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April 2020 – Aviculture

22 Apr 2020

Our Head of Species Manager, Chrissie reflects on April

Spring is here and I hope all of our members and past visitors are staying safe and well, and have been able to enjoy the sunshine in any way you can. Pensthorpe is very quiet, and we are missing our colleagues and visitors. The birds on Mill Pond especially, who always appreciate the extra food and interaction the visitors provide. We are giving them a little extra during the day to make up for it! 

With three members of the team remaining, we continue with our daily activities caring for the birds and squirrels throughout the week, making sure we don’t have too much contact with each other, and have stepped up our biosecurity. Luckily having worked within conservation breed and release programmes, where it is vital not to transfer any disease into the wild, disinfecting everything is something that comes naturally.

The corncrake conservation breeding programme has been able to continue, and we will be expecting some of the birds released last year to return over the next month or two. The sound of their call can be heard up to a kilometre away, and they are a species known to breed close to residential areas; so if you hear a strange crexing call, in times of reduced noise levels this summer please get in touch by emailing

When lockdown came in to force, we were well into plans and preparations for a new conservation project in partnership with Natural England, WWT and BTO to help the Eurasian Curlew. This bird has been described as the most important bird conservation priority in the UK, with only six fledgling across the wild of Southern England in 2018. The project has been put on hold until next year, so there will be much more on this to come in the future.

Some of the retired corncrakes have joined the avocet, ruff and other waders in the Wader Aviary.  The ruff are beginning to grow their breeding plumage and the avocet are one of the early nesting species.  We have seen swallows returning and several pairs always build nests in our building at the conservation breeding centre. Other wild visitors to this area are the oystercatchers and shelduck. The pair of swans is also back on the nest by the river. And not forgetting the wild cranes that have been spotted flying over Pensthorpe in the past couple of weeks! 

You may remember last year we were delighted to hatch our first flamingo. The inexperienced flock nested very late in the season and, of the fourteen eggs laid, one was fertile and hatched. We were concerned when the weather got colder and the chick wasn’t thriving so he was brought in, with his parents and two females, to spend the winter inside.  Once the parents stopped feeding him, they rejoined the flock, but the baby wasn’t strong enough, so remained inside with two females being treated for foot health issues. The three have been doing very well and are currently happy in the flamingo house, where we can keep a close eye on them and continue their treatment.  The youngster has been slow to grow, but we are hopeful he will catch up and join the flock very soon.  

The flock have got the timing right this year and are busy building and nesting, with the number of nests and eggs increasing daily! We have set up a secret flamingo cam and will be keeping you updated on progress.