by Jo Gregson
First Published in The Avicultural Magazine Vol. 111 No. 3
Copyright © 2005 Avicultural Society, Published with Permission

The rarely bred BreedingGrey-winged Trumpeter Psophia crepitans (according to Dave Coles' breeding records it was first bred in the UK by Will Harrison in 1986) was once a common sight in zoos and private collections. Now however, it is seldom seen and is sought by many public and private collections/aviculturists.

There are three species of trumpeter, the other two being the White-winged TrumpeterPsophia leucopteraWhite-winged P. leucoptera and Green-winged TrumpeterPsophia viridis Green-winged P. viridis, all of which are found living deep in forest in South America. They are certainly not shy birds and are often kept as pets by South Americans, who sometimes run them with their chickens to act as watchbirds. Their calls warn their owners when a snake or other predator is approaching. It is this call that has earned the trumpeters their name; until quite recently it was thought that the sound was made by wind passing through the cloaca, but this of course is not the case.

Trumpeters live in groups, each group having a large territory in which the birds spend the day feeding on rotting fruits found scattered on the forest floor and often rummaging below trees in which capuchin and spider monkeys are feeding. The parties of monkeys lack table manners and many of the fruits are carelessly dropped onto the forest floor below where the trumpeters are eagerly waiting.

Polyandry, wherein a female mates with two or more males, is unusual among birds, but this is the case with trumpeters, where within each group there is only one dominant female and all dominant males mate with her. Males of less importance may get the chance of a sneaky mating, while unimportant males have no chance at all. The latter will sometimes join another group to improve their social standing. All the group will protect and feed the dominant female while she is laying but once she begins incubation only the most dominant male will feed her, although he will take food from other group members to pass on to her.

In captivity trumpeters are usually kept in pairs, so are unable to carry out their full breeding behaviours and this may be one of the reasons why they rarely breed. Males often do not reach full breeding condition and fail to fertilize the eggs. As with many males a little competition does wonders for testosterone levels.

Here at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park we have bred the Grey-winged Trumpeter for the past two years. During the summer months they are housed in a large densely planted aviary, then each winter the birds are brought inside and housed in a much smaller heated enclosure. Being such confiding birds the move does not distress them and we have found that they reach breeding condition early in the year, sporting their green legs by the end of February. In previous years the birds had been kept in their summer quarters all year round, and even though they had a heated shelter, the male did not colour-up until May.

All eggs are removed and broody bantams are used to incubate them until the first pip, when they are moved to a wet incubator for hatching. The incubation period is 25 days. During the hatching it is vital to keep the humidity high. Once they have hatched and are dry the chicks are moved into a small rearing box, which has a substrate of wood bark and small logs.

Trumpeter chicks do not pick up food for several days and for this reason we do not use bantams to rear them. Chicks are fed a mixed diet of young mice, ox heart, fruit and boiled egg sprinkled with Nutrobal calcium/vitamin powder. All food is offered by hand for at least the first week. As with all long-legged young birds, exercise is extremely important and as soon as the chicks are strong enough they are taken outside each day for a walk, being quite happy to follow their keeper.

Jo Gregson is Senior Head Keeper of Birds at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Totnes Road, Paignton, Devon TQ4 7EU, UK. Tel:01803 697500/Fax:01803 523457

In the Avicultural Magazine Vol. 107, No. 1., Pp.21-26 (2001), Rosemary Low described raising Grey-winged Trumpeters at Palmitos Park, Gran Canaria, and included chick weights and colour photos of a newly hatched chick, an eight day old chick and two aged about three weeks.