The rare flock of Andean flamingos at WWT Slimbridge have become foster parents to chicks from their near-relatives, Chilean flamingos, after the hot spell triggered them to lay their first eggs since 2003.
The record-breaking temperatures sparked six of the exotic birds to lay nine eggs, but as they were all infertile, the expectant mums and dads were left without chicks to rear.
So to fulfil their needs as expectant parents, experts at the Gloucestershire reserve decided to give them Chilean flamingo eggs to hatch and look after as their own.
Aviculture Manager at Slimbridge Mark Roberts said:
It’s a wonderful and welcome surprise that the Andeans have started laying again after nearly two decades.
We’ve been encouraging the flock by helping them to build nests but there’s no doubt that the recent heat has had the desired effect.
Unfortunately none of the eggs were viable so with the Andeans in full parenting mode we gave them Chilean chicks to bring up as their own. It’s great motivation and enriching for the birds.
Just a handful of Chilean eggs were passed on so as to encourage the other birds to lay more eggs, in the hope one might be fertile.
The flock last successfully bred in 1999 and interestingly, one of the chicks that hatched back then is currently nesting.
Flamingos are fickle breeders and can go years without nesting successfully.
Chilean flamingos are relatively similar to the Andean. They live side-by-side in the wild but survive on different diets.
The Andean flamingos are some of the oldest animals at WWT Slimbridge. With some of the birds arriving in the 1960s as adults, they’ve been at the reserve longer than any of the staff. They are long-lived birds that are capable of breeding well into old age. However fertility does decline.
Slimbridge is the only place in the world where you can encounter all six species of flamingos. Thanks to funding, such as support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, aviculturists are able to study these birds and help conserve them in the wild.
Visitors to Slimbridge will be able to capture the amazing spectacle of the new parent flamingos with their fostered chicks up close.