Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 12:28 UK

Baby flamingoes cause flap at zoo

Chilean flamingo chicks at Edinburgh Zoo
At the moment the birds are pale grey and fluffy and will not turn pink until they are one-year-old

Keepers at a Edinburgh Zoo have said they are expecting a record-breaking number of flamingo chicks after a successful breeding season.

Four Chilean flamingo chicks have been born and another five eggs are due to hatch in the next few weeks.

The zoo's previous breeding record is four chicks, which hatched in 2006.

The zookeepers said they had put in a lot of work over the past few months to create an optimum breeding environment for the threatened species.

The birds began to hatch on 20 June.

Gavin Harrison, Edinburgh Zoo's senior keeper for birds, said: "We have been working on the flamingoes' nest site since April. We moved the entire nest site over to an area that the birds seem to favour."

Mirror trick

He added: "We then started to build nests for them using mud and clay soil, this triggered the nesting instinct in the birds and they started to take over and build their own.

"In order to maintain the nests, the keepers had to manually turn the soil over each day and keep it hydrated, which was a lot of work for the staff involved.

"Thankfully our efforts have paid off as we expect the flamingoes to produce a record-breaking number of chicks."

The keepers placed mirrors in the enclosure to trick the birds into believing they were in a bigger flock, as this makes them feel more secure.

At the moment the birds are pale grey and fluffy and will not turn pink until they are one-year-old.

Flamingoes are pink due to carotenoid pigments in the food they eat, particularly from crustaceans such as prawns.

In zoos they lose their pink colour because their diet is different so carotin is added to their food.



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