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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Use puppets to increase the survival or growth of hand-reared chicks Bird Conservation

Key messages

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Three replicated studies from the USA and Saudi Arabia found that corvids and bustards raised using puppets did not have higher survival, dispersal or growth than conventionally hand-reared chicks.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A replicated ex situ study in Idaho, USA (Whitmore & Marzluff 1998), found that the growth of raven Corvus corax chicks did not vary between 30 individuals fed with a puppet and 82 fed by keepers. Post-release survival and reproduction were not compared. This study is also discussed in ‘Artificially incubate and hand-rear birds in captivity’.



A randomised, replicated and controlled study in Idaho, USA, between 1993 and 1995 (Valutis & Marzluff 1999), found that 25 raven Corvus corax chicks (used as surrogates for Hawaiian crows C. hawaiiensis and Mariana crows C. kubaryi) hand-raised using puppets did not behave differently towards other ravens before or after release, or differ in dispersal from the release site, compared to 49 chicks raised without puppets. Puppet-rearing appeared to increase post-release survival, but the whereabouts of 49% of released birds were unknown, adding considerable uncertainty to this conclusion. Puppet-raised birds were more fearful of keepers following release, which could be beneficial for some species. Puppet-reared birds were separated from each other at 7-10 days old (before their eyes opened).



A replicated trial in Saudi Arabia in 1995 (van Heezik et al. 1999) found that hand-reared houbara bustards Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii raised with a puppet to minimise human contact were not significantly more likely to survive following release at a desert site, than control (reared with human contact) birds (42% of 12 puppet-reared birds alive the year after release vs. 27% of 12 controls). This study also is also discussed in ‘Use ‘anti-predator training’ to improve survival after release’.


Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2019) Bird Conservation. Pages 141-290 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.