A new chick in the flock at zoo

Flamingos with their baby chick at Flamingo Land zoo.
Flamingos with their baby chick at Flamingo Land zoo.

Although we’re now well into the summer holidays, the babies are still coming thick and fast here at Flamingo Land! This week we’re welcoming a brand new flamingo chick to our flock. Our flamingos are currently in the middle of their nesting season, and this is the first chick to have hatched from this clutch of eggs. Our famous flamingos are of course where the resort got its name, as one of the first animals to ever arrive here! We keep two species, Chilean and Caribbean flamingos, both of which can be found in South America.

The flamingo nesting season usually starts around April, with plenty of courtship behaviour before any mating occurs. If you have seen our birds stretching, preening or walking back and forth in groups with heads pointed towards the sky, this is all part of such displays. Pair bonding is very strong in flamingos, and both males and females will contribute towards nest building. This begins up to six weeks before the egg is laid, and the pair will use their beaks to form a cone-shaped nest out of mud. A shallow depression in the top stops the egg from rolling out. These tall nests protect eggs from flooding, as flamingos will usually be found living by large bodies of water. Each female will lay a single egg and only breed once per year, so keeping it safe is very important!

Many people are surprised to find that flamingos aren’t actually pink from birth! The chicks are actually a bluish-grey colour, which gradually turns to pink as they get older. This pink colour comes from the food that they eat, which is mainly brine shrimp found in the water. These contain chemicals called carotenoids, which are broken down by the liver to form colour pigments which are then incorporated into the feathers. Like ducks and baleen whales, flamingos are filter feeders, collecting a beakful of water and using their rough tongue and the hairy structures lining the inside of their beak to filter the water, mud and silt out. Rather uniquely, they actually use their beak upside down, which explains the strange shape!

The flamingo chick can be seen from the Treetop Walkway overlooking the lake. It is very small and being looked after by both its parents, so look carefully to see if you can spot it!