Corpus Christi, Texas – Two Socorro doves, a species that is extinct in the wild, have hatched at the Avian Sustainability Center at the Texas State Aquarium, a promising sign that these critically-endangered birds could one day recover in their natural habitat with the help of zoos, aquariums and wildlife reserves.
The two Socorro dove chicks came from a pair of adult doves that were transported in June to the Aquarium from the Albuquerque Biological Park in New Mexico. Eight doves in total are now at the Aquarium. The breeding pair constructed a nest and laid eggs soon after their arrival and on June 21 and 22, two eggs were hatched. The two chicks have since been raised almost entirely by their devoted parents. The chicks are primarily fed with crop milk, a secretion that is regurgitated by the adult birds from food they’ve eaten. The adults are mostly fed corn and millet seeds. The two baby Socorro doves have now reached the fledgling stage – meaning they’ve left the nest but are still dependent on parental care and feeding. The parents, while protective of their young, show a calm disposition and often approach their caretakers – a quality unique to the species that’s earned them the nickname “the friendly dove.” The chicks and their parents are being kept in an off-exhibit holding area for the time being, but can be seen by guests who purchase the “Feed the Flock” Exclusive Encounter tour.
Socorro doves were historically found only on Socorro Island of the west coast of Mexico, but were sadly wiped out due to a variety of threats, including the introduction of feral cats from a new military base and overgrazing by sheep. The last confirmed dove sighting on the island was in 1972, and to this day, there are likely fewer than 100 purebred Socorro doves in captivity. But with breeding and husbandry programs spearheaded by zoos and aquariums, the Socorro dove was saved from complete extinction, and there is now hope that the Socorro dove could once again fly on its home island. A conservation effort called The Socorro Dove Project has been focused on the reintroduction of the species to its ancestral home and relies on breeding programs in protective environments, like those at the Texas State Aquarium, for support. The Aquarium plans to collaborate with other institutions raising the Socorro dove to potentially place the birds into a natural habitat where they can contribute to repopulating the species.
The Aquarium will also continue to monitor its other pairs of doves for signs of breeding and could potentially welcome more eggs in the months to come. Any new arrivals could also be considered for introduction into the wild, contributing to the ongoing comeback of the Socorro dove.
For more information on the Socorro dove, visit the species’ page on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. For information on the various ways the Texas State Aquarium is contributing to wildlife conservation, visit www.texasstateaquarium.org/conserve.