Flamingos Fooled Into Fornicating

By Deborah Ferguson
|  Wednesday, Mar 17, 2010  |  Updated 2:15 PM CDT
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Flamingos Fooled Into Fornicating

Fort Worth Zoo

Lesser flamingo chicks are about 1.75 to 2.6 ounces when they hatch, making them very fragile.

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Spring usually means the birth of new animals at the Fort Worth Zoo, and flamingos are right on time. Lesser flamingo chicks are arriving one after the other, at least nine, so far.

The zoo has hatched and hand-reared 59 lesser flamingo chicks since 2002, and learned some things along the way.  For example, wild flamingos breed in colonies with thousands of birds. The zoo's breeding group has only 18 to 20 birds. So, to get them to breed, zookeepers had to get creative.

"Mirrors on the walls create the illusion that the flamingos are members of a much larger group," said said Remecka Owens, public relations manager for the Fort Worth Zoo.

The younglings are fragile little things, weighing about 1.75 to 2.6 ounces at birth. The zoo puts them in an incubator-type container for the first 24 hours so their down is dry and fluffy.  

The bird's first food is its own yolk followed by two-hour feedings of formula beginning 24 hours later.    In many cases, it's the zoo's bird curator Katy Unger taking the chicks home to keep up with the 6 a.m. to midnight feedings.

As chicks age, Unger is also often the one taking them on daily walks so their long legs develop properly.

The chicks are introduced to the flock at about three months old, but sheltered at night until they're fully integrated.

"The lesser flamingo breeding program is one of the Zoo's banner conservation programs," said Owens in a news release. "The Zoo is the only facility in the world to consistently breed the native African bird."

Other adjustments to the nesting habitat include more heating lamps and a small pool.

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