Zoo staff is hand-rearing the chicks, which arrived from the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo as fertilized eggs; the chicks’ parents were not able to care for the eggs. The Toledo Zoo has developed a hand-rearing regimen for the species and will share this information with other zoos that may need to hand-rear Australian magpie chicks.
The birds are common in Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. “But Australian magpies have rarely numbered more than 10 individuals in North American zoos accredited by the AZA [Association of Zoos and Aquariums],” Robert Webster, the Zoo’s curator of birds, said.
Currently a total of 11 individuals live at five North American AZA-accredited zoos, including the Toledo Zoo.
Australian magpies are known for their intelligence, striking black-and-white coloration, and melodious songs which are particularly complex. New Zealand poet Denis Glover, in his classic poem, The Magpies, described their sound as, “quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle.” The birds sing for as long as 70 minutes, just before dawn and again at dusk, throughout the winter and spring.
When the Toledo Zoo’s Wild Walkabout exhibit opens on May 24, visitors will see the Australian magpie chicks at the award-winning Nature’s Neighborhood children’s zoo.
“This is an unusual species of bird for any zoo to have,” Robert Webster said, “and we’re looking forward to sharing these animals with our visitors.”