First Flamingo Hatch of 2012

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Flamingo mother 30 Black Left watches over her newest chick.

Our famous flamingo pair has done it again! The San Diego Zoo’s flamingo breeding season kicked off on April 24 when the first egg was laid by none other than my favorite girl and oldest female, 30 Black Left (see post Our Oldest Female Flamingo). She and her mate, 26 White Right, did the usual fantastic job that they do with incubating duties, sitting tightly on their precious egg. Like clockwork, 28 days later, the first flamingo chick of 2012 hatched on Tuesday, May 22. The incubation period for flamingo eggs is between 27 to 31 days.

When I went out to the exhibit at 6:30 that morning, I saw that the egg had pipped. A small hole had started the hatching process, and I could see the little beak diligently working on breaking out. By 10:30 a.m., the chick had chiseled half way around the shell, and by 2 p.m. it was free! Mom and Dad have been brooding the chick very tightly, keeping it nice and warm. By Wednesday morning, the chick was vocalizing, begging to be fed (Mom happily obliged); in the afternoon it was already trying to stand.

It never ceases to amaze me how incredible these birds really are, and after six years as their keeper, it never gets old. I am just as excited with each and every hatch as I was the first time I ever saw one. It warms my heart that our sweet old girl continues to be such a great mother and wonderful example to the rest of the flock. She will be 53 on June 23. Just as much credit goes to her mate, at only 20 years of age this year. He may be 33 years younger, but he is a great flamingo dad, and I truly believe that their bond is what is keeping her going strong!

I’ll be checking on the chick tomorrow morning (Saturday, May 26) to make sure all is well. I anticipate that sometime next week the chick will be off of its nest mound and starting to explore. They grow quickly, so you definitely want to see the sweet little ones before they get big.

I can’t forget about the rest of the flock: our second chick of 2012 hatched yesterday (Thursday, May 24). We hope to hatch more chicks this season, with about half of those being hatched and hand-reared at our Avian Propagation Center. These hand-reared birds will be joining the flamingos that are currently part of our Backstage Pass experience. If you haven’t had the opportunity to feed the sweet flamingos there, it is a life experience that can’t be missed! Even though I get to work with flamingos every day, I still had to partake in the fun and share with family members. They loved it, and so will you!

Athena Wilson is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Screamer Family Returns.