Kingfisher Eggs

by Maddie Rienecker

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Three kingfisher eggs were admitted to the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital (in Queensland) on the 6th of December. They were found by a spotter/catcher working in the Redbank Plains area, on a piece of land that had just been cleared.

The nest, a termite mound, had fallen. One egg wash smashed, the three remaining eggs were damaged. The eggs were transported to the RSPCA in the nest.

On arrival, the eggs were assessed for viability, not just in regards to fertility, but also the severity of the damage caused by the fall.

Fertility can be assessed using a method called candling, however this should only be undertaken when absolutely necessary and only by an experienced person.

While all three remaining eggs sustained serious trauma, they were considered worth a try as all embryos were still reasonably active considering the trauma they had suffered.

The eggs were repaired using nail polish, carefully sealing the cracks, but being sure not to cover any more surface area than necessary to ensure that we did not interfere with the gas exchange through the shell.

It is not recommended that any repairs be undertaken without the consultation of an experienced person as it may lead to further complications.

Once repaired the eggs were then set in an incubator, where their temperature and humidity were closely monitored.

A few short days later, the eggs entered an early stage of their hatch known as drawdown. This stage involves a massive increase in the size and shape of the air cell.

Next, the chick pushes their beak through the inner membrane of the egg and takes its first breath. As the oxygen supply is depleted, muscle contractions occur, assisting the hatching process.

Unfortunately this is where our little guys stopped.

Due to the trauma, transport, handling and repairs undertaken during rescue, the chicks were weak and disorientated. We closely monitored the chicks’ activity for over 12 hours, ensuring we did not interfere too soon.

After noting no progress over such a long period, the chick movements began to slow and it was apparent that the odds were against them.

They needed help quickly!

Again, it is not advised to attempt an assisted hatch without the supervision of a very experienced person. It can easily result in the death of the chick, and should not be taken lightly. Assisted hatches are very delicate and time consuming.

After hours of work on each egg, we finally welcomed three reasonably healthy kingfisher hatchlings.

A natural hatch takes a massive tole on the tiny chick's body, however in the long run it proves a very important and beneficial task resulting in a stronger, healthier chick.

As these babies were compromised from the start, extra care was taken every step of the way, ensuring a hygienic environment, adequate temperature and humidity, optimum nutrition and more.

The kingfishers are currently twelve days old and while there have been a few little bumps along the way, they are thriving and changing every day.

Unfortunately their habitat was cleared, and so the hunt begins for a suitable release site where they are able to live and breed safely.


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