Playing mother hen to a flamingo chick
Friday 18 March 2005
A Caribbean flamingo chick, hatched on 6 July, is being hand reared by keepers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
Standing at 10 inches (25 cm) tall the leggy young bird will eventually grow as tall as 4 feet (1.2 m) and its creamy off white plumage will change to the familiar flamingo pink when it is a year old.
Flamingos lay their eggs in nests made of piles of mud which they carefully mould into a chimney shape, however the keepers noticed that the parents had abandoned one of the nests and so they collected the egg to see if it could be incubated.
After 28 days the egg hatched, producing a long, pink-legged and very noisy chick! It has been a major achievement to hatch and rear the youngster as they are notoriously specialised feeders.
The chick is fed 3 times a day on a special mixture of sprats, peeled prawns, two egg yokes, baby food cereals, vitamins, probiotic and calcium, which is liquidised in a food mixer and fed via a syringe.
The keepers will continue to look after the chick for about 10 weeks after which it will be slowly integrated into the flock at Whipsnade.
The Caribbean or rosy flamingo is found in central and south America and is the tallest flamingos.
Flamingos have a unique way of feeding using their specialised beak as an upside down sieve to filter out invertebrates in the water.