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Not something to grouse about: Calgary Zoo hatches 50 endangered birds

Last Updated Oct 19, 2017 at 11:00 am PST

Male greater sage grouse perform mating rituals for a female grouse, not pictured, on a lake outside Walden, Colo. On Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. The Calgary Zoo says it has reached a milestone by successfully reproducing highly endangered greater sage grouse at its Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski

CALGARY – The Calgary Zoo says it has successfully hatched several dozen greater sage grouse in an effort to bolster the endangered prairie bird’s population.

The zoo says eight hens, six males and 50 juveniles are thriving at its Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre.

The goal is to eventually reintroduce some of the birds into the wild, where fewer than 400 remain.

Greater sage grouse are threatened by habitat destruction and human development.

The zoo says there are only five mating grounds — known as leks — left in Canada: two in Saskatchewan and three in Alberta.

The Calgary Zoo opened its breeding facility last fall.

“Saving greater sage grouse is important, but it is not easy. I am proud of the progress that has been made in founding a vibrant reintroduction breeding program that can assist wild populations for years to come,” Axel Moehrenschlager, the zoo’s conservation director, said in a release Thursday.

“With experts, federal and provincial government partners, and landowners we will now reassess conditions in the wild to develop release strategies that can be progressively improved over time.”

The custom-made breeding facility provides the birds with a natural environment, which is important for their successful reproduction and welfare. Sage brush, grown in the wild in British Columbia, will be used as a winter food source for the flock.