incubates for about 2 weeks. Unfortunately, only one chick usually lives to adulthood - says Krzysztof Kałużny, bird keeper at the Wrocław zoo.
The first chicks
The pair of starlings has lived in the zoo for several years, but only now they have had their first brood.
- This is the first successful hatching of this species in our zoo. Last fall the birds tried to nest, but the female was too young. This year, on October 28, the keepers noticed two eggs in the nest box. On November 10, both of them hatched. This is a very important event for us, because these birds are considered to be one of the rarest on Earth. In nature, they were found only on the island of Bali, now only the ones that are released from breeding facilities remain - says Radosław Ratajszczak, president of the Wrocław zoo
Bali starlings, like many other endangered species of birds in the Wrocław Zoo, now live in the back of the Afrykarium until the renovation of the historic Bird House is completed. They will be moved to their new home and available for viewing in the spring of 2021.
On the verge of extinction
When in 2001 a field study was carried out on Bali, the only natural habitat of Balinese starlings, the researchers counted only 6 individuals. In order to save the species, a special breeding station was set up. In 2005 in Bali Barat - West Bali National Park, the first 24 birds were released in the hope of developing the population. Additionally, at the same time, their introduction began on another Indonesian island - Nusa Penida, where in 2009 the population was estimated at 65 adults. These activities allowed to conclude that the species adapts well to conditions similar to its original environment. However, all these initiatives are a Sisyphus task – one step forward and three steps backward, because in 2015 only 12 adults were found on the island of Nusa Penida.
- Every time captive bred Bali starlings were released into nature, they were poached. However, we do not give up and we continue to fight to restore them to nature. Another program is currently underway in Bali Barat Park, and the birds will be ready for reintroduction in 2-3 years. It is possible that one of our chicks will also end up there. It would be a great joy and success for us - adds the president of the zoo.
Life in a cage
The reason why animals are disappearing from nature is habitat destruction and climate change. However, in the case of Bali starlings, poaching and illegal trade pose an even greater threat.
The curse of this species is its beauty and its singing talent. The inhabitants of Southeast Asia believe that birds bring good luck and that their songs ward off evil spirits. White birds in particular are especially powerful. Therefore, it is not surprising that the large number of bird cages at home is an expression of high social status. The allure of Bali starlings does not end there. They are used in singing competitions, exported, consumed, and used in traditional folk medicine. The demand for them is very high, and the trade is mostly illegal and clearly unsustainable. History shows how desirable the bird is. In the mid-1990s, when the black market prices of the Bali starling soared and reached $ 2,000, an armed gang raided a breeding station, killed two guards, and stole 39 birds waiting to be released into nature.
Illegal bird-catching in Southeast Asia has reached such a scale that many forests went silent. The only enclaves are protected parks and reserves, but they are also on the poachers' radar. The problem was highlighted by the "Silent Forest" campaign held by EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), in which Zoo Wrocław participated. We collected funds for the construction and maintenance of aviaries in Indonesia for conservation breeding of endangered bird species. Our visitors can additionally support the activities by purchasing the SAVING WILDLIFE ticket and by making direct donations.