SALT LAKE CITY — Most New Year's resolutions are abandoned by February, but Salt Lake's Tracy Aviary is already well on its way to fulfilling one of its goals for the year.
The aviary hopes to hatch three white-throated ground doves by the end of the year, and the first chick was hatched in January — making it the first chick of this species ever hatched at the facility.
The species, native to the Mariana Islands, is classified as near-threatened with a declining population by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Tracy Aviary is home to six of 49 white-throated ground doves within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums network. It is part of the association's Species Survival Plan for the doves, aimed at protecting the population.
"That's just to ensure that we are allowing birds to breed together that are going to produce healthy offspring that can continue to contribute to the population," said Kate Lyngle-Cowand, aviculture director. "We're more of an assurance population just to make sure they're still around."
Before the parents of the chick mated, the female was paired with another male dove for almost two years and the two were unable to hatch any chicks. The new male, the father of the chick, was introduced in October and he "hit it off" with the female almost immediately, according to Bliss Capener, aviculturist at the aviary.
The two lovebirds are already incubating another egg, one that's likely fertile, Lyngle-Cowand said. If fertile, the chick will hatch after about 17 days.
"They didn't waste any time," she said. "And these guys — I mean, all birds are important — but these birds are especially important because they're near-threatened in the wild, their population is declining."
The family of three live in the Treasures of the Rainforest exhibit and the male who was unable to reproduce with the female was relocated to another exhibit at the facility.
"It's just really rewarding to see that finally something is working and that they are successful together after trying a lot of different things to get them to breed," Capener said.
According to Lyngle-Conwand, keepers tried several different things, like changing the birds' diets, to encourage breeding between the previous pair, to no avail — even after two years of trying.
In the wild, the doves' population is threatened by habitat loss and invasive species like the brown tree snake. The aviary is a part of Marian Avian Conservation program, which helps breed near-threatened species to increase the population and provide a safety net if the species in the wild declines further.Comment on this story
"We on our end are making sure that the species is breeding and the species is sustainable and is growing," Lyngle-Conwand said. "Conservation is at the soul of Tracy Aviary. It's not just birds, but it's protecting habitats here in Utah and around the world."
Educating people is also an important part of conservation, she said.
"If they come here they can find a way to connect to nature and become inspired and just make daily choices in their own lives that effect the lands here in Utah and around the world," Lyngle-Conwand said.
The aviary, located at 589 E. 1300 South, is home to more than 400 birds and 135 species of birds.