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September 2019 – Aviculture

4 Oct 2019

Our Head of Species Manager, Chrissie, reflects on September

You may recall meeting three of our red squirrel kittens earlier this year when BBC Countryfile came to film progress of the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group, for which I am co-ordinator. The Countryfile presenters named the three kittens Ignacious, Idyll and Indiana and thanks to detailed studbooks for these squirrels we are able to delve into their parentage. From looking back over 10 generations, which date back to the mid 1990’s, we are able to see that names in their family tree include Terry, Basil, Holly and Brownie.

Each year, we select a new letter to head-up the names of the squirrels born within that year. In 2020 the kitten names will start with the letter ‘J’ and we are already receiving name suggestions from our visitors.

September is always a planning month, regarding moving the squirrel soon to be released, where we look at all of this year’s kittens, confirm sexes and then decide where they will be going. Some will head off to North Wales to be a part of the release programme there while others will be paired up and moved to other member sites of the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group.

Photography by Steve Adams


We often get asked to explain the odd behaviour occasionally exhibited by the squirrels whereby they run in a small circuit, or hop back and forth. This behaviour is called ‘stereotyping’ and is more common at this time of year on account of young squirrels with seemingly endless amounts of energy to burn! Although it’s normal behaviour we understand why our visitors become concerned.

It is through our links to red squirrel organisations across the UK that we are able to keep in touch with the latest research into this behaviour and to provide new enrichment techniques to support their development. This can involve playing games such as hiding food or enhancing their enclosures with new runways. They are intelligent little creatures so our overriding priority is to ensure that they are healthy, stimulated and show no signs of stress.

You may have seen in the press that last month we discovered our first flamingo egg here at Pensthorpe. Our ever-growing flock is now expanding as a beautiful flamingo chick hatched from the egg just before the end of September. This is a first for us and confirmed that increasing our flock size and moving the birds to a new enclosure has encouraged breeding success. The parents are looking after the chick very well, even though they are first-time parents! The timing is interesting – Greater flamingo normally nest in May! However it’s important that the birds have the experience of hatching and rearing, so we hope the weather will be kind and the chick will grow and thrive with the rest of the group.