Posted July 2019
The Milwaukee County Zoo is excited to announce the hatching of a cape thick-knee chick to parents Philip and Phoebe. Both parents are very attentive to the chick’s needs and it is developing as expected. Zookeepers do not know its gender yet, as they do not want to disrupt the family during this critical time. The chick should be given a name soon.
Keepers describe the chick as, “small, fluffy, camouflaged and a little unsteady on its legs.” Its parents are teaching it important survival skills, and it primarily feeds on insects, such as crickets and mealworms. The bird should start taking short flights at four weeks of age, but the cape thick-knee bird is mostly a ground dwelling species that doesn’t spend a lot of time in the air.
This is an important hatching for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)*, as it is trying to increase the number of cape thick-knee birds in accredited zoos in order to maintain genetic diversity.
As part of this effort, the chick will stay at the Milwaukee County Zoo with its parents until it’s around one year of age, and then will receive a breeding recommendation from the Thick-Knee Species Survival Program ® (SSP).
Cape thick-knee birds, also known as spotted dikkops, are native to tropical regions of central and southern Africa. The birds can reach almost 18 inches in height, and they can be recognized by their long legs and brown and white speckled plumages. Their colors make it difficult to spot in their grassland and savanna habitats. Cape thick-knees have large heads, with distinguishable yellow eyes and short beaks. They get their name from an extended joint in their ankles, which creates a larger-looking knee area in their legs. Like Killdeer birds in North America, cape thick-knees will perform dramatic "injury displays" to lure predators away from their nest site and chicks.
Visitors can now see the chick and its parents in the Termite habitat in the Herb and Nada Mahler Family Aviary, which is located on the north end of the Zoo. Be sure to look closely, the chick is small and blends in well with its surroundings!
*The Association of Zoos and Aquariums serves as the accrediting body for zoos and aquariums and assures accredited facilities meet higher standards of animal care than required by law.