Rare songbirds arrive at Newquay Zoo

Author: Newquay Zoo, United Kingdom

One of the most endangered songbirds in the world has arrived at Newquay Zoo. The Cornish charity zoo is one of only five collections in Europe where Javan green magpies can be seen, making them the rarest species at the zoo.

Native to Java, in Indonesia, the Javan green magpie maintains its vibrant green feathers through a diet rich in vitamins and pigments like luteins. Senior Bird Keeper Gary Ward: “The most important challenge in caring for the green magpies is making sure the insects they eat are loaded with the correct amount of luteins and nutrients to keep their feathers that lovely green.” These magpies are omnivorous –they like a bit of ripe papaya along with insects and mice.

Part of the Corvid family and closely related to crows, the Javan green magpie has a very extensive vocabulary, making it a prime target for the trade in songbirds. Ward: “I hear a different call from them every day, they’re amazing, noisy birds.”

As a result of ongoing trapping pressure from the songbird trade and suitable habitat lost to palm oil plantations, the population of this species is falling at an alarming rate. Its future is likely to be in zoos.   Newquay Zoo’s latest exhibit ‘Gems of the Jungle’ has been created to highlight the issues surrounding the caged bird trade.

The Zoo hopes to help the Javan green magpie by breeding this pair. Although they are currently not old enough, Ward comments: “I’ve noticed them beginning to dance around one another, a sign of courting, so hopefully they could breed soon. We will provide her with the materials she needs to build a nest in the hope that we can begin to play our part in the conservation of this magnificent species. It is imperative that we learn about these birds to prevent their extinction.”