March 3, 2019
Birds with “Beards”
- as seen by -Lisa Walker
A few months is all it took for a female western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) chick — so small that she could fit in the palm of a keeper’s hand — to become a full-grown rather large grouse. Before she crashed the party, WCS’s Bronx Zoo World of Birds had a capercaillie male with two females that had not produced any offspring in a few years. The addition of this new female into the exhibit is great news because she is unrelated to the group and brings different genes to the mix.
The young chick put her “beard” on full display when first introduced to the group to make herself appear big and tough. And it worked. A bird “beard” is not a technical term, but it’s certainly the one that comes to mind when viewing these magnificent animals strutting around with the feathers under their chins sticking out. The male immediately came over to inspect his new roommate and was appeased. The resident females took some convincing, but the young female kept her head high and beard puffed to show she belonged there. They quickly accepted her, too.
Come and visit the zoo’s World of Birds and marvel at our birds with “beards”— our western capercaillies.
EDITOR’ S NOTE: The story of capercaillies was featured on Sunday’s episode of Animal Planet’s THE ZOO now in its third season. The series takes viewers behind the scenes at the Bronx Zoo and the other WCS wildlife parks in New York City to tell powerful, compelling stories of animals and their care givers, and the zoos’ contribution to conserving wildlife around the globe.