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First flamingo chick in 4 years hatches

Posted on 29 Aug 2019

A long-awaited Chilean flamingo egg has successfully hatched at WWT Washington Wetland Centre – the first chick to arrive in over four years!

For 30 long days, staff and volunteers at WWT Washington have waited on tenterhooks to find out if the first flamingo egg, laid on Wednesday 31 July, would produce a healthy chick.

Well, early on Tuesday 27 August, staff were delighted to hear a ‘croaking’ from within the egg – the very first bonding ritual young flamingos have with their parents – and a signal it was thriving, healthy and almost ready to hatch!

The ‘croaking’ egg was returned to its parents on the nest and within seconds the adults were back tending to the egg and bonding with their soon-to-hatch chick, or ‘flamingling’ as the team at WWT Washington refer to them as.

Then, this morning (29 August 2019) staff were incredibly excited to spot a freshly hatched youngster taking shelter under the protective wing of its parent.

Senior keeper Rhys Mckie said, “To have the first egg in over 4 years hatch successfully is very exciting and it’s great to see the adults doing their job as parents perfectly. It’s also been really promising to have many of our 6-year-old hand-reared flamingos interested in the process; curiously investigating the nests and inspecting the eggs. Some even had a go at incubating the eggs and, although they may not be their own, it’s really encouraging behaviour to see!

“The conditions couldn’t have been more ideal this year and alongside the work we’ve done as a team to make the enclosure suitable and comfortable, the weather has also played a huge part in the success of the eggs and newly-hatched young.

“We’ll be monitoring the chick regularly and checking the adults are doing well in supporting it. It’s a crucial time for both adults and chick and we’re keen to see how the relationships develop and grow within this close-knit flock as youngsters are introduced.”

Supporters of WWT Washington may remember voting for them in their bid to secure funds from M&S (Marks and Spencer) Energy Fund in 2017, winning £12,000 to make their flamingo house the first solar powered flamingo housing in Europe.

Supported by Enviro UK Consultants, this funding has created vital conditions that will ensure each chick during the next few months has access to a warm and well ventilated house, both overnight and during days when the weather is less bright. The solar panels, installed by AR Power, generate the indoor lighting which provides UV rays; essential to make sure the chicks bones grow nice and strong.

WWT Washington’s centre manager Gill Pipes said: “You can imagine how delighted we are to have these chicks. Whilst this summer’s weather may have, at times, been disappointing for us humans, the combination of spells of persistent hot sunny weather and some prolonged rainfall is perfect for the breeding behaviours of our flamingos. The solar powered UV light the adults had access to over the winter and the effective management of the vegetation and water flow of the exhibit by our team have also been key in bringing us to this successful point.”

Gill explained, “People may be aware that the birds have actually laid 24 eggs so far this year. We only rear the number of chicks we need to keep our flock at optimum head count so we won’t be returning all of the fertile eggs to the flock for hatching. The remaining eggs won’t go to waste though. They are now with Bird Gardens Scotland CIC who are building their flock of flamingos up in the Scottish Borders. Our longer term followers may well remember Owen Joiner, who led the WWT Washington team [including Rhys, who was then a volunteer here] in hand rearing 2 sets of flamingo chicks over 2012/13, leading to our birds laying eggs in 2014 for the first time in 8 years. Owen will be repeating this amazing feat up at Bird Gardens Scotland and our animal care team will be popping up for a visit in the coming weeks to share experiences and knowledge, and get close to the chicks .”

The youngster at WWT Washington can be seen feeding beak-to-beak with its parents; tentatively exploring the area around their volcano-like nests and 'sunbathing' when the weather is warm, to absorb vital vitamin D for strengthening its legs.

Visitors can discover more about WWT Washington’s Chilean flamingos at twice-daily commentated feeds. Meet at their enclosure at 11.45am and 2.45pm.