Keepers at Banham Zoo have devised a very clever way to ensure that as many eggs as possible are hatched from their flock of Chilean flamingos this year.
As the breeding season commences, the zoo’s flamingos make nests in the muddy substrate of the enclosure, competing for the best spots for their nests.
To ensure there are no mishaps, where eggs can occasionally roll out of the nests, their keepers came up with a plan. As each egg is laid it is removed and replaced with a dummy egg made from cement. This dummy egg is made to the exact same dimensions and colour of a real flamingo egg with one cunning addition, it has a metal rod inserted which is then pushed into the muddy nest, resulting in an egg that cannot move. The real egg is then placed in an incubator and the parents continue to incubate the dummy egg, completely unaware that a switch has been made.
Keepers then carefully monitor the development of the real egg and just at the point that it is due to hatch, return it to its parents.
The adult flamingos appear completely unaware that this isn’t the egg they have been sitting on for the last 30 days and adopt the egg immediately, hatching it usually within the next 24 hours.
So far this year 5 chicks have been hatched this way and are being reared by the zoo’s flock of over 40 birds with several other eggs in the incubators, just waiting for the day when keepers will return them to their original nests to be reunited with their caring, if slightly clumsy parents.