Bird keeper Nikki Watt patiently feeds a toco toucan chick at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in Devon. Paignton is one of two zoos in the UK to house them and one of only two in Europe to breed them.
It’s hard to believe that this little fellow, looking more like a puppet than a real bird, will turn into one of the most striking and familiar birds in the world. The toco is the largest and probably the best-known member of the toucan family.
At just a few days old, the chick was blind, naked and helpless, with a face only a mother – or, in Nikki’s case, a surrogate mother – could love. Yet, at one month, it already looks more like the famous Guinness toucan with its large, colourful bill.
Hand-rearing takes dedication and teamwork, as the chick is hugely demanding: it’s fed first at 7.00am, then every two hours or so until 10.00pm. Each meal of special baby bird formula and fruit has to be prepared and delivered by hand. Keepers carefully record the amounts consumed at each sitting. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.
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