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Tuesday, July 12

You know breeding season is in full swing when everything in the flamingo habitat is covered in mud. This includes the flamingos! It is a sight we were getting a little worried we wouldn’t see this year. There are 56 flamingos in our flock, and they are one of the best breeding flocks in the country, so the Species Survival Plan®(SSP) relies on us to successfully breed them every year. Usually by the beginning of May, the pairs are up in the breeding area playing around in the mud and starting to build nests. But here we were in the middle of June, and none of the birds seemed at all interested in the mud. Why such a late start? Well, it was mostly due to the mud itself.

Flamingo mud can be not an issue at all or my worst enemy during the breeding season, and this year it was particularly difficult.  For one thing, we didn’t have enough of it, and had a hard time finding any we could use. Georgia clay works best, but it can’t be full of rocks or debris, and if it has too much sand or soil mixed in, it doesn’t hold together well. Once we finally got our hands on some lovely red clay, we couldn’t just dump the whole thing in the breeder pool and call it a day. The clay had to be added over a series of days and gradually mixed into the existing mud. Once the mud’s in place, I have to find just the right amount of water to add to make it a perfect consistency. Too dry and the nests crack and fall apart. Too much water, and it turns into a giant mud puddle and they can’t build with it. It’s a delicate balance! And at this critical point we are praying we’ll have no rain for a few days.

After about a week or so, I finally found that balance, and within about 10 days, the nests were built and the eggs were starting to be laid! Currently there are 13 nests up in the breeder pool, and all but one has an egg on it! The birds are incubating very well, and hopefully next month we will have a few chicks out there running around!
Monica Halpin
Keeper III, Birds  

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