The good weather (don’t blink as you’ll miss it) that has been around over this weekend has been excellent for flamingo watching, and a really good way to get a view of the Caribbean flamingos to see what they are up to from a bird’s-eye-view is to pop up to the top of the observation tower in the main visitor centre at WWT Slimbridge. The Sloane Tower, as it is named, offer amazing views over much of the Slimbridge grounds as well as out into the reserve itself. If you head around to the right when you reach the observation area, you will look right down onto the Caribbean flamingo pen and hence it’s a very good place to stand and watch what is going on. Over the breeding season, and when there are chicks around, the flock is very busy- bustling with activity. I have conducted some of behavioural observations for my PhD work from the top of the Tower and it gives a very idea of who is using which area of the enclosure and which parts of the pen are the favourites for the flock overall. The photos below give you an idea of what you can see, and watch, in this flamingo pen if you climb up to look down.
Flamingos from above.
Two’s company in some cases.
Just a short note to highlight the strength of the relationships that can be seen between flamingos, illustrated beautifully by the Andean flamingos at WWT Slimbridge. I have mentioned two birds, JAU and JAY, before as an example of a pair of flamingos to look out for, who can be seen together pretty much all of the time and will mirror each other’s behaviour. These two birds are nearly always in close contact – here is a photo of the two of them snoozing next to each other…
So when looking at flamingo friends, is it all about personal space? Well to some extent, yes, but relationships can also be judged by looking at who is choosing to do what with whom, as well as observing those birds together in the same area of the exhibit. Birds in a flock will be making choices of where to go and who to follow. They will not be scattered around randomly as was perhaps previously thought. These little subgroups are illustrated below…
And to finish, here is a short clip of JAU and JAY walking together in an area of their exhibit not often frequented by the flamingos. I found them mooching about here and there far away from the other birds in the flock. These two birds are seen together too frequently for it to be coincidental; hence they are termed preferred partners.
We have recently been catching up our Chilean flamingos.
Every year we struggle to breed the Chilean flamingos as they tend to lay their eggs later in the year so it is getting too cold for the chicks to survive when they hatch. So we are continually coming up with new methods to assist this and part of this has been to catch up the flamingos and take DNA from their feathers so that we can sex them to ensure we have sufficient female to male ratio in the enclosure. I will put the results on this diary when they are available.
We also took the opportunity to microchip the flamingos as it has been some time since we last caught up the flock. We catch the Greater flamingos every year because we have up to 20 chicks a year and we need to microchip them immediatley.
In other news, I have had a meeting at Slimbridge regarding how we can take the Downy Duckling events further as they are one of the most popular events for the trust, so that is all under discussion and I have shown round a couple of people who activley support Martin Mere with WWT’s Head of Fundraising.
Happy Valentines day to all.
Visit our February Half term page to download bird mating calls and send a WWT e-card to your valentine!
Last week I attended the Aviculture Meeting at Martin Mere, we discussed different incubation techniques and how to encourage our Flamingos to breed. Our Greater Flamingos breed well at the centre but our Chilean Flamingos prove to be more difficult, not only here but at other trust centres as well. We are going to look at introducing bark for them to build nests, as our Greaters do, and also adding mirrors, this will create a bigger flock size, as all Flamingos breed better in larger flocks. This has been known to work with a private collection where there are only 12 birds.
On Friday I attended a Development meeting for the centre, which i will update you on in due course. Martin Mere will be holding the AGM this year and we are currently discussing a layout for the day.