Flamingo chicks hatched and growing up fast!
There is plenty of excitement with our flock of Chilean flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis) at the moment. Three chicks have hatched so far and its hoped that there are more on the way!
Last year was the most successful flamingo breeding season in the zoo’s history with six chicks reared to maturity and it looks like this year will be another success! Keepers are delighted with this years success as flamingos don’t always breed every year. But far from taking a year off our flamingos have been busy courting, laying, incubating eggs and rearing chicks again! Two have swapped partners from last year and have gone on to have eggs in their new pairings.
Flamingo chicks have fluffy grey feathers when they first hatch!
The new chicks are growing fast; the highly nutritious crop milk (a substance secreted from the parents crop and regurgitated for the chicks to feed on) means that they grow quickly and the first chicks were happily wading around in the pool within a week of hatching!
So whats the reason behind the recent boom in breeding behaviour? In order to encourage the flamingos to breed keepers have made some alterations to the enclosure and bird keeper Nick Dowling thinks that the Scottish summer that we’ve been enjoying may have also played a part in the flamingo’s success: “We are delighted that for a second year in a row our Chilean flamingos have bred. For us it is confirmation that the improvements we have made to their enclosure have really made a difference. The one thing we can’t control is the weather and while the warm, wet conditions we have experienced this summer may not be favoured by everyone it may have benefited the flamingos. From previous observations a wet period followed by sunshine appears to stimulate courtship and breeding behaviours in the birds.”
In the wild chilean flamingo populations are under threat from habitat destruction and disturbance, egg harvesting and hunting. Their numbers have more than halved in the last 30 years, from an estimated 500,000 in the 1970’s to around 200,000 today.
Births at Living Links!
The flamingos aren’t the only animals at the zoo to be having record success this breeding season, the capuchins over at Living Links are celebrating the arrival of six babies!
The new arrivals have been born to the two groups of brown capuchin (Cebus apella) monkeys that live at the Living Links Centre here at the zoo. Living Links has two groups of brown capuchins; the East group and the West group and three babies have been born to each. The youngest baby to be born is just reaching a month old and was born on July 29th 2010 to first time mum four-year-old Penelope who is a member the East group.
Babies cling to Mum's back for the first few months. Photo credit: RZSS
Females usually give birth to their first baby when they are around four years-old and the baby is born after a gestation period of six months. After birth the new baby clings on tightly to mums back for the first few months. This means that keepers have not yet been able to discover the sex of the new arrivals but once the babies start to become more independent keepers will be able to sex and name them.
There is lots of interest in babies and other group members will help to look after young. Photo credit: RZSS
The Living Links Centre is a field station and research centre for the study of primates and was developed in partnership with St Andrews University and The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. The building has two wings, an east and a west wing and each side is home to one group of brown capuchins and one group of common squirrel monkeys. Each wing has a large outdoor enclosure which the capuchins and squirrel monkeys of that side share; these two species would form mixed species groups in the wild. These monkeys are ideal research subjects as they are inquisitive, smart, very social and capuchins even use tools! The research that goes on is all about studying behaviour and is totally non-invasive, some of the main topics include finding out how monkeys communicate, if different groups have their own cultures and how they pass these on, why the capuchins and squirrel monkeys choose to associate in the wild and trying to find out how much the monkeys understand about the world around them. If you want more information then visit the living links website at http://www.living-links.org/ .
Capuchins and squirrel monkeys are captured from the wild to be sold on the pet trade or even as in the case of capuchins as food for humans. The south American rainforests that these monkeys inhabit are being destroyed and so populations are declining in the wild.
Breeding successes such as these are great news for conservation as they help to contribute to maintaining healthy captive populations in zoos which could help to safeguard species from extinction in the future.