Meet Mr. - or Mrs. - Bean...
Published: Mar 14, 2019Many people take dogs for walks, but our keepers have been exercising something a little more unusual...
Our bird keepers have had their hands full with a particular youngster at the Avian Breeding Centre here at Paignton Zoo - a flamingo chick!
Last August, there was a bit of a baby boom on Flamingo Lagoon. The last chick was around a month behind the others, hatching in early September. As the weather became colder and wetter, our keepers were concerned that the smallest chick might not survive the winter. In October they made the difficult decision to bring the chick inside and hand rear.
Initially, the chick was fed a crop milk formula and then weaned off and onto the pellet based food that the adults are fed. Senior Keeper Lyn Haig explains “like human babies, flamingo chicks don’t form proper poos straight away and so we were very happy when it had its first proper poo on the 11th January!”
While there are no plans to sex the chick, the keepers think it is a female because it is a little small, but the only way to tell is with a DNA feather test - or if it lays an egg. For now, they have fondly named it ‘Chilly’ or ‘Chilly-bean’, simply because it is a Chilean flamingo.
Having those long legs, Chilly needs plenty of exercise and is walked twice a day for around 30 minutes as long as it’s not too wet or windy, as Chilly doesn’t have fully waterproof feathers yet.
“I love the public showing an interest and asking questions” explains Lyn. “Many people don’t realise that Chilly is even a flamingo as she hasn’t developed all of her pink plumage yet and is still very grey.”
It’s clear the keepers enjoy having Chilly around and there is a clear personality developing. “We’ve been through the terrible twos and we’re now at the stroppy teenager stage. When we finish our walk, Chilly will often choose to forget her name or will just stand there and refuse to come in.”
When the weather settles, Chilly will move back out onto the lagoon with the flamingo colony. From past experience, the keepers are confident that Chilly will be welcomed by the others and within a couple of days, will forget that he/she was ever hand reared. The keepers will have a hard job trying to differentiate Chilly from the other flamingos!
In the meantime, if you’re visiting Paignton Zoo, you might be lucky enough to meet Chilly and one of our bird keepers on one of their walks near the ABC.
Did you know…?
- A flock of flamingos is often called a stand, colony, regiment or a flamboyance.
- A flamingo chick is born with a small, straight beak.
- Flamingos can live for around 20-30 years in the wild, but in captivity they can live for up to 50 years.