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Heat Wave Prompts Rare Flamingos To Lay Their First Eggs In 15 Years

Aug 16, 2018 10:36 PM EDT
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There's one bright spot to the heat wave sweeping across Europe: the Andean flamingo has finally laid eggs for the first time in 15 years.

It's been nearly two decades since the exotic birds last laid eggs, but a recent temperature spike in the United Kingdom appears to have triggered the urge in them to reproduce again.

Heat Wave Sparks Andean Flamingos' Nesting

According to Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, six of the Andean flamingos in their care have laid a total of nine eggs at WWT Slimbridge. The researchers attributed the sudden laying to the rising temperature.

"We've been encouraging the flock by helping them to build nests but there's no doubt that the recent heat has had the desired effect," Mark Roberts, aviculture manager, explains in a statement.

However, while the adult flamingos laying eggs is an important milestone, all of the eggs are infertile and none will be hatching new Andean flamingo chicks. Instead, with the adults in a parenting mood, the WWT staff gave the flamingos Chilean chicks to foster and take care of as their own offspring.

"It's great motivation and enriching for the birds," Roberts says.

The animal experts are hoping this move will encourage the birds to lay more eggs.

The Chilean flamingos are similar to Andeans and the two species live side by side in the wild. However, they have different diets.

About The Andean Flamingos

The rare birds come from the Andean of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. Andean flamingos are notoriously fickle breeders, sometimes going years without successfully nesting, especially if the climate isn't favorable, according to the Smithsonian.

The last time the birds at the WWT reserve laid eggs was in 2003, while the last time the flock successfully breeded was in 1999.

However, they have long lifespans and the species are known to be capable of breeding into their old age even if fertility declines. The Andean flamingos in WWT arrived at the facility as adults in the 1960s, so most of them have been there longer than any of the employees.

The species is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List due to the rapid population decline in the past three generations. The drop in Andean flamingo population is attributed to exploitation and habitat quality decline.

Smithsonian reports that the current worldwide population of Andean flamingos is only 38,000 to 39,000. This makes them the rarest existing flamingo species.

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