National Zoo announces hatching of 2 endangered blue-billed curassows

WASHINGTON — Two chicks that recently hatched at the National Zoo in Washington are causing more than a peep among bird lovers.

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The two female blue-billed curassows, which are critically endangered, hatched earlier this month, The Washington Post reported.

According to a news release from the zoo, the first chick, Aluna, hatched on Aug. 5. Her sister, Lulo, hatched on Sunday. The two birds are being cared for at an off-exhibit site.

Aluna is the first offspring for her 6-year-old mother, Jackie, zoo officials said. The chick’s 16-year-old father, JB, previously sired chicks at another facility. Keepers report that the sisters are thriving and describe them as “confident and curious.”

The parents were bred on the basis of their “genetic compatibility, personality, health and temperament,” as part of a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, according to the Post.

Jackie laid Aluna’s egg on July 6 and Lulo’s on July 27, zoo officials said in a statement. Typically, female curassows incubate their eggs for 29 to 31 days. However, Jackie did not show interest in incubating her eggs, leading zoo officials to move them to an incubator.

According to the National Zoo’s website, the blue-billed curassow is black with white feathers on its rear underbelly and at the tip of its tail. It has a light-gray bill with a fleshy blue structure at the base of its bill.

Females are black with black-and-white crest feathers, and fine white barring on their wings and tail. They have a ruddy lower belly and a bluish base to their bill. Only the female grows a knob on the bill.

The female bird can attain heights of 32 to 36 inches when standing, the zoo said.

“Every moment with these chicks has been a dream come true for me,” Heather Anderson, an animal keeper at the zoo, said in a statement. “I have had the goal to breed the blue-billed curassow since my first year of zookeeping. It was amazing to watch these precocial birds as their instinctual abilities to eat, perch and preen their feathers kicked in -- all in the first day of life! For other bird species, those milestones could take weeks to achieve.”

The blue-billed curassows are native to Colombia and are considered critically endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature. Scientists believe that between 1,000 and 2,500 of the birds remain in the wild.

The North American blue-billed curassow population has 73 birds, including Aluna and Lulo, WJLA-TV reported.