Birdy Babies

July 29, 2009 § Leave a comment


Since the escapee monkeys were recaptured last week, things have been quietening down, here at the zoo! Here’s what has been going on this week.

As you may recall, we announced that a king penguin egg was laid on the 12th June this year. In the end, our second king penguin female did not lay any eggs at all. The one egg was left with its parents for its 56 day incubation period and they were very good parents indeed. You may have even spotted the green banded female or blue banded male tending to the egg, keeping it tucked under their belly, well incubated and protected. They never once dropped their precious little bundle!

However, despite these efforts, keepers this week found that the egg was infertile. The egg was coming very near to its time for hatching, and so the keepers decided to get a closer look, and check the health of the egg. When they did, they were very disappointed to find that there was indeed nothing living or growing inside the egg, and there certainly hadn’t been for some time. Although this is upsetting, we always had to bear in mind that this egg may not lead to a chick. Keepers will continue in their dedicated care of the king penguins, while looking in to the reasons for this egg being infertile.

Just the two of us! 

Just the two of us

On a sunnier note, we are very pleased to announce that a record number of 5 Chilean flamingo chicks have hatched at Edinburgh Zoo this year! This beats previous records for flamingos at Edinburgh Zoo, and there is still another 4 eggs due to hatch over the next few weeks.

During the breeding season females will typically lay just one egg which is then incubated by both the male and female for around a month, before the egg hatches. We have just ten female flamingos here at Edinburgh Zoo, and so they have done very well indeed to produce 5 chicks, and another 4 eggs. The first chick hatched on the 20th June, and others have followed at steady intervals since then. After the chick first hatches they are fed a substance called “crop milk” which comes from their parents’ upper digestive tract. Both parents can feed the chick in this way, and other flamingos can also act as foster feeders. The hatchlings are pale grey and fluffy at this stage. They won’t begin to turn pink until they are able to feed for themselves at around one year old. Look out for them on the nest site, at the bottom of their enclosure!

 The tiny hatchlings are already strutting their stuff!

The tiny hatchlings are already strutting their stuff!

Keepers are particularly pleased with these hatchlings because they have worked hard to create an ideal breeding environment for this ‘near threatened’ species. Gavin Harrison, Senior Keeper for Birds explains, “We have been working on the flamingos’ nest site since April. We moved the entire nest site over to an area that the birds seemed to favour. We then started to build nests for them using mud and clay soil, this triggered the nesting instinct in the birds and they started to take over and build their own. In order to maintain the nests, the keepers had to manually turn the soil over each day and keep it hydrated, which was a lot of work for the staff involved. Thankfully our efforts have paid off as we expect the flamingos to produce a record-breaking number of chicks.” Flamingos are colony breeders and feel more comfortable and secure in a large flock. To boost breeding, keepers brought in 10 more birds and also placed mirrors in the enclosure to give the illusion that the birds were part of an even bigger flock still.

This species is threatened by egg harvesting, hunting and habitat loss in the wild, and is unfortunately in decline. It is therefore fantastic that our keepers’ efforts have had such a positive impact on our flock of flamingos and their breeding efforts.

One ‘ugly duckling’ hides behind mum!

One ‘ugly duckling’ hides behind mum!


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