Flamingo Chicks Hatched
Keeper Chat Daily at 10:30 am
The flamingo chicks that hatched between June 28 and July 30, 2017 are now spending time at the lake in a separated pen to get comfortable with their new neighbors and the flamingo flock of adults. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the flamingos daily at the lake (near the restrooms) and join us at 10:30 am for a Keeper Chat.
The eggs were collected from the flock as they were laid and artificially incubated to ensure hatching success. They have been hand-reared behind-the-scenes by the zoo’s dedicated veterinary and animal care teams. Around-the-clock care for the chicks includes feedings, health checks, growth monitoring and regular exercise such as daily walks to strengthen their delicate legs. Once the chicks are large enough to thrive on their own, they will be introduced to the flock and live on the lake.
First Since 1999
The Sacramento Zoo is home to 36 adult American flamingos. The last time a flamingo egg was laid and then successfully hatched at the zoo was in 1999. Prior to the recent hatchings, the zoo has hatched 28 flamingos in its 90-year history and has housed American flamingos since 1966. One of the original eight flamingos that arrived in 1966 still resides on the zoo’s lake.
American flamingos, also known as Caribbean flamingos, are the brightest-colored and one of the largest of six species of flamingos and is native to South America and the Caribbean with a small population in the Galapagos. Although adult flamingos are pink, the chicks hatch with white down that change to grey feathering prior to their adult coloration coming in after a couple of years. The birds’ pink coloration comes from pigments in the aquatic organisms that they eat.
Flamingo Chick FAQs
Staff have been busy caring for the growing flock and learning their individual personalities. Test results have also come in revealing their genders. With all of that information in-hand zookeepers were ready to name the chicks – after cocktails!
Hatch dates and names:
June 28: Tiki, male
July 14: Mai Tai, female
July 15: Daiquiri, male
July 15: Bellini, female
July 19: Blue Hawaiian, male
July 30: Margarita, female
Chicks lose their juvenile gray or white color gradually over a two or three-year period, at which time their pink feathers begin to show.
Flamingo chicks learn to fly after growing their flight feathers at about 11 weeks.
The chicks’ parents live on the zoo’s lake. When the eggs were first laid zookeepers collected them, artificially incubated them, and are now caring for the chicks until they are the big enough to move onto the lake with the other flamingos. We chose to hand-rear the chicks because it offered a higher survival rate for the young birds during a very susceptible time due to wild predators in the park.
While we know it will be within the year, we do not know exactly when it will happen. The chicks need to be large enough to navigate the lake area safely.
FEBRUARY 10, 2018 UPDATE
The flamingo chicks are spending some time on most days at the lake separated from the adult flock while they get accustomed to the lake area.
We really do not know what made this year different from other years. It could be one simple thing like the weather pattern, or a variety of minor factors including how plants in the exhibit were trimmed and the pollen count this year. Our husbandry and care for the flamingos has not changed and we have not introduced new flock members since the early 2000’s. At this point we are just excited to have chicks and we are investing our time and energy into making sure all their needs are met.
Flamingo Chick Care update
October 26, 2017
On Wednesday morning Margarita was behaving normally when moving from overnight holding to the public exercise yard. Zookeepers noticed that after moving into the exercise yard but prior to the public viewing hour she began limping. Instead of participating in the public meet and greet she visited the veterinarians who determined that she had a broken toe. Margarita was prescribed pain medication and bedrest. Veterinary staff and zookeepers expect her to heal quickly and rejoin the other chicks soon. For now, as part of her bedrest, she is enjoying special one-on-one time with some of her favorite caretakers as she heals.
October 20, 2017
The five American flamingo chicks are three months old now! They spend most of their days outside together soaking up the sun. Just like socializing children, the time that the chicks are spending together is an important part of their development and eventual integration into the adult flock. The youngsters are learning how to manage social interactions, maneuver different personalities, and growing in their pink feathers!
In the coming months, as the chicks continue to grow and mature, zoo staff will begin working out a plan for the slow process of introducing the chicks to the lake flock.
Their individual personalities are also continuing to evolve:
Tiki – The oldest, is very shy with everyone, a little “standoff-ish”, and always wants to be by his human moms (his two primary caretakers).
Mai Tai – A sweet bird who loves to play follow the leader and spend time with her favorite staff. She makes the best nests with leaves on her towel in front of the public.
Daiquiri – He does what he wants and in his own time. When he wants attention, he runs circles around someone on his care team until they sit down and allow him to snuggle up.
Blue Hawaiian – Has honed his filter dance skills to expert level. He loves eating and hanging out in the pool and is a spunky and independent male.
Margarita – Can often be found walking the perimeter during public encounters. She is a people bird who enjoys attention and is very welcoming.
October 20, 2017
Tiki has shed his extra fashion accessories! As Tiki has continued to grow his leg has strengthened and stabilized. Due to this, he no longer needs to wear a brace or corrective bandaging every day. The zoos veterinary team will continue to monitor the angular leg deformity on his right leg and adjust his care plan if necessary.
October 4, 2017
Wait, training? What could zookeepers be training the chicks for? Animal training, also known as operant conditioning, plays a very important role in the well-being of the animals under our care. Participation in training sessions by the animal is voluntary and utilizes positive reinforcement techniques. Staff are using clickers and extra treats to station train the young flamingos (asking them to stand in a specific spot, in this case on a white square towel). Zookeepers will ask a chick to station, if the chick stands on the white towel then the keeper bridges the behavior of stationing with the sound of the clicker and then the chick receives a treat. This is the same way many other animals are trained, including the zoo’s red pandas, giraffes, and even pet dogs. The training is still a new concept for the chicks, some of them prefer to build nests on the station rather than train.
You can see the training during their public visiting hour at 10:30 am daily at the vet hospital.
October 4, 2017
Tiki has been sporting tape around his leg, an unusual fashion statement for a flamingo. This is because Tiki has an angular limb deformity affecting his right leg. This means that his leg has developed with an abnormal curvature.
What can cause this? Some of the most common causes that the veterinary team looked into are:
- A phase of rapid growth that allows the bone to bend under the animal’s own weight before it fully mineralizes during development
- Inappropriate diet (Tiki’s diet is consistent with the rest of the chicks and adult flock and is appropriate for him)
- Low vitamin D levels (Vitamin D levels in Tiki’s blood came back normal)
- Injury to the tendons, muscles, or bone (we’ve not witnessed any unusual episodes causing injury)
- Birth defects leading to abnormal development
What have veterinarians and zookeepers done and are continuing to do for Tiki?
- Supportive bandages were used on his legs to allow healing. The bending fracture appears completely healed at this point although the limb remains bent.
- Corrective bandaging was used because initially staff were worried that Tiki’s bone was abnormal and not strong enough for surgical correction. They tried several bandaging techniques in an attempt to alter the growth of his leg to correct the abnormality. Bandaging may have helped prevent significant worsening, but unfortunately, the minimally invasive technique did not correct the bend.
- Pain medication is given at times that he is uncomfortable.
- Weekly check-ups with radiographs are used to monitor the bone and measure any changes in the angle of the deformity that may require a change in his treatment plan
- UVB light treatment or vitamin D, which is important for bone development. Tiki and the rest of the flamingo chicks are exposed both to sunlight with frequent trips outside and UVB light produced by special lamps that are located in their indoor bedrooms.
Tiki’s care team is currently determining whether or not Tiki’s abnormal leg will impact his ability to live life as a normal flamingo. They may pursue surgery to help correct the abnormal leg curvature, but there are risks related to the surgery and anesthesia (as with any medical procedure) that must be carefully considered. They are also connecting with other zoos and veterinarians who have experience caring for flamingos.
Come visit the flamingo chicks to see how Tiki’s leg is doing, watch the zookeepers and flamingos work on training, and see the hints of pink that are appearing in the feathers of the young flock.
September 20, 2017
The Sacramento Zoo’s animal care team, veterinarians, and all other support staff are somber today as we announce the death of Bellini, one of the six American flamingo chicks to hatch at the zoo this summer. The cause of death is unknown at this time. Zoo veterinary staff completed a preliminary exam that procured no further answers. A full necropsy will be performed at UC Davis, we will keep you updated with results when we receive them. Bellini was the second oldest chick but was also the smallest. As the runt, her food intake and weight were monitored closely by her care team. Unlike the rest of her flock, she was still receiving supplemental feedings in an effort to help her grow. She will be remembered fondly by visitors and staff as being the little girl filled with personality. She loved to cuddle with her caretakers, enjoyed bathing, and had a sweet disposition. This is a difficult loss for all of us at the zoo.
October 26, 2017 Update
Necropsy results have revealed that Bellini passed away from food obstruction in her airway. The third-oldest but smallest of the chicks, she was still receiving supplemental feedings at two months old, unlike the other flamingos.
February 1, 2018
The flamingo youngsters are now spending time at the lake each day.
October 4, 2017
You can see the zookeepers training the chicks to “station” (come to and stand on a small towel).
August 17, 2017
In the video below you can see the chicks coming out to meet the visitors! They have grown a lot in a short time.
July 27, 2017
In the video below you can see the younger chicks at first then the older chick in his pool eating solid food, playing with his stick and learning to take a bath.