A few weeks ago Bioparc Fuengirola announced that some of its pink and dwarf flamingos had nested and laid eggs, and now the first chicks have made an appearance.
The team at the zoo had prepared the beach where the flamingos live so that it resembled a brackish marshland with water, so the birds had enough mud available to build their high nests.
“Throughout the incubation process we let nature take its course; we maintain the levels of humidity and salinity in the area and minimise cleaning so we don’t cause the flamingos any stress,” says Antonio Garrucho, the head of Zoology and bird coordinator at the Bioparc.
Now, a month after the first eggs were laid, some of the chicks have hatched. So far four have been spotted, with their grey plumage easily noticeable among the characteristic pink colour of the adults.
It can take 48 hours for the chicks to peck their way through the shells of the eggs, so they are weak when they finally make it. “They quickly consume the yolk, and that gives them the nutrients they need,” says Garrucho. After that, their mothers take over their feeding, first by regurgitating a high protein substance and putting it into their beaks, and later doing the same with the food the adults normally eat.
The chicks stay in the nest for three or four days, or occasionally up to a week. When they are ready to leave it, they start to explore their surroundings. “They wander around as if they were on a day trip, and the others come and join them. It’s like a type of kindergarten, slightly apart from the adult birds,” Antonio Garrucho explains.
Flamenco chicks are about 20 centimetres tall when they are born, and reach about one metre tall after a month. Their feathers stay grey until they are about four or five years old, and they will then turn pink. During this time, and until they reach reproductive age, their feet also gradually change colour and this helps veterinarians and keepers to know how old they are and also their gender. Females tend to be a bit smaller than males, although that is not always the case. However, the only sure way of knowing if a young flamingo is male or female is through DNA testing.
If all goes well, Bioparc Fuengirola will be welcoming more flamenco chicks between now and early July. The team are also hoping the incubation of the pygmy flamencos will be successful, because if so it will be the first time chicks of this type have been born at the zoo.