Endangered baby dove fledges at Edinburgh Zoo

The Socorro dove chick at Edinburgh Zoo. Picture: Contributed
The Socorro dove chick at Edinburgh Zoo. Picture: Contributed
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A BABY dove of a species famous for its males’ aggressive mating tactics but driven to the brink extinction by sheep and cats has fledged at Edinburgh Zoo, to the delight of experts.

The Socorro dove chick hatched on the 9th July before fledging and taking flight 14 days later, it was announced.

The success brings hope for the “incredibly rare” species of which fewer than 100 pure-bred individuals are left in the world.

The bird has been extinct in the wild since the early 1970 and exists now only in captivity.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which runs Edinburgh Zoo, has bred the birds since 2005 and raised an astounding 12 chicks to date, as part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).

Announcing the latest hatching, the leader of the Bird Team Leader at the Zoo, Colin Oulton said: “We are delighted to see another incredibly rare Socorro dove hatch, the first from a new breeding pair sent to us as part of the EEP. Male Socorro doves are notoriously aggressive in their pursuits of mates, which is one of the reasons breeding this species can be difficult.

“It is incredibly sad to think that this species is now extinct in the wild and only around 100 exist in captivity. The hatching of this bird highlights the significant role zoos play in conserving species and helping to increase population numbers of rare animals. Due to coordinated breeding programmes with zoos across the world, this species has been saved and we are able to increase the numbers and hopefully reintroduce them back into their native habitat.”

The young bird, which has yet to be sexed, is currently off-show at the zoo, together with its parents. However an adult Socorro dove can be spotted in the Brilliant Birds Enclosure at the Zoo.

The Socorro dove was endemic to Socorro Island, nearly 400 miles off the west coast of Mexico, but the introduction of sheep that ate plants the doves depended on for food and shelter, and cats that preyed upon the birds, is thought to have caused their demise.

Work is currently taking place on Socorro Island to ensure it is suitable for the future reintroduction of the doves.

In 2008 RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and Paignton Zoo, Devon, have collectively sent 12 Socorro doves to Albuquerque Zoo, New Mexico, to form a satellite breeding group amongst North American collections.

Subsequently, several birds were transferred from there to Africam Safari in Pueblo, Mexico in 2013 and the following year saw the first Socorro dove chicks hatched in Mexico for almost 40 years. The hope is that these birds will provide offspring to be reintroduced to their native habitat on the island of Socorro, Mexico, in the near future.