Flamingo chicks and spring fever at Hellabrunn Zoo
Spring has finally arrived at Hellabrunn Zoo! At last the temperature in Munich is beginning to rise, nature is awakening, everything is covered in lush green and there are already new births in many of the enclosures. But for one species in particular a visit to the zoo is worthwhile: the flamingos are busy breeding and with a bit of luck you may even catch a glimpse of a chick hatching!
The first flamingo chicks to be born this spring have already hatched from their eggs at the end of last week. Small, grey and fluffy, these chicks will not be alone for long: several of the graceful, long-legged flamingos are currently incubating around 20 eggs in self-made mud nests. The gathering together and the loud chatter, which for humans often sounds like grunting, is important for flamingos to get into the mood for brooding. Living in a dense community protects the offspring not least from predators.
Hellabrunn Zoo is currently home to more than 100 red and pink flamingos. These are the two largest flamingo species – all the more delicate and smaller are their freshly hatched chicks standing at a height of ca. 15 cm. A flamingo chick hatches after 28 to 32 days and is cared for by both parents. Both the mother and the father produce a type of milk called crop milk in the upper digestive tract, which is similar to the mother's milk of mammals. When the chicks are about four to five weeks old, they will leave their nest to flock together with other chicks in a large group called a crèche. Each chick will then wait in the crèche for the parents to find and feed them.
After six months, the juvenile flamingo will become fully grown. However, it will only begin to gain a pink or red colour in its plumage upon reaching sexual maturity at the age of two to three years. The flamingos’ colour comes from the carotenoids found in certain algae and small crabs in its diet, which act as a dye on their feathers. Red flamingos store more of this dye than the pink species. As a result their red colouration is more intense. If a flamingo ate less algae or crustaceans, the bright colour of its plumage would fade. Flamingos are among the oldest bird groups. They have existed on earth in their present form for 30 million years. Red flamingos naturally inhabit the Greater Antilles; pink flamingos reside in and around shallow lakes and lagoons in Africa and Asia, but also in various regions in Europe such as in the Camargue in France.
Naturally the best way to observe the breeding and hatching on the Flamingo Island is up close on a visit to Hellabrunn Zoo. Alternatively you can watch it from the comfort of your home via our new webcam at http://www.hellabrunn.de/webcams. A live stream of the flamingos can be seen from 9 am to 6 pm.
Chicks were also born to the crested partridge in the Jungle World. Other new births this spring include offspring born to the yaks, takine, dama gazelle, eland antelope, Girgentana goats and capybaras.