Taronga staff trial Woodhen and Currawong holding

Taronga staff trial Woodhen and Currawong holding

In July 2013, four staff from Taronga Zoo Park were here to carry out trial captive holding of Woodhens and Currawongs. As part of the Rodent Eradication project, it will be necessary to catch and hold 200 Woodhens and 100 Currawongs and hold them in captivity on the island to avoid them taking baits or dead rats that have eaten the poison brodifacoum. In 2013 funding was provided for bird keeping staff from Taronga Zoo Park to trial keeping 20 Woodhens and 10 Currawongs on the Island for a period of three months. This trial enabled confirmation that the pen design and diet for the birds was going to be suitable. The pens and diet were modeled on successful captive holding of Wekas in New Zealand, the closest relative of the Woodhen. The pens had the floor covered in palm fronds and leaf litter, with palm trunks and logs scattered throughout the pens to replicate the Woodhen’s natural habitat. From the Weka studies it was known that although these birds defend and maintain a small territory in the wild, when kept in captivity with numbers in a confined area they settle well and live together without increased aggression.
The Currawongs were kept in pairs in large, long flight aviaries. Many bird species have been kept in similar pens at Taronga Zoo without any problems. 
The birds were fed a diet that combined natural foods and live food items as well as a portioned captive diet that is both nutritionally balanced and varied. Mike Shiels gave me a tour of the facility towards the end of the trial, and he said all went well, with no surprises, and he is confident that the larger number of birds can be kept when the rodent eradication takes place.