Como Zoo Welcomes New Addition to its Flock: Flamingo Chick Hatched Thursday Afternoon

Como Zoo welcomed a baby flamingo to its flock on Thursday, August 18 at 4:00pm. The small white chick is on public display huddled near its pink parents.  This is the first flamingo born at the zoo since 2008, and only the second to be born in the zoo’s history.

Como zoo keepers attribute this rare success to the wetter than normal spring. This hatchling is one of five eggs laid in June and July.  The eggs were put in an incubator and a false egg was put in its place for the parents to sit on.  Once it appeared this egg was in hatch stage, which generally takes 2-3 days, zoo keepers put it back into the nest.  The other four eggs laid this season were not fertile.

Flamingo are most known for their remarkable color—from pale pink to salmon and red—but they are not born with this colored plumage, nor can they maintain it without a proper diet.  Flamingo chicks are born white and turn grey after a few weeks.  It is after a year or so that they begin to develop their attractive rosy coloring.  Alpha and Beta carotene pigments in a flamingo’s diet create the brilliant hues.  These pigments are added to the diets of captive flamingos.

In the wild, flamingos gather to breed in large colonies—often thousands of individuals at once.  Although flamingos reach sexual maturity at 2-6 years, they usually do not begin breeding before six years of age.  Breeding can occur at any time and may happen twice a year.  Individuals may not breed every year.

The female lays one large egg atop a constructed mound of mud.  The mound is usually about .3 meters (one foot) tall.  The egg is incubated by both parents for 26-31 days. Among Chilean flamingos, the male is the primary care giver.  Adults recognize the chick by sight and vocalizations and will not feed any other chick.  Chicks are fed a red secretion of the upper digestive tract from both parents called “crop milk.”  Although it isn’t truly milk—only mammals produce milk—it contains similar nutrients.  The chick leaves the nest after four to seven days.