While the world awaited the birth of the new royal, keepers at Blackpool Zoo were awaiting an even rarer event, the hatching of an Eastern White Pelican. Only one other white pelican has ever been hatched in the UK.
In anticipation of the birth dedicated keepers spent two days camped out in the bird nursery. Since then it has received round the clock care as the first Eastern White Pelican to be raised in the UK.
Assistant Head Keeper, Johnpaul Houston said, “As the birth of the Royal baby got closer and closer we started to wonder if any of our animals would join Kate in labour, so you can imagine our excitement when Charlie hatched at 5.30am – just three hours before the Princess.”
Keepers chose to honour the royal baby by naming their chick Charlie. As they cannot determine the sex until it is old enough to undergo DNA testing they chose a uni-sex name.
Pelican eggs are incredibly rare. Even when one is laid there is just an eight percent chance that it will be fertile.
“As Eastern White Pelican breeding is so rare in the UK, we really are giving the chick VIP treatment and waiting on it hand and foot. As well as hand rearing, we are also giving Charlie 30 minutes UV exposure each day to help bone growth,” said Houston.
“It is the first time an Eastern White Pelican chick has hatched in the UK since 2008, the last one, called Cyril, was the country’s first that we can find and still lives here at Blackpool Zoo,” he added.
Amazingly with pelican chicks being so rare another chick hatched at Blackpool Zoo’s sister attraction Faunia in Madrid on the same day. The teams at each of these institutions are sharing information daily.
Once Charlie is larger it will move to a pen on Pelican Beach where it can be in view of the zoo’s nine strong Eastern white pelican flock.
Eastern white pelicans are the second largest pelican in the world. They have a wingspan of 3.66m (12ft) across.
Photo Credit: Blackpool Zoo