Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
A female Great Bustard in captivity in Beijing Zoo has laid her 10th egg so far this year!
Great Bustards in the wild normally lay two eggs although clutches of just one egg or three eggs are not unknown. Great Bustards will only rear one brood although they will relay another clutch if their first attempt fails. A common practice of conservation projects for threatened species in the wild and captivity is to remove a freshly laid egg to incubate artificially, prompting the female to lay a replacement which she is often left to incubate and rear herself. This helps to build a stock of birds for further captive breeding or release into the wild.
To date there are very few known instances of Great Bustards producing fertile eggs and hatching chicks in captivity despite decades of attempts. Unfortunately all 10 eggs in Beijing Zoo have been infertile. If only someone could solve the mystery of how to get Great Bustards in captivity to produce fertile eggs once and for all, then females like the one in Beijing could prove to be an extremely valuable asset to the conservation of this species. If every female Great Bustard in captivity produced 10 fertile eggs each year there would be stock enough for more reintroduction projects to help restore their former range.
The GBG continues to advise on the captive breeding attempts for Great Bustards at Moscow Zoo and will stay in close communication with staff at Beijing Zoo.
Photos courtesy of Jing Zhang, Beijing Zoo.