It’s been over eight years since the Chilean Flamingos colony, at Cotswold Wildlife Park, last produced eggs. Despite plenty of displaying, nest-building and mating, keepers have been patiently waiting for the flock of forty-four adults to produce eggs. Despite their valiant efforts, no chicks appeared.
The decision was made to add new chicks to the flock in the hope this would stimulate the existing adults into laying their own eggs again and increase the flock’s size. In the wild, Flamingos nest in large groups. These crowded conditions are ideal for Flamingo breeding as it gives the flock a sense of stability, which, in turn, profoundly increases their chances of successfully producing eggs.
Flamingo eggs were donated by Chester Zoo as part of the European Breeding Programme (EEP) and were immediately taken to the Park’s incubation rooms. The chalky white eggs hatched after roughly twenty-six days. Keepers named the new chicks Mambo and Ringo and tended to them around-the-clock.
By a strange coincidence, while the donated eggs were still in incubation, much to the surprise of keepers, the adults had made nests and were sitting on their own eggs for the first time in eight breeding seasons. Three chicks eventually hatched. In the meantime, Mambo and Ringo continued to be hand-reared by the dedicated team, undergoing health checks, growth monitoring and regular exercise, including daily walks to strengthen their delicate legs. Eventually, the task of gradually introducing the new chicks to the adult group began.
Assistant Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Chris Kibbey, commented: "Not only is it great news that the Bird Section have successfully hand-reared their first ever Flamingo chicks, but to discover our Flamingos group had laid their first eggs in eight years was a wonderful and unexpected surprise. It’s been a long wait, and we are delighted that our Flamingo flock have finally started breeding again.”
Mambo and Ringo have now successfully been introduced to the flock in their new lakeside home, a brilliant end to several barren years on the Flamingo Lake. Hopefully, next year the Flamingos will successfully breed again without a helping hand from keepers.
The Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) is closely related to the American Flamingo and Greater Flamingo. They are native to South America (Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and parts of Brazil). They live in large flocks and prefer crowded conditions to stimulate breeding. The chicks are born with gray plumage and don’t develop the adult coloring for two to three years. Both males and females can produce a nutritious milk-like substance for their chicks called “crop milk”. They are currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.