5 July 2023
A flamingo chick has been adopted by new parents after being abandoned as an egg - first spending a month in an incubator where dedicated zookeepers could ensure the new-hatchling's survival.
Whipsnade Zoo birdkeeper Emily Merrick-White said the team had rescued the abandoned egg and monitored it for 32 days at the zoo's specialist bird nursery, before carefully transferring it to a flamingo nest where the new feathered couple - named Florence and Freddie - took the egg under their wing.
After hatching on Monday 19 June, the new flamingo family have been bonding at the conservation zoo, with both adoptive parents caring equally for the fluffy grey two-week-old.
“It’s important we step in and support the American flamingo flock whenever an egg is abandoned by its parents, especially as when left alone the eggs are at risk of predators. By incubating the eggs at our specialised bird nursery, we can make sure the chicks have the best chance of survival and ensure that Whipsnade Zoo has a healthy and strong flamboyance of flamingos,” she said.
“The new chick is easy for visitors to spot, as it definitely stands out from the flamboyance - the collective term for a flock of flamingos - because of its light grey colour. The youngster won’t develop the iconic pink and orange hue the species are known for, for another year or so.
“In the meantime, the chick is being fed a bright red “crop milk,” by both parents – this unusually coloured nutritious ’milk’ is made in the linings of their digestive tracts, and contains fat, protein and blood cells.”
Emily added that the team were still waiting to find out whether the hatchling is male or female, but that the chick is becoming more and more confident by the day, as it explores its wetland home in the Dunstable Downs.
While American flamingos are currently found in healthy numbers in the wild, their main threat is the same as other species living in important wetland environments - habitat destruction, rising sea levels caused by climate change and water pollution.
“ZSL, the international conservation charity behind Whipsnade Zoo, is working to restore wetland environments across Asia, Africa, in Amazonian flooded forests and even central London - where the team is helping to restore the Thames estuary to help ensure the long-term survival of the many bird and marine species that call these incredible ecosystems home,” Emily said.
Emily added that the brightly coloured flamingo flock also play an important role in educating the public through the conservation zoo’s daily talks, helping to inspire the next generation of conservationists.