Flamingos

Wild Encounters is enjoying some fun in the sun this week. Here’s Micah Rumsey with one of the most iconic birds in the animal kingdom, the flamingo, as well as Bird Keeper Samantha Amstutz.

Micah: We’re back on a sunny day for Wild Encounters and we’re here with the flamingos, a very iconic animal, and we’re back with Sam as well. So, tell us a little bit about these birds who are very friendly and coming up to be a little curious here.

Samantha: Yeah, we have Caribbean flamingos here. We manage a flock. Caribbean flamingos are one of the pinker flamingo species and it is a good time of year to see them. We see a lot of breeding displays and even nesting right now.

Micah: And we see a few eggs back there, so kind of describe that process of how long it takes to go through from laying an egg to until we get a new flamingo.

Samantha: Sure, so we give our flamingos mud, clay, soil and they do all the work. They build those mounds themselves. And when they do lay an egg, we actually will take the egg and incubate it and give them a fake egg in return so they have fake eggs on exhibit and we incubate their real eggs. There’s a couple reasons we do that. It mostly keeps the eggs safe. We might have things out here like a snake or other predator that will maybe come and harm the egg, so we do keep it safe and flamingos are very clumsy. The eggs might roll off the nest or in the mud. We just like to prevent that. So with the incubation, we do give the chicks back if they do hatch to the parents and the parents raise them.

Micah: So one thing that’s iconic about flamingos is their color, but a part of that comes from what they eat, correct?
Samantha: Correct. Yes it does. The color comes from a pigment, beta-carotenoids, so if you think of carrots and turnips, that color actually reflects in their feathers.

Micah: And that comes from specifically what they eat, so what do they eat?

Samantha: So in the wild, they’ll eat algae, crustaceans, other invertebrates they find in the water. Here, we feed our birds a pellet mixture you can see on exhibit and that has the fish oil, so that’s what you smell. It also has a lot of wheat, other grains and those pigments as well that give our birds their color.

Micah: So sometimes you see the flamingos out here and they’re putting on a show. One is even behind us with his wings spread out, so describe what they’re doing there.

Samantha: Sure. About in December here, flamingos start their breeding displays. You’ll see head flagging, which the birds behind us are doing now and they go through other motions too as a flock. This is to synchronize everyone to get ready for the nesting season. You’ll see their wings spread. You’ll see them bow and you’ll see them march around as well.

Micah: Alright, so definitely come out here and check out the flamingos.

*Flamingo approaches Micah and starts squawking*

Micah: This one is ready for an interview right now. So head on out to Riverbanks Zoo. We’ll see you next time on Wild Encounters.

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