Chicago zoo has first flamingo eggs in 50 years

CHICAGO In fact, zoo records go back only 50 years. So these may be the first flamingo eggs ever at the zoo.

Lincoln Park Zoo officials say the flock of 46 Chilean flamingos have produced 11 eggs; ten remain. Dr. Megan Ross, zoo curator, attributes their good fortune to the fact that five years ago the zoo switched breeds from American flamingos to Chilean - a hardier type.

"This is very exciting for us," said Ross.

The breeding season for Chilean flamingos can start as early as March and continue through September. Once they have their eggs, they create mud mounds for hatching purposes. The zoo also changed the soil to come up with just the right muddy mix. Eggs are incubated for up to 31 days. One of the mud mounds has two eggs, which is unusual.

"Both parents share equally in the incubation process, and they will share, if we're lucky enough to have a chick. We haven't handled the eggs at all, but I'm hoping we might have a flamingo come out," Ross said.

Ross says the zoo also planted more vegetation in its exhibit to give it a denser feel and make the flamingos feel there is a greater concentration of them.

"Once they start to nest and they have major mud mounds, they are very territorial of that mound specifically," Ross said.

Ross says the flamingos get their pink coloring from the food they eat, containing beta carotene in their diet of shrimp and fish.

The children from the St. Vincent DePaul Center enjoyed the flock of flamingos. Their instructor says they will discuss the birds in class.

"I think they are beautiful birds. I don't like the fact that they're hidden over there. I wish they were out in the open because these are some birds that the children may not know a lot about," said zoo visitor Rasheeda Thrash.

The eggs will be watched closely for the next three to four weeks.

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