Friday, August 27, 2010

Colourful antics see Edinburgh Zoo in the pink

Three fluffy flamingo chicks have hatched at Edinburgh Zoo in what has been an extremely successful breeding season, complete with some colourful breeding antics. Two breeding adult pairs have swapped partners this year; one pair now has a chick with the other pair incubating an egg of their own.

Chilean Flamingos

This is the second consecutive year that successful breeding has taken place for the flamingos. The first Chilean flamingo chick to hatch at Edinburgh Zoo was in 1979 but the next year of breeding success wasn’t until 1997 when three chicks hatched. This was followed by one in 2004, another four in 2006 and eight in 2009. With two eggs still likely to hatch, keepers hope that the number will increase, as more eggs could be laid up until October. As Nick Dowling, Keeper on the Bird Section at Edinburgh Zoo said, breeding has been encouraged by improvements to their enclosure.

Flamingo Chick

“We are delighted that for a second year in a row our Chilean flamingos have bred. For us it is confirmation that the improvements we have made to their enclosure have really made a difference. The one thing we can’t control is the weather and while the warm, wet conditions we have experienced this summer may not be favoured by everyone it may have benefited the flamingos. From previous observations a wet period followed by sunshine appears to stimulate courtship and breeding behaviours in the birds.”

The chicks began to hatch on 7 August. They are pale grey and fluffy at this stage and won’t turn pink until they are one year old. Flamingos are pink due to the carotenoid pigments in the food they eat, particularly crustaceans such as shrimp. In zoos, they lose their pink colouring as their diet is different so the necessary pigments are incorporated into specialised pellets.

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