11 30/11/2010

Smitten Hornbill has keepers in a flutter

A LOVE-SICK Great Indian Hornbill is in need of a new companion – after a date brought in especially for him fell for her keepers instead.

Chester Zoo’s bird team brought in 11-year-old Eliza as a breeding companion for the zoo’s male Great Indian Hornbill.

But Eliza showed her true colours when she fell head over wing for her keepers rather than her new mate – to the extent that she would regurgitate food for keepers as a sign of affection.

Although not much is known about the Eliza, it is believed she may have been hand-reared and is imprinted, bonding more easily with humans as a result.

Eliza came to Chester from Vogel Park Avifauna in Holland, but belongs to Lourosa Zoo in Portugal. She is believed to have originally come to Europe from the Philippines, but her records are rather vague. However Vogel Park which run a ‘hornbill dating agency’ had hoped they had found the unnamed male the perfect mate.

Despite being unlucky in love, both Eliza and her companion are happy spreading their wings in the zoo’s Tropical Realm.

Wayne McLeod, Chester Zoo’s Bird Team Leader, said: “We believe that Eliza has been partially hand reared which explains why she is so friendly towards people. When an animal is hand reared it can become imprinted on humans and often doesn’t mix well with its own species as a result.

“Eliza is very people orientated and when keepers go into her enclosure she will fly over and regurgitate food to them as birds would do with each other.

“Although it may take a long time for her to ever be successfully mixed with a male she is quite happy in the tropical house as the public provide great enrichment for her as there is always something and someone for her to see.”

The hunt for a suitable mate for the male will now continue.

Cap: Alexandra Gray with lovelorn Eliza.