On May 24, 2015 the Houston Zoo’s flock got a little larger. The zoo is proud to announce the addition of a male St. Vincent Amazon parrot, Mustique Springer. The tiny bird weighed only 16.69 grams when hatched and now is standing a proud 510 grams. The bird derives his full name from Mustique Island, which is off the coast of his native St. Vincent, and from the late Fitzroy Springer who dedicated his life to the conservation of this species. The chick is named in his memory and will go by Springer for short.
A team of bird keepers at the zoo have been hand raising Springer behind-the-scenes since he poked through his shell, providing round-the-clock care in the first few weeks following his hatching. This included taking Springer home with them and waking up every few hours to keep with his strict feeding schedule.
“Hand-rearing a bird is a time consuming process,” said Chris Holmes, assistant curator of birds and Springer’s main caretaker. “Life revolves around the chick’s feeding schedule and sometimes you forget to feed yourself! It is very rewarding to know that the chick you are investing so much time in could live for hopefully 40 or more years.”
Like many other species that call the Houston Zoo home, the St. Vincent Amazon parrot has a special history with the zoo. In 1972, the Houston Zoo became the first institution to successfully hatch the species. Springer is the fourth chick hatched at the Houston Zoo and the first male since 1972. The last chick to be hatched was a female, Vincent, in 2008. Springer’s birth is significant in more ways than one. His mother, Baliceaux, was also hatched at the Houston Zoo in 1999 and Springer’s birth marks the first time a Houston Zoo hatched bird has reproduced. The St. Vincent Amazon parrot is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with an estimated 734 remaining in the wild based on a 2004 census, however their population is slowly increasing. Being the national bird of St. Vincent Island and the Grenadines, the parrots are native to the forested mountains of these Caribbean Islands. Although they are characterized by their unique multi-colored feathers, Springer was born with whitish down and will continue to get more colorful as he matures.
Springer will need to be a bit older before making his public debut in a few years. Guests can see the four other St. Vincent Amazon parrots already in public view at the Houston Zoo in Birds of the World.