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Rare and Australian Cockatoo: How to Keep Tabs on Chicks

Aug 24, 2015 03:25 PM EDT
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The Carnaby's cockatoo is an endangered bird that lives only in southwestern Australia, where its habitat is fragmented by large-scale farming. Researchers have been looking at two ways of measuring how effectively nestlings grow and age. These findings could be vital in preservation of this endangered species, and were recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Researcher Dr. Denis Saunders and his team used two methods to measure chicks' aging: The first method was based on changes in the physical appearance of nestlings over the 10-11 week nestling period; the second one measures a nestling's folded wing length and compares it with growth curves from previously measured nestlings that are the established standard for that age level, said a release.

They also examined the timing and length of the egg-laying season. In addition, they found that observing the changes in a nestling's size and feathers is less accurate than measuring the folded wing length, where the main disadvantage was lack of distinguishable physical changes once the birds turn nine weeks old. 

"With experience [these established measurement comparisons] may be useful for gaining an approximation of the commencement and end of the breeding season without having to handle nestlings to take measurements," the team said in the statement. They learned that it's easiest to find nestlings and examine them by visiting twice per breeding season. In addition, they found that egg-laying begins earlier during wetter autumns.

In particular, learning these variations according to weather and more about how to efficiently measure chicks' aging and growth will prove useful in keeping tabs on the endangered birds. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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