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Boat-Billed Herons

Boat-Billed Herons

Boat-Billed Herons (Cochlearius cochlearius) Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo recently welcomed two new family members to the Rainforest Building: a pair of Boat-Billed Herons. The male and female herons are named Burt and Loni. They have taken up residence in the New World’s Tropics habitat. Burt is approximately six years old; Loni is approximately three years old.  Boat-Billed Herons, commonly known as “boatbills,” are named for their oddly shaped bill that resembles an overturned rowboat. Boat-Billed Herons commonly leave their nests after sundown to feed during the night. Interestingly, it has been observed that they do not feed when a light source is present, such as daylight, moonlight, or artificial light.  Description: Boat-Billed Herons have plumage that is pale grey to white in color, with chestnut colored abdomens and black flanks. They are a stocky, medium-sized bird. Boat-billed herons have shorter legs and squatter bodies than most other heron species. They also have large, dark eyes, which help in foraging for food in the dark. Their bills are primarily black and they are as wide as their heads. Their bill is also very sensitive, allowing them to feel out prey in murky water. They are approximately 20 inches long; they weigh a little over a pound. They have a wingspan of 30 inches. Boat-Billed Herons have specialized downy feathers that don’t molt and grows continuously throughout the bird’s life. The ends break off as a powder that the bird then uses while preening to waterproof its other feathers. The male Boat-Billed Heron is slightly larger than the female and has a longer occipital plume than the female. Their calls include a high- pitched...
Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) This dabbling duck species sometimes flies into Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo from the Pequonnock River.  The Northern Pintail Duck has a distinctive silhouette; they have long necks and long pointed tail feathers. The distinctive tail feathers have led to some of the nicknames for Northern Pintail Ducks that include ‘sprig’, ‘spike’, and ‘spiketail’. Northern Pintail Ducks can fly up to 65 miles per hour. They have earned the title of “nomads of the skies” due to their extensive migratory routes. DESCRIPTION: Northern Pintail Ducks are medium-sized ducks. They have a slim, long neck and a long, pointed tail. They have black bills, dark brown eyes and gray legs. Their wingspans are approximately 35 inches across. The male and female Northern Pintail Ducks are not noticeably different in size.  They are between 20 and 30 inches in length. They weigh between 1 and 3 pounds.  A male Northern Pintail Duck, called a drake, has two distinctive sets of plumage. The breeding plumage consists of chocolate brown plumage covering his head with white plumage covering the neck and lower body. The sides and upper back are gray. The long, lower back feather are black with pale edges. The rear of the wing contains a bright patch of plumage (called the speculum) and is bronzy greenish with a black band and white rear edge. The eclipse plumage is a duller version of the breeding plumage and is brownish overall.  A female Northern Pintail Duck, called a hen, has gradations of tan plumage on the face and body. The plumage on the lower breast and belly are white. They have long...
Ringed Teal

Ringed Teal

Ringed Teal (Callonetta leucophrys) This duck species is a member of the wood duck group and is one of the smallest ducks in the world. Like all wood ducks, the Ringed Teal has a distinctive gait. When walking on land is appears almost to limp. They are agile, strong fliers and are also known as “perching ducks”. DESCRIPTION: Ringed Teals are wood ducks that are 14 to 15 inches in length.  They only weigh about 12 ounces.  Their wingspans are approximately 28 inches across. They have brown eyes. Ringed Teals have slender gray-blue bills that have many tiny, plate-like ridges along the edges called lamellae. The lamellae are coarse and allow them to cut vegetation like teeth. Ringed Teal adults have beautiful iridescent green plumage. They can be identified especially by the white patch in front of a bright green patch of plumage (called the speculum). The male Ringed Teal, called a drake, has a speckled, pinkish breast and a light tan head that is bordered by a striking black line of plumage. The black line extends down to the base of the neck and then partially around it, forming an incomplete ring. Males also have dark, chestnut backs and gray flanks. Female Ringed Teals, called hens, are less vibrant. They have an olive brown back, a barred chest and belly, and white blotches on the head. They have a dark tail and pale rump. Ringed Teals have light pink legs and toes with sharp strong claws that allow them to perch high in trees. They are considered dabbling ducks. Dabbling means they swim and dip their bills, heads and...
Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) These elegant waterfowl may be found in the pond area of Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo’s New England Farmyard area. In the wild, while rare in Connecticut, they do occasionally visit nearby salt marshes during a migratory stopover. They are similar to the slightly larger, more common Trumpeter Swan. Tundra Swans have heavy bodies and long necks. They are covered in white feathers. When they fly, the wind moving through their wing feathers makes a characteristic whistling sound that gives them their nickname. They sleep on the water in winter but during the breeding season they usually sleep on land. Description: Tundra Swans are covered in white feathers. Their beak, legs and feet are the only part of Tundra Swans that are not white. They have black beaks with a smudge of yellow at the base. The legs and feet are also black. Young Tundra Swans have a gray tint to the feathers on their wings, necks and head. Once mature, they will be the characteristic white associated with swans.  Their long necks are stretched out straight in line with their bodies as they fly but when on land or water they hold their heads up tall on their necks. They often forage in water like dabbling ducks, which means they dip their heads and necks into the water and their body tips up with their backside pointing up to the sky. They can take off into flight from water or land. Their bodies are between 3 and 5 feet long. They have a 66-inch wingspan. They can weigh between 8 and 23 pounds. Habitat:They like to nest...
Greater Rhea

Greater Rhea

Greater Rhea (Rhea Americana) Description:At up to five-feet tall, this flightless bird is the largest of all South American birds, weighing up to 90 lbs. They are related to ostriches, emus, cassowaryand kiwis. They have three claws on each foot of their long legs to help them outrun danger. Their five-foot wingspan helps with balance and changing direction as they run. They have fluffy, tattered-looking gray or brown plumage. Males are usually darker in color than females and are generally larger than the females. Habitat:Open grasslands, grassy wetlands and sparse woodlands. Range:Native to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Diet:They enjoy tough plant matter, fruits and seeds but also eat insects, lizards, birds and other small game. They sometimes swallow pebbles to help grind down their food for easy digestion. Life Span:15 years in the wild. Family Life:Rheas breed in the warmer months, between August and January. Males have many different mates. Females lay their eggs, one every other day for a week or ten days, in a ground nest that the male builds. Several females deposit their eggs in the same nest, which may hold 50 or more eggs. The male hatches and raises the young. Once the eggs are hatched, he continues to rear the chicks, guarding them from any potential threat, including humans and even female rheas for the first six months. In winter, rheas are social and flock together. They often congregate with other large animals, such as deer and guanacos, and form mixed herds. Status:Near Threatened due to increased hunting. Rheas are among the world’s largest birds. Upon hatching, they are even larger than...