Zookeepers give helping hand to exotic starling chicks

Bird keepers at Chester Zoo have provided around-the-clock care to six exotic starling chicks.


The tiny grosbeak starlings, which are native to Indonesia, have been successfully hand-reared after being fed a combination of pinky mouse and papaya every few hours for five weeks.

Now fully fledged, all six birds have made their first public appearances in the zoo’s new Monsoon Forest exhibit – the biggest zoological building in the UK and part of a £40m Islands zone at the zoo which is aiming to put a spotlight on the conservation of animals and plants from South East Asia. 

Bird keeper Leanne Lowton said:

“The birds started out each weighing just a few grams and helping such tiny little chicks to eat requires a high degree of patience and lots of gentle encouragement.

“We use delicate little tweezers to deliver food to them and then it’s really important to keep track of their development along the way. To do this we pop them on to a mini set of scales and check their weight every day – making sure they’re getting everything they need. 

Zookeepers give helping hand to exotic starling chicks (11)

“For a good few months it’s a time consuming process and life does tend to revolve around the chicks’ feeding schedule but it’s ever-so-rewarding to see them go on and fledge.”  

Curator of birds, Andrew Owen, added:

“It’s vitally important that our bird staff have opportunities to hone their hand-rearing skills at the zoo as it’s these very same techniques that we can use to help seriously threatened species in the wild.

“Right now, for example, we have two keepers from the zoo based in Mauritius working with some of the world’s most critically endangered birds. It’s all of the knowhow and intricate techniques that they’ve learnt at the zoo that’s enabling them to play a key role in helping to conserve the likes of the Mauritius olive white-eye, Mauritius fody and Mauritius cuckoo shrike. ”

Chester Zoo works towards the conservation of numerous bird species around the world including projects in Bali, Java and Sumatra.