A baby flamingo is being successfully raised by two fathers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, after its biological parents vacated their nest.
Zookeepers at the UK’s largest Zoo initially placed the lone American flamingo egg (Phoenicopterus ruber) in an incubator to increase its chance of survival but were keen to find ‘adopted parents’ for the egg before it hatched.
Experienced flamingo parents, Hudson and Blaze, were taking excellent care of their shared nest, and keepers decided they were the best candidates amongst the whole “flamboyance” (or group of flamingos). The egg was placed in the male couple’s nest, and they sat tight on it until it hatched, taking exemplary care of the chick ever since.
Bird team leader, Tim Savage said: “Flamingos usually work together, as a monogamous pair, to care for their eggs and subsequent chicks. Hudson and Blaze were the clear choice for the incubated egg, as they have always proved to be ideal parents.
“After the chick hatched in their nest, they sat with it for two weeks, keeping it warm and protecting it from other flamingos, who often squabble and shove around different nest sites.
“Fluffy grey flamingo chicks are fed with bright red “crop milk,” which is made by both male and female parents. It is made in the linings of their digestive tract, and contains fat, protein and blood cells. You can often spot the new parents in a group, because they give so much of their own pigment to their chicks that they almost turn white!”
The same hormone that regulates milk production in mammals, regulates the production of “crop milk.” It is stimulated by the mother or father’s experience of sitting on an egg and watching the chick hatch.
Same sex flamingo pairs have been encountered before at the Zoo, as have trios (with a mixture of male and female birds in one nest). Penguins are also known to form same sex pairings during breeding season.
Visitors can see Hudson and Blaze and their flamingo chick at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo throughout the summer holidays, as well as 10,000 other animals, including recent additions, African lion Khari, and three, young cheetahs. Kids can also put their speed, stealth and smarts to the test this summer, when they take on the Zoo’s Ultimate Animal Challenge, which brings the whole family together in a battle of agility, memory and surprises. For a champion day out during the school holidays, book your family’s visit to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo now at zsl.org