Alarm responses are maintained during captive rearing in chicks of endangered kaki

J. A. Galbraith, S. E. Sancha, R. F. Maloney, M. E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The maintenance of species-specific behavioural repertoires and traditions is an important but often implicit goal of conservation efforts. When captive rearing is used as a conservation practice, it becomes critical to address its possible implications for the social and behavioural traits of developing individuals. In particular, animals must retain or acquire many of their behavioural abilities to increase the likelihood of survival upon release into the wild. This study investigated the behavioural development of critically endangered kaki (black stilt: Himantopus novaezelandiae) chicks reared without live adult conspecifics. The captive rearing programme included playbacks of adult kaki alarm calls during cleaning and handling of precocial chicks housed as groups. We used videotaped observations and playback experiments to address the following questions: do kaki chicks respond differentially to (1) familiar versus unfamiliar adult kaki alarm calls and (2) conspecific alarm versus heterospecific control vocalizations. Adult-naïve kaki chicks exhibited a varied behavioural repertoire over their early development. In multivariate analyses, when age was statistically controlled, chicks showed responses to familiar and unfamiliar alarm calls that were similar in magnitude. In contrast, following conspecific alarm calls chicks had longer average latencies to resume pre-playback activities than following heterospecific vocalizations. Although the generality of these conclusions is limited by experimental constraints stemming from working with an endangered species, the findings suggest that current management techniques produce captive-reared kaki for release into the wild that possess many of the behavioural and auditory recognition skills that are required for survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-109
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Conservation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Captive rearing
  • Habituation
  • Learning
  • Mixed-linear models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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