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First flamingos in 18 years are born at Sacramento Zoo. Why the wait?

Cute, fuzzy, maybe a bit clumsy: Baby flamingos at the Sacramento Zoo

Five baby flamingos have been born at the Sacramento Zoo, the first of the long-legged birds to hatch from the resident flock since 1999.
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Five baby flamingos have been born at the Sacramento Zoo, the first of the long-legged birds to hatch from the resident flock since 1999.

Five baby flamingos have been born at the Sacramento Zoo, the first of the long-legged birds to hatch from the resident flock since 1999.

The eggs, usually laid on muddy mounds and tended by the parents, were collected by zoo staff and successfully hatched between June 28 and July 18. Artificial incubation resulted in the hatching of five chicks, which are being hand reared.

Visitors can catch a glimpse of at least one of the fluffy baby birds daily at 10:30 a.m. at the Dr. Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital at the zoo, 3930 West Land Park Drive.

The recent fecundity of the zoo’s flamingos is something of a mystery. There have not been any young adults added to the flock in quite a few years and the zoo’s care for the flock has not changed.

However, it is generally recognized that flamingos are finicky birds who prefer conditions to be just so, said Tonja Candelaria, the zoo’s spokeswoman.

“Due to that, it could be a variety of factors that caused the gap and then sudden laying of eggs this season,” Candelaria said. “They may prefer the weather pattern we have had recently, it could be changes keepers have made to the lake, such as moving a plant from one location to another, or the current cleaning schedule, recent zoo renovations, or even all those things.”

The around-the-clock care of the chicks includes feedings, health checkups, growth monitoring and daily walks to strengthen their spindly legs.

Once large enough, the chicks will take their place among the flock at the zoo lake. The lake is home to 36 adult American flamingos, also known as Caribbean flamingos, according to a zoo news release.

The last time a flamingo egg was successfully hatched at the zoo was 18 years ago. The zoo has hatched 28 flamingos in the entire time it has had flamingos.

American flamingos have been at the zoo since 1966. One of the birds from that original flock is still alive.

The American flamingo is one of the six species of flamingos. The birds are native to South America and the Caribbean. Adult flamingos are pink, but the chicks are downy white.

The white down turns to gray before adult coloration makes them pretty in pink. The pink coloration comes from pigments in their aquatic food.

Herkimer, a desert tortoise who has emerged over the decades as one of the Sacramento Zoo's most popular residents, chomped on a delightful food treat presented by zoo staff in honor of his 90th birthday on Thursday, June 15, 2017. His birthday co

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

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