A wild-caught pair of Chestnut-eared Aracari, Pteroglossus castanotis, are housed in the Breeding Facility area. They are in their own aviary. The male was brought into the United States many years ago and was transferred from owner to owner until the facility purchased him from a private breeder. Two females were brought to the aquarium from a zoo in Brazil early summer 1999, but their ages are also unknown. Blood was pulled from each bird and sent away for DNA sexing to make sure we had a pair. The trio was introduced and once the male chose what female he wanted to be with they were placed in the breeding area, July of 1999.
The size of the aviary is 11.5 feet high by 11.5 feet long by 5.9 feet wide. The aviary itself is planted with live plants but also has a rocky floor with wire below to allow food and feces to fall to the floor. The floor is slanted downward so whatever is on the floor will go down into the sewer system. There are misters that are turned on during the day for bathing; they are on more often in the summer than the winter. Although the aviaries are outside there is heating and air conditioning ducts that head/cool the aviaries as necessary. Perches consisted of dead vines we purchase from a farmer in East Texas. Two nest logs were placed in the aviary, a palm log and a wooden box with a false palm log front. The pair of Chestnut-eared Aracari preferred the real palm log. Both nests were placed on the far wall and fairly close together.
It is unknown if either birds was every paired up before. Before laying eggs the pair was often seen grooming each other or feeding each other choice pieces of fruit. In the area where they are at they are able to hear other birds but they are unable to see any of them. When the birds started going into their palm log then the nest was checked every few days. Originally there were three eggs in the nest but about one week into the incubation, one egg disappeared and then a few days before the eggs were due to hatch, another egg disappeared. On June 6, 2000 the third egg hatched. Prior to hatching, the parents were fed mixed melons and papaya with waxworms and crickets sprinkled on top. (Diet) They also always had access to dry Kaytee Softbill pellets. A few days before the chick was hatched, no live food was offered to the parents. Both parents took turns sitting on the eggs and than feeding the baby toucan, but for the most part it was the hen. After nine days the Director of the facility decided that we should pull the chick in the hope that the parents would lay eggs again soon.
When we pulled the chick at nine days it was old enough that we were able to feed it small pieces of fruit and soaked Kaytee low iron pellets (soaked in pedialyte). Three days a week Nekton MSA vitamins were placed on the pellets. Day 12 the baby started to get his feathers in and on day 16 his eyes started to open and were fully opened a week later. At 5 ½ weeks of age the chick was starting to wean.
Blood was pulled from the baby and it was determined that the chick was a boy. We were very excited about this since we have an extra female. Soon we will pair the boy, "Pteri" (pronounced Teri) with the female and hopefully they will form a strong bond and eventually have babies of their own.
The aviary has quite a bit of traffic varying from the keepers, the director, and the construction crew. The Chestnut-eared Aracari seem to tolerate the disruptions more than anyone else since they felt comfortable enough to reproduce. The number of people actually involved with care and maintenance varies, but including the director, two people check on and care for the birds daily.