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First Chilean Flamingo Hatchling for Lincoln Park Zoo

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Lincoln Park Zoo, in Chicago, is thrilled to announce its first-ever Chilean Flamingo hatchling.

The flamingo chick emerged on September 11, and the zoo is cautiously optimistic that several remaining incubating eggs may hatch within the coming weeks.

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4_Lincoln Park flamingo_9Photo Credits: Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo

“We are absolutely elated to welcome our first Chilean Flamingo chick,” said Curator of Birds Sunny Nelson. “As a first hatching for Lincoln Park Zoo and for the flock, the chick is currently raised behind-the-scenes and will be re-introduced to the flock once the chick is more independent.”

The sex of the first-born chick has yet to be determined but shell fragments have been collected and will be sent for DNA testing as a non-invasive method of determining the sex. While a Chilean Flamingo can weigh up to 3.5 kg, the chick was 95 g at hatch--roughly the weight of a bar of soap.

The zoo received breeding recommendations, for its flock, as part of the Chilean Flamingo Species Survival Plan, which cooperatively manages the accredited population.  

Currently, the flamingo chick remains behind-the-scenes, receiving around-the-clock care. In the meantime, the flock of adult Chilean Flamingos is on exhibit daily at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Waterfowl Lagoon.

Chilean Flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis) live in large flocks and are native to Peru, Brazil and Argentina. Like all flamingos, the Chilean species has pink plumage (or feathers) but are born with white-grey plumage. They begin to gain their iconic coloration around two-years-old. Reaching up to 40 inches in height, flamingos often stand on one leg, tucking the other beneath its body to preserve body heat.

Flamingos form strong pair bonds of one male and one female, although in larger colonies flamingos sometimes change mates. Flamingo pairs establish and defend nesting territories. They locate a suitable spot on a mudflat to build a nest. They aggressively defend their nesting site, and both male and female contribute to the building of the nest. After the chicks hatch, both parents feed the chicks ‘crop milk’ (produced in glands lining the whole of the upper digestive tract) which contains fat, protein, and red and white blood cells.

For the first six days after hatching, the adults and chicks stay in the nesting site. At around seven to twelve days old, the chicks begin to move out of their nests and explore the surroundings. When they are two weeks old, the chicks congregate in groups called ‘micro crèches’. Eventually, the micro crèches merge and become ‘crèches’ of thousands of chicks. These crèches provide protection for the vulnerable chicks.

The Chilean Flamingo is currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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