One of the most striking birds in the world has bred at Paignton Zoo. The scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber) is famous for its bright red feathers – although, as you can see, the chicks are anything but scarlet.

There’s no other wading bird as scarlet as a scarlet ibis, but it takes time for juveniles to grow into the colour. It’s not until their second moult that the birds begin to take on that extraordinary rosy sheen. It can take two years or more for the dazzling change to be completed; the colour comes from the red crustaceans in their diet.

Keepers don’t want to disturb the birds, so are leaving them to get on with the parenting. Curator of Birds Jo Gregson: “We don’t want to go in there, alarm the adults and risk them abandoning the nests. We’ll find out more about the chicks in due course.”

The species comes from South America and the Caribbean; its International Union for the Conservation of Nature status is Least Concern, although some local populations are thought to be declining. Paignton Zoo is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.

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