Every spring in South Africa, Johannesburg Zoo’s flock of flamingos gets busy with preparations for their new chicks. Flamingos start laying eggs around September & October, after carefully building raised nests from mud in their enclosure. Weeks before breeding season starts keepers provide clay-like substrate to the enclosure for the birds to build with. Initially the clay is kept wet once a week to ensure nest stay moist and keep their shape.
Unfortunately, the hen sometimes makes the mistake of laying an egg on the grass or the egg may roll off the nest. For those eggs abandoned by the parents’ zookeepers collect and incubate them for 28 to 30 days in the hope that the chicks will hatch and survive. This is no easy task as the eggs need very specific conditions of 99.5 degrees (37.5 degrees celcius) and 75% humidity to grow.
The first egg laid this season unfortunately rolled off of the nest and was collected by birdkeeper, Elaine Bratt. It was incubated from September 22, and to Elaine’s delight a little chick hatched on October 20! Named Nu, it is the first official flamingo chick of 2011 and is being cared for around the clock, just as its parents would do. Nu was joined by Kuba on November 8. The two live in the zoo’s bird rearing facility called “The Brooder Room”. Each has its own room with a heat lamp to keep the temperature constant. The chicks are fed every 2 to 3 hours a special diet of sardines, shrimp, boiled egg, maize meal, calcium and multi-vitamins.
Photo Credits: Photos 1-2 Lorna Fuller, Photos 3-4 Candice Segal/Joburg Zoo
Kuba will be introduced to Nu once big and strong enough to take care of itself; at three or four months old, the pair will be reintroduced into the adult enclosure. This process will take place gradually as flamingos don’t easily accept newcomers into their flock. Nu and Kuba willinitially occupy separate pen adjacent to the adult camp, spending a few hours a day with the others. Eventually they will fend for themselves and will be left to find a position with the others. In this instance integration will be easier for Nu and Kuba because they have each other as company.