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Flamboyance of flamingos as zoo welcome first chicks

This news post is over 7 years old

The hatching of the one of the first Chilean flamingo chicks was captured in a series of photographs

Keepers at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo are delighted to welcome the first fluffy, grey hatchlings of 2016 to the flock (or more correctly flamboyance) of flamingos at the Zoo.

Two Chilean flamingo chicks have recently been hatched, with the first peaking its beak out of its shell on 31 August and the other following a few days later, on 5 September. There are still a number of eggs on the nests, so more chicks are expected to start hatching in the next couple of weeks.

Some visitors have even been lucky enough to witness the tiny grey chicks slowly hatching out of their shells.A member of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) managed to capture a chick hatching, in a series of stunning photographs put together here into a video.

These chicks will play an important role as ambassadors, in the conservation of this beautiful, yet increasingly threatened, waterbird - Chris Oulton

Colin Oulton, bird team leader at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said: “We are delighted to have flamingo chicks at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo again, as the last time we had bred the species was in 2014. Chilean flamingos are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, so these chicks will play an important role as ambassadors, in the conservation of this beautiful, yet increasingly threatened, waterbird. RZSS Edinburgh Zoo has been home to Chilean flamingos for more than 40 years, so it is wonderful to see this well-established flock grow.”

Chilean flamingos normally lay one egg on a mud mound, which the keepers at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo often start to build to stimulate breeding behaviour from the flock. The eggs then hatch after a 27 to 30-day incubation period, with both parents sharing the incubation duties.

Newly hatched chicks are normally grey and fluffy, weighing as little as 100g and are normally the size of a tennis ball. The chicks have straight beaks, which enables them to break out of their shell and feed easily from their parents. After a few weeks, the beak starts to bend and they learn how to feed more independently. Flamingo chicks moult out of their grey chick down after a few months, but it is over two years before their plumage is as pink as their parents.

As their name suggests, Chilean flamingos are native to South America. There are currently around 30,000 Chilean flamingos; however, in the wild they face threats from habitat loss, egg-harvesting and hunting.