By Jennifer Nixon, Denver Zoo Bird Keeper
Introducing this week’s adorable and flashy Feathered Friend, Ripe. He is a crested wood partridge (Rollulus roulroul). This species is typically called roul roul by bird people but the pronunciation varies greatly from roo-roo to roul-roul with the “L” sound, to row row. The best bet is to say crested wood partridge. If we had a pear tree in the exhibit you would find Ripe roosting in it at night. During the day he is walking around on the ground looking for tasty bugs to eat. His favorite food is a type of waxworm which is a moth larvae. Ripe was hatched here at Denver Zoo in the Avian Propagation Building where his egg was artificially incubated. His mother was not sitting on the eggs at the beginning of his incubation period so the egg was moved to the incubator to ensure his survival. Once he hatched the bird keepers took care of him.
This species of bird is called precocial which means they have down feathers when they hatch and can walk and feed themselves shortly after hatching similar to chickens. Ripe was chasing tiny crickets the day after he hatched. When Ripe was about 1 ½ months old he was adult sized and ready to move to a bigger room. He moved to Bird World, sponsored by Frontier Airlines, where he joined his older sisters in the Tropics room. This is where you can see the difference between the males and females of the species. Crested wood partridges are sexually dimorphic meaning the sexes look different. The males are really dark blue/green and iridescent with a red mohawk and the females have a dark face, green body and brown on their wings. Both species have red skin around their eyes which is very unusual looking. The females resemble a large olive with their round body and short tails. The brown on the wing looks a little like a pimento. This is where Ripe got his name since he looks more like a ripe olive. The males of this species, like Ripe, will not assist the females in the chick rearing so they put their energy into looking impressive and hope to attract a female. The males do help once the chicks hatch. Since the chicks are precocial, all he has to do is show the chicks how to eat, so he does not have to regurgitate food like altricial birds.
Since they spend so much time on the ground some people don’t think they can fly, but they do have small rounded wings that lay flat against their bodies. They prefer running to flying and are very fast. Sometimes Ripe chases his little brother around the room when he is jealous of something he is doing.
Please visit Ripe, who now lives with his two older sisters and younger brother in the Tropics room of Bird World. You will most likely find them on the ground. Since they were hand-raised they are not very afraid of people, so please be careful to not to trip on them. This species can stress easily if they are scared.