The recent hatching at Tracy Aviary of a greater vasa parrot represents the first-ever zoological breeding of this rare species of bird.

The charcoal-color baby bird, indigenous to the island of Madagascar (located off the west coast of Africa) and shown to the news media for the first time Thursday, isn't the typical parrot with beautiful feathers and other attractive features.But the bird, which was hatched at the aviary Jan. 29, seems to have a pleasant disposition. It snuggled up to and fluttered in the arms of Rebecca Dennett, chairwoman of the Utah Avicultural Society's endangered-species committee.

The society supplied funds to buy three of the six other greater vasa parrots now at the aviary, which also houses 28 other species of parrots. Headed by Kay Snow, South Salt Lake, the society is an organization of bird breeders and pet owners who have taken an aggressive stand toward preserving endangered species through captive breeding.

The vasa parrot has been in increasing demand recently in the zoo world, with value of the species having more than doubled since the aviary acquired its first bird in 1986. A pair of vasa parrots is now worth about $2,500, according to Mark Stackhouse, the aviary's education and public-relations director.

With seven of the parrots now in its census, Tracy Aviary has the largest population of this particular bird of any zoological facility in the world. Only about 30 of the birds are now in captivity.

"We have tried to breed this bird for a couple of years. This is the first time we have actually been successful in getting a baby hatched and raised to a point that we are confident that it will survive," Stackhouse said in an interview.

"Very little is known about this bird. It is a bird that is not well-understood in the wild, and very little has been recorded

on its breeding behavior," Stackhouse said.

Most wildlife on Madagascar is threatened by rapid deforestation and other environmental degradation. Although greater vasa parrots are not currently listed as an endangered species, such listing appears imminent because of the bird's rapidly deteriorating habitat and declining population.

The baby parrot has been gaining weight and doing well during the past month. The bird receives 90 ccs of cooked monkey biscuits, strained creamed corn, vegetables, peanut butter, vitamins and calcium three times a day. It has been gaining 40 grams a day and weighed 473 grams Thursday morning, said Kerry Singleton, who has been caring for the bird. When fully grown, the parrot is expected to weigh about two pounds.


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See the birds

Some of the parrots are displayed year-round, but the baby parrot will not be shown until later in the spring.Aviary information:

- Location: Liberty Park

- Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

Beginning Sunday, April 7: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

- Cost: Currently free.

Beginning April 7: Children 6-12 years old and senior citizens, 75 cents; children under 6, free; all others, $1.25.

Admission is free for everyone on Mondays.

- Programs: Daily free-flying bird show begins April 7.