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Rock the "Tunnel of Love"

By Amanda Dickman in Miscellaneous on Apr 4, 2007 7:05PM

It was a problem that no therapy or avian Viagra could solve. After two failed mating seasons, the male and female red birds of paradise at the Brookfield Zoo just weren't getting it on. So the bird people had to get creative.

2007_4_birds.jpgThe courtship of the red bird of paradise involves specific positioning and flashy displays by the male while the female looks on and decides if she's interested (not unlike a Friday night at a bar). If all goes as planned and the mating is successful (the male, for once, didn't consume too much whiskey) the female runs from the male and cares for the hatchling alone (don't even get us started).

During the the last two failed mating attempts, there was no way for the female to do her fleeing from the male. Here's where the ingenuity comes in. The bird people, ahem, ornithologists, built a cage-wired tunnel, deemed the "tunnel of love," that ran under the floor, acting as an escape route for the female to flee from the "interruptions and intimidation from the male."

Our brain can't help but devise a human version of this same contraption, just in case of an emergency.

And, well, the tunnel worked! The egg was fertilized, the female escaped the male and the little bird hatched last Thursday. He/she (they can't determine the sex quite yet) came into the world naked and weighing about three pennies-worth of bird (9 grams).

The little guy/gal is kept in 92-degree brooder and hand-fed using a brown puppet designed to resemble its mother. Senior bird-keeper, Eric Delbecq, drops pieces of mouse meat and bird-feed omelet into the bird's mouth using tweezers poked through a hole in the puppet where the beak would be.

After a while, the bird will be transferred to an enclosure by its parents to observe their behavior.

Moral of the story: If we'd known that puppet-making was a part of being an ornithologist, we would have scrapped our degrees long ago.

Image via swanksalot.