Posted by Beth Anne Quinlan, PhD Avian Sciences on 7/25/2011 to Wild Birds
Earlier this month, I learned that flamingo chicks had hatched at the Columbus Zoo and headed there later that day. I put one of the photos up on our Facebook page; hopefully you've had a chance to go there and check out this leggy youngster.
The similarities between the rearing of flamingo chicks and cage birds astounded me. The Columbus Zoo removes the fertile eggs from the mothers (like most parrot breeders do), replaces them with 'fake eggs' (like many canary breeders), and keeps the eggs in an incubator until they hatch approximately 28 days later. The chicks are fed a nutritionally balanced hand feeding formula just like I have done myself on so many occasions. Parrot breeders have always done this so that the young birds would make better pets. However, zoo flamingos are typically kept as flock birds, so I was curious as to the reason. I met one of the zookeepers and asked the reason for hand-feeding birds that they intend to return to the flock. I was told that the birds are more gentle and respond better to keepers in their pens when they become adults.
There are five species of flamingo, one of which is further divided into two sub-species. The most brilliantly colored of them is the Caribbean Flamingo. The Greater Flamingo is the only flamingo living naturally in the United States--a few dozen reside in Everglades National Park. The natural range for flamingos includes South America, Africa, Asia, and Northern Europe.
The three Caribbean flamingo chicks I saw had a white down. I was advised that the flamingo chicks will remain white or grey until they are about two years old. The pink color we all associate with flamingos comes from the consumption of carotenoid pigments found in shrimp and certain algaes. Like the zoo, red factor canary breeders color-feed their birds to enhance their plumage.
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