The rarest triple: three chicks of the ground hornbill appeared at Moscow zoo


The nestlings were obtained from one pair and hatched on April 1, 20 and 23. Now the specialists-ornithologists manually feed them, but already in July the feathered baby crows can be seen at the exposition in the outdoor enclosure located near the "Birds House" pavilion.

The hatching of three chicks of the Kaffir horned crow in one pair of adult specimens occurred for the first time in history of Moscow zoo, as well as in the domestic and European zoo practice in general. In addition, even in African reserves specializing in the creation of an artificial population of Kaffir horned crows, the simultaneous appearance of three chicks is a huge rarity. Usually in a zoo, a pair of birds brings one chick per year at best, and in nature these figures are even less: according to statistics, the chicks of the kaffir horned crow appear once every ten years. This is due to the fact that in unfavorable years, when there is little food or adult birds are stressed, the reproduction does not occur.

Kaffir crows are listed in the International Red Book as a vulnerable species, their population in nature is catastrophically small and, according to forecasts of some scientists specializing in African fauna, this species may disappear in its natural habitat in the next 10 - 15 years.

“The appearance of chicks of the Kaffir horned crows is a great joy for Moscow zoo, as well as for the world zoo community. Over the past few years, our specialists have managed to create optimal conditions for the maintenance and successful reproduction of these rare birds. A pair of adult birds has been kept at the zoo since 1998, but it was possible to get offspring for the first time only in 2017, when the birds were already 23 years old. For the Kaffir crows, whose average life expectancy is 35-40 years, it is quite a respectable age. Our crows became parents the second time in 2018, and this spring they got offspring again. However, the fact that we managed to save all the chicks of this year is the merit of our ornithologists. They were constantly watching the process of hatching eggs and as soon as they noticed that the female began to behave restlessly, they took the eggs in a special incubator. Otherwise, it could simply break the eggs, which, by the way, is a quite common phenomenon among kaffir crows, which can be called hyperactive and very restless birds,” - Moscow zoo CEO Svetlana Akulova said.

Now the chicks are in the interior of the "Birds House", where they are manually fed by ornithologists. Their diet includes all kinds of insects and their larvae, raw meat, as well as special mineral supplements. The chicks are just beginning to fledge; the weight of the oldest of them is 4 kg, while the younger ones weigh 2 and 1.7 kg. However, the crows are growing quite quickly: in a month they will reach a weight of 5-6 kg, they will actively explore the world around them, learn to fly and move around all possible surfaces. That is when they will be transferred to the outdoor enclosure located near the "Birds House", where the crows will be able to move and play a lot. Soon, the zoo staff will begin to conduct special training with the grown chicks: this species has very well developed intellectual abilities, therefore, in the conditions of the zoo, its representatives need to be given as many different tasks as possible so that they have the opportunity to show all their behavioral diversity.


The homeland of Kaffir horned crows is Southern Kenya, Angola, Northern Namibia, Botswana. These amazing birds can be found in forests and savannas; they live in small groups consisting of a breeding pair and its chicks staying with their parents until they reach puberty. Each group has its own territory and carefully protects its borders, scaring competitors. Horned crows spend most of their time on the ground, where they get their food. The basis of their diet consists of arthropods, including grasshoppers, beetles, scorpions and termites; as well as frogs, lizards, snakes (even poisonous), turtles, small rodents. The bird cracks down on its prey with strong blows of a large beak, and then throws it into the air to make it easier to swallow. A unique feature of the Kaffir crows is the rich vocalization. Often the cries of crows, which spread for 3-4 km around, can be confused with the roar of lions.

Today, Moscow zoo contains only seven Kaffir crows: an adult breeding couple, two teenagers born in 2017 and 2018, as well as three newborn crows. Guests of the zoo can admire adult birds in the enclosure located to the right of the entrance to the “Birds House”, and grown chicks live in a separate enclosure in the old territory of the zoo next to the crowned cranes. The birds are active throughout the day, and since they have been fed and raised by humans, they are not afraid of visitors at all. The chicks born this spring will move to the neighboring enclosure closer to July. At first, they will be kept separately from their relatives, however zoologists gradually plan to join the crows into one group, since in nature these birds live in groups of five or more individuals.