Entering the Aquarium’s Butterfly Garden, the profusion of the exhibit’s namesake insects can be a visual distraction that borders on overwhelming. Hundreds of butterflies representing dozens of species flutter through the air or perch on seemingly every vacant blossom or leaf.
As stunning as these winged beauties are, however, more than a few guests (and maybe a few of the Aquarium's employees) may not know that the garden also is home to a family of Crested Wood Partridges (Rollulus roulroul). Take a knee and peer under the lush foliage, and you may be lucky enough to spot one of these ground-dwelling birds, a Southeast Asian relative of native species such as quail and pheasants.
Recently, however, our Partridge Family (sorry, but it had to be done) has expanded. In late November, a nest with a pair of chicks was discovered, greatly expanding our flock, which previously consisted of two adult males and one female.
After hatching, the chicks were just small dark balls of fluff, but a month later, they’re beginning to showcase characteristics that make their gender — one male and one female — fairly easy to identify. Crested Wood Partridges are a dimorphic species, meaning that males and females exhibit different physical traits. Male Crested Wood Partridges are immediately identifiable by their bluish-green plumage and brilliant orange crest. Females have a pea green coloration with reddish — or “rufous” — wings.
A female, left, and two male Crested Wood Partridges
Crested Wood Partridges are known for being doting parents, bringing their chicks food or uncovering it for them by digging into the soil with their feet. The chicks’ parents are doing a good job of caring for them, so the chicks will remain on exhibit into adulthood, says Curator of Forests Kevin Calhoon.
“We’re pretty excited to have one of each,” Calhoon says. “It’s great that we’re hatching some of our own now so we can build up our flock here. I like the fact that people have a chance to see them grow up.”