A quick break from reporting on the birds down in the sunny South West, and a visit to WWT Martin Mere to speak with the knowledgeable and dedicated Julia Meldrum about her two flocks of flamingo; greater and Chilean.
I am hoping to include these flocks in my PhD research too so it was nice to go and visit the birds and talk to the folks who are in charge of their daily lives in captivity. Martin Mere has had much success with breeding its greater flamingos, and chick this year abound.
Breeding success has been supplemented from eggs transferred up from Slimbridge as due to the building work on-going around the Slimbridge greater flamingos it was thought wise to transfer extra eggs up to Martin Mere so that the maximum number of new flamingos could still be hatched.
The Martin Mere greater flamingo flock is not on the same scale as that at Slimbridge yet it is still an impressive sight; the total number of the birds is curtailed by the size of their indoor quarters. An essential calculation to make should environmental conditions mean that the flamingos need to be housed inside for a time.
A deviation from the normal mud mounds that are so characteristic of these birds; nevertheless this original take on nest building still seems to pay off and lots of fluffy grey chicks can be seen tottering around the towering legs of their parents.
The Chilean flamingos are not as obliging when it comes to producing young and many efforts are underway to encourage future breeding on a similar scale to that seen in the other flock of flamingos.
Willow barriers, mirrors, changes to the size and shape of the nesting island, different ways of building nests are all being tried or considered or debated amongst the avicultural staff as means of getting these South American birds “in the mood”. Flamingos can be notoriously fickle in their decision to breed or not to breed so every year can see their keepers on tenterhooks in the hope of eggs and chicks.
Julia and I even discussed using play back of wild flamingo flocks as well as simulated rain showers, techniques that have proved successful in other collections to kick-start breeding, so there are still plenty of ideas left to be tried. Fingers crossed everyone for more baby Chilean flamingos into the future!