Hoffman’s two-toed sloth

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The two species of Choloepus (two-toed sloth) have two toes on their forelimbs, and three on their hind limbs. While the gentle Bradypus (three-toed sloth) eats only leaves of a few tree species, and are notoriously difficult to maintain in zoos, captive Choloepus enthusiastically eat all sorts of vegetables, as well as leaf-eater primate chow, and easily live for decades in captivity. Of the two species of Choloepus, both are found in South America, but only Hoffman’s occurs in Central America as well.

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Hawk-headed parrot

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In most classification systems, this northern South American bird is considered one of the most evolved of the 368 species of parrots throughout the world. It has a unique set of elongated red and blue feathers on the back of its head that can be raised into a head-dress like structure, so that another common name is “Red fan parrot”. Until the 1970s it was very rare in zoos, but is now frequently bred, including at the DWA.

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Sunbittern

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Another relative of cranes and rails, this Central and South American forest bird is not related to true bitterns, which are herons. When alarmed, it spreads its brilliantly colored wings, completely transforming its appearance. It was first bred in captivity more than 140 years ago, at the London Zoo, and has bred in many places since, including the DWA.

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Grey-winged trumpeter

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Distant relative of cranes, rails, and bustards, trumpeters are found only in the forests of South America. They are named for their complex vocalizations, which sometimes sound if they are producing several sounds at the same time. Though capable of flight, they are usually on the forest floor. Much of the food is fruit that falls out of trees, and they are often beneath troops of monkeys, waiting for the fruit they drop.

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Blue-crowned motmot

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Found from Mexico to Argentina, this brilliantly-colored kingfisher relative is the only one of the nine members of the Tropical American motmot family to be widely kept in zoos, where many have bred. Eggs are laid in burrows dug in the earth. The remarkable pendulum-like tail develops normally at first, but parts of two feathers are shed as they develop, resulting in “racquets”. The strange name may be derived from this bird’s whooping calls.

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Troupial

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The National Bird of Venezuela, this South American oriole has been a prized cage bird for more than 150 years. The painter, Henri Mattise, included one in his collection of tropical birds that he kept to “tune his colors”. They are sometimes known as “Bugle Birds” for their piercing, melodious voices. Chicks have hatched at the DWA.

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Pygmy marmoset

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The smallest New World primate, also the smallest monkey, weighs less than five ounces (the only smaller primates are several Madagascan lemurs). Pygmy marmosets occupy a rather large range in the forests of Western South America. Formerly rather rare in zoos, its captive population is now well managed with more than 700 world-wide, mostly captive-bred. It is usual for twins to be born. Despite their tiny size, they can live 20 years in captivity. In the wild, they specialize in eating gummy sap. In captivity, they do quite well on the same diets that larger marmosets and tamarins receive: a manufactured primate diet, fresh fruits and vegetables, and insects.

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Green aracari

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Before the 1980s, this small toucan from Northeastern South America was very rare in captivity. Since the first captive breeding took place in 1980, in a California private aviary, hundreds have been hatched in the US, and the captive population appears to be self-sustaining. Those in zoos are carefully monitored for genetic diversity through a Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and many others are kept privately. Since 2001, more than 50 have hatched at the DWA. This is one of the few toucans whose sexes can be easily distinguished; males have black heads and the females have brown heads.

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Orinoco goose

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Not closely related to North American geese, this is an inhabitant of jungle rivers. Though it occupies a large range in northern South America, it is classified as Near Threatened. Despite a reputation for not tasting very good, it is still hunted, but deforestation is a greater threat since it nests in trees in the wild. It is found in only a few of the world’s zoos, but several have made a commitment to breeding it. During their noisy territorial defense displays, they assume such an upright position that it looks as if they might fall over backwards.

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White-faced saki

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Before the 1970s, this Northern South American monkey was very rare in captivity, but an improved understanding of its diet and health have led to this species being bred frequently, so that it is now one of the most widely-kept New World primates in American zoos. This is one of a relatively small number of primates where the sexes are easily told by their color; males are black with white faces, while females are grayish with a whitish line on either side of the muzzle.

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