Tickled Pink! Flamingo Chick Hatches at Smithsonian National Zoo
August 24, 2012
On July 29 a Flamingo chick hatched at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Its sex has not yet been determined. The flock of 63 birds produces about 15 fertile eggs in a normal breeding season, however, the flock had irregular mating patterns this year. They produced only six eggs and did not construct nests that were sufficient to foster them. So this little chick is being raised by hand by Bird House keepers, who work closely with the Zoo's Department of Nutrition to ensure that the chick is growing at an appropriate rate. They feed it a formula designed to mimic the crop milk produced by flamingo parents and just recently added Flamingo pellets to its diet, which contains the carotenoid pigments that turn a flamingo's plumage pink.
In the next few months, the chick will join the rest of the flock in the outdoor Flamingo exhibit. Before it is introduced to the flock, the chick will stay in a holding pen where it can observe the adults until it is fully independent. Its feathers are fluffy and white now, but once it is on exhibit, visitors will recognize the chick by its smaller size and gray color. It will gain some pink feathers and its bill will be more pronounced and begin to show the trademark bend at around 6 months of age. By its first birthday, the chick will have a plumage of light pink feathers. The darker pink color will develop fully by two or three years of age.