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Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Monday, 26 July 2010 12:00 UK
Colchester Zoo use mirrors to help flamingos to breed
Jodie Smith
BBC Essex

Flamingos and their reflection at Colchester Zoo
Flamingos are known for being more comfortable in large flocks

Keepers at Colchester Zoo have been encouraging their flamingos to breed by using mirrors.

The birds have been tricked into thinking their flock is larger than it actually is as this helps them to nest and eventually lay eggs.

The zoo's 15 Chilean flamingos have now started to build their own nests.

"Even if we don't get eggs this year, it's taken us a step in the right direction," the zoo's curator Sarah Forsythe told BBC Essex.

Like many birds, flamingos do not breed very well in small flocks and the illusion of a larger group means there could soon be flamingo chicks at the zoo for the first time.

Staff were surprised at just how quickly the full-length mirrors began to take effect, as the birds started to build their own nests and show courting behaviour within a week.

A similar idea has been used at other zoos, but Colchester are particularly pleased with the reaction of their birds.

Known for their exotic pink feathers, the flamingos really seem to have enjoyed the unusual addition to their enclosure.

"They have all built their nests in front of the mirrors, so maybe they do like looking at themselves and that's what has spurred them on!" added Sarah.

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