As I mentioned in my January post, I tried this year to use as many “first-times” in the calendar as possible in order to minimize the chances of rehashing old stories for you here in the blogs. This has meant I’ve used a great number of animals from the Australasia Pavilion, simply because I’ve not featured many of its species before. The flip side to this idea, however, is there is a good reason I’ve not featured some of these animals before: I simply don’t have that much information on them. Makepeace, the lone tawny frogmouth living at the Toronto Zoo, is an excellent example of this problem. When I sat down a couple of days ago to begin working on this piece, I did as much digging as I could and I realized there just isn’t very much info about Makepeace specifically available as I had hoped there would be. I’ve reached out to a few people since then – former Zookeepers, friends who have been Members at the Zoo for a long time, a gentleman in the States who (apparently) holds the Stud Book for the Tawny Frogmouth species in captivity – but have not heard back yet from any of them. I am going to write this post now with the little information I do have and then update it as more comes in. I’ll make sure to announce each edit on social media; if you don’t follow me on any social media platforms, I recommend you come back here in a couple of weeks and see what more I’ve been able to add!
I had paid no attention whatsoever to this beautiful bird for most of my years of visiting the Zoo. The species has always featured prominently on the sign in the Oz Aviary listing all the birds to be found in the area, but the tawny frogmouth seems to be a rather shy creature and is excellent at blending into the background. It was only at the very beginning of 2018 when I began to make a weekly visit to the Zoo with my friend, Lynda, and we spent a great deal of time in the warmth of the pavilion that I started to seek Makepeace out. Another avid photographer friend, Lloyd, had recently posted shots of him so I was able to work out where to look, and on my very first visit in January of 2018 I spotted Makepeace at the back of the exhibit, on a tree near the window and catch-up cages. It was not an easy spot to capture his image, as it was well into the undergrowth and extremely back-lit from the windows, but I managed to get a few shots that time and on subsequent visits that year.
In late summer I went to see him and he had vanished! I looked all around the pavilion without any luck, until an amazing Horticulture worker, Norm, came by and pointed him out to me. Makepeace had moved to a spot above the HVAC equipment right above the back window. You can see from this shot at left that he was extremely well-hidden in this location, and he stayed there for most of the rest of that year. As a result, I didn’t take many shots of him over the next few months; in fact, the one here seems to be the only one I have of him in that spot. Eventually he moved out well into the open and I snagged the full-body shot of him that appeared farther up this page. He sat out there on the lattice-work roofing over the turtle pond for quite a while – it may well have been a cool spot for him in the summer heat – until he moved on to his current perch: right above and to the right of the door leading from the aviary to the area where the Komodo dragon lives (among others). He’s tucked in nicely to his corner but very often will react to a visitor he knows (such as myself or Lynda) and fix those piercing eyes on us. When he’s really feeling sociable he will clack his beak and blink his eyes slowly. It’s quite a sensation, believe me, when he locks giant peepers on you; it’s like he’s looking directly into your soul!
See what I mean?
From the very little information I uncovered, I believe his mate was named Adelaide. It appears she may have passed in or around 2009, which is before I began my Volunteering career, because her name appears in a list I found from that year, but there was some pushback in the comments about exactly how many tawny frogmouths still lived at the Zoo. Sadly, this species mates (for life) and he has been on his own since then. What I do know for sure, though, is this: Makepeace was born (hatched) on June 13, 1986, which makes him well over 33 years old! This site lists their life expectancy at 12-14 years in the wild and, for some inexplicable reason, shorter in captivity; I don’t imagine that second part to be true, but still: for Makepeace to outlive his normal life expectancy by a factor of nearly 2.5 is absolutely incredible. I’m not seeing any more information about their life expectancy on Wiki;
however, when a student on one of my tours inquired as to whether Makepeace is the oldest in the world, I did manage to discover that there are a couple of others of his species that are slightly older than he is. If he hangs on for a while, though, he could easily hold that title. This site suggests that the oldest “reported” frogmouth was 32 years old in 2018; that’s how old he was, but it seems to have been a different bird.
In 2013, a chick was hatched at Paulton’s Park in the UK to a very old couple: Gerben, the dad, was 33 while mom, Fleur, was 29. Both of these would be older than Makepeace today, but I cannot find any record of them still being around, nor even of their passing. However, I did find this adorable photo of Gerben and his chick (named Willow)!! This makes me wonder if maybe it isn’t too late to obtain another, older mate for Makepeace and give him one more chance at producing an offspring for his legacy. I doubt this will happen, but you never know. In the meantime, I will continue to pop ’round to see him whenever I am in his building, because it does my own heart good to see him still alive and kicking after all these years.
There’s not a lot more I can tell you right now. I will continue digging and update this post when I have more information for you. Oh, I did happen to come across this cool old program from the AAZK conference in Miami in 1985; note the talk being given by Oliver Claffey on “Breeding the Tawny Frogmouth at the Metro Toronto Zoo” and remember: this was the year before Makepeace was even born! (You’ll probably have to click on the photo and zoom in.)
Next month: one of my favourite animals in the whole zoo and one I did my very first project on during Volunteer Training. So if I don’t have a lot of information to share with you next month, there’s an entirely different issue to be dealt with!
See you then!
Update to March Post:
Leaving aside the “elephant in the room” for now (I’ll deal with it in the April post, when hopefully we’ll have a better idea of the end game), I have some more information about the tawny frogmouths at the Toronto Zoo that I have been forgetting to share.
Makepeace’s parents, Beverly and Tony, were rescued from the wild as fledglings and were raised originally at the Adelaide Zoo in Australia. They arrived in Toronto as adults on June 8, 1983. Makepeace (as I mentioned above, born on June 13, 1986 is currently the second-oldest tawny frogmouth in the SSP program (effectively in captivity); the eldest, however, is a ridiculous 40.5 years old and is a male who lives at the St. Louis Zoo.
A little over four years after Makepeace was born, a female named Adelaide (I imagine in homage) was hatched in Toronto. Her mother was Rebecca, but her dad was also Tony, same as Makepeace’s. I am no guessing that they were likely not a mated pair after all, but I don’t know much more about them in those regards. Some math from the registrar’s book tells me Adelaide passed away on or about January 2, 2013, so I may in fact have seen her shortly after I began my training.
I am still hoping I might receive some more information about the Toronto breeding program, but… as you can imagine, that might be a long time coming. If I do hear more, I will let everyone know in a separate, short blog post.
Stay well. Please check back next Tuesday for the next post.