OKLAHOMA CITY – We’re getting our first look at an adorable new addition at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden.
Although a flamingo chick hatched on July 13, it has yet to be named and its sex has not been determined yet.
During breeding season, staff members at the zoo monitor nests and place any resulting eggs in incubators. Then, they place dummy eggs back in the nests to allow the birds to demonstrate their instinctual brooding behavior.
Organizers say that flamingo eggs are targeted by many natural predators, so the chicks have been completely hand-reared by caretakers in the past. In fact, the chicks are usually reintroduced to the flock after about a year.
Now, caretakers at the zoo say they are developing a new partial hand-rearing technique for one of the newest flamingo chicks, enabling it to benefit from parent rearing and group socialization.
Partial hand-rearing means the chick will spend days with the flock and will be brought inside at night.
“We would much rather have all of our birds be parent-reared,” said Holly Ray, assistant curator, birds. “Hand-rearing only occurs when it’s absolutely necessary for the safety and well-being of the animal. But if we can try something that will both help the animal thrive socially and physically while preserving its safety, it’s absolutely worth doing.”
Organizers say the partial hand-rearing method will allow the bird to become a better parent in the future.
The first time caretakers reintroduced the chick to the flock, caretakers placed it in a nest and watched to see if the other flamingos would start taking care of the baby.
After 45 minutes, a flamingo pair started exhibiting parental behavior toward the chick. Although they were not the actual parents, staff members began referring to the pair as the chick’s “foster parents.”
The foster parents are a 22-year-old female and a 56-year-old male flamingo, who is the last remaining member of the zoo’s original flock. The median life span for flamingos is 25.8 years.
As the foster parents stay close to the chick, zoo staff has been “chick-proofing the exhibit. Caretakers say the hatchling is “adorably clumsy” but is constantly exploring and investigating new sights and sounds.
Currently, three other hatchlings are being hand-raised with the traditional method.