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Flamingo chicks a first for Australasia

10 January 2014

Two flamingo chicks have successfully hatched at Auckland Zoo – the first chicks ever bred in Australasia, and the first time a zoo has successfully bred from an entirely hand-reared flock anywhere in the world.

What was viewed by other zoological organisations as an ‘ambitious plan’ has become a great success and is an important step towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of Auckland Zoo's flock.

Former exotic birds team leader, now head of capital works and infrastructure, Michael Batty has been waiting for these chicks since raising and transporting Auckland Zoo’s flock of Greater flamingos to New Zealand in 2001, from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Slimbridge, England.

“No zoo has ever successfully bred from a completely hand-reared flock before. These two chicks are the first in the world. It’s wonderful, we’ve achieved the circle of life,” says Michael.

Flamingos are flock birds, but Michael says each bird develops its own personality traits and he looks forward to see what these two will be like.

Team Leader Pridelands Nat Sullivan, has been monitoring the chicks’ progress since incubation.
“It is a privilege to be part of the first hatching. They’re doing really well, communicating with each other which may be why the second chick is making even faster progress than the first.”

As young flamingos, they lack the pink feathering for which the birds are famed. This pink plumage develops over their first three years, due to the carotenoid pigment in their diet, which is high in alpha and beta-carotene (humans eat beta-carotene when they eat carrots).

Their sex will not be determined for some time and it will be a few months before visitors can come and see them, but it will be worth the wait.

Greater flamingo facts
• Auckland Zoo has a flock of Greater flamingos
• Apart from one in Australia, this is the only flock of flamingos in Australasia
• Both parent flamingos build the nest, and these are mounds made of mud, small stones, straw and feathers
• These mounds can be as high as 30cm and are shaped like a volcano. Mound building begins up to six weeks before the eggs are laid
• A female flamingo only lays one egg on the nest, but both parents take turns at sitting on the egg until it hatches – which takes about one month
• A baby flamingo is a brown/grey colour and does not turn pink until it reaches two years of age
• There are six different types (species) of flamingo - the Greater flamingo is the tallest, growing up to 150cm
• Groups of flamingos can-be-called flocks, a stand or flamboyance
• Their webbed feet are used to stir up the mud and water when they are looking for food. Having webbed feet also helps them swim
• They get their bright pink colour from eating shrimp-like crustaceans
• Flamingos have long pink legs – and their knees are actually their ankles
• When resting or sleeping, flamingos stand on one leg with the other leg tucked up under their body. It’s a flamingo’s most comfortable position!


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