We’re Seeing Pink!
The spring and summer months mark the middle of flamingo breeding season, and this year 44 chicks have hatched at the Zoo: 12 Chilean, 24 lesser, and 8 Caribbean – representing three of the four species housed at the Zoo. Both lesser and Chilean flamingos are listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Lesser flamingos are extremely difficult to breed in captivity and reproduce less than any other flamingo species found in U.S. zoos. The Zoo’s flamingo breeding efforts are incredibly important to creating long-term, self-sustaining populations of these birds in U.S. zoos, and the Fort Worth Zoo is grateful to be recognized as the top lesser flamingo breeding facility in the world. Since the lesser flamingo program started in 2002, 333 hatches can be accredited to the program with more hatchings to come this year.
Several of these chicks have been hand-reared by the Zoo’s bird staff, which includes feeding a customized formula of egg, smelt, shrimp, water and vitamin and mineral supplements, and daily walks to make sure they get necessary exercise so that their legs develop properly.
For years, the Zoo’s lesser flamingo collection was housed in an outdoor, natural habitat that resulted in little breeding success. After making adjustments to the birds’ nesting habitat, which included adding heating lamps, a small pool and mirrors to provide the illusion of more birds, Zoo staff celebrated one successful hatching after another.
Chilean flamingos are found in South America and are characterized by their light pink plumage, gray legs and pink joints with pink webbed feet.
Lesser flamingos are the smallest of the six flamingo species and are native to Africa, India and Pakistan. Light pink feathers, long pink legs, yellow eyes and a beak that is largely black characterize this species.
Caribbean flamingos are the boldest-colored bird, with bright pink to crimson plumage. Native to South America, Caribbean and Galapagos Islands, it is the only species of flamingo that does not share any part of its range with any other flamingo species.
Greater flamingos are found in Europe, Africa and Asia, and are the tallest of all species, averaging 57 to 59 inches long. This species has vermillion to pale pink plumage.
You can see the Caribbean and Chilean flamingo flocks near the entrance of the Zoo at Flamingo Bay and the lesser flamingos across from MOLA as well as next door to the southern black rhino in the African Savanna (where they share the habitat with greater flamingos).