Nesting season is winding down for the flamingo flock at Zoo Atlanta, resulting in another productive year for one of the most successful Chilean flamingo programs in the U.S. Chicks began hatching in mid-August, and a total of nine chicks are now being reared behind the scenes.
In addition to the chicks being reared at the Zoo, as has been the practice in years past, Zoo Atlanta sent some eggs to another zoo for hatching, and further eggs will go to a second institution shortly. The longtime productivity of the Zoo’s flock has resulted in significant contributions to smaller flocks at zoological organizations around the nation and has contributed to the population’s viability.
“The Chilean flamingos are the first animals visitors see when they enter the Zoo, but what many may not realize is that they’re also looking at one of the most productive breeding flocks of Chilean flamingos in North America,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “Zoo Atlanta is very fortunate to have a knowledgeable and dedicated team of experts who know these flamingos and their behaviors, provide them with what they need to continue to be successful as a flock, and are able to share what they know about these beautiful birds with all those who visit.”
The Zoo’s two most senior flamingo care experts have more than 29 combined years of experience working with this flock, which numbers 69 strong. The flock began breeding in the late 1980s and has been consistently breeding and nesting since 2001. Contributing factors to the Zoo’s success include the large size of the flock, the suitability of the birds’ habitat and the experience of the team in creating an appropriate nesting environment.
Chilean flamingos are white at hatching, later turning grey. It will be many months before the 2018 chicks begin to show signs of their parents’ signature pink color. The pink coloration is a result of beta caretinoids in flamingos’ diet, both in the wild and in zoos.
Newly-hatched chicks are on a 16-hour feeding schedule and are provided with regular opportunities to strengthen and exercise their legs as they begin walking, running, and swimming.
Chilean flamingos are currently classified as “Near-Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Like many species around the world that rely on aquatic habitats, the birds face threats from water pollution, habitat loss and egg collection for food. Zoo Atlanta has supported flamingo projects through its Mabel Dorn Reeder Conservation Endowment Fund. Efforts supported by the Zoo have included a chick banding project in Bolivia that allows scientists to better understand the movements of flamingos in the Andes, as well as a project to conserve flamingos at two critical wintering sites in Argentina.
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