The Oregon Zoo’s bird family was tickled pink this week as five fluffy baby flamingos learned to walk. The 2-week-old muffin-sized chicks are the first of the greater flamingo species to hatch at the zoo.
“The chicks have really long legs, so they were pretty wobbly at first,” said senior flamingo keeper Barbara Suhn. “But they’re getting really good on their feet. They’ll be running around the zoo in no time.”
Keepers take the fluffy chicks out of the nursery twice daily for short sunny walks and swim sessions. According to Suhn, the tiny gray birds are already full of personality and love to keep their care staff on their toes.
“The chicks love to play with each other and explore their surroundings,” Suhn said. “They’ve got so much energy — it’s really fun to watch.”
The chicks are being cared for in the zoo’s behind-the-scenes bird nursery, but visitors to the zoo might be able to catch a glimpse of the fluffy baby birds practicing their walking at the Family Farm on sunny days. When they’re big enough, they’ll join the zoo’s adult flamingos in the Africa Rainforest Aviary.
The five feathered friends are greater flamingos, and will grow to be larger than the adult lesser flamingos currently living in the aviary. As they get older they’ll lose their downy gray feathers, and will develop their signature pink flamingo coloring.
The new arrivals came to the Oregon Zoo as eggs on a recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for greater flamingos — a cooperative program among accredited zoos that helps create genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations to guarantee the long-term future of animals. These SSPs also support relevant field projects, research and public education to help prevent animal endangerment and extinction.
Committed to conservation, Oregon Zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor's checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas. Celebrating 125 years of community support, the zoo relies in part on donations through the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.