The exotic birds are “fickle breeders” and can go years without nesting successfully, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, England, said in a statement this past week.
But amid scorching temperatures on the Continent — which have spawned wildfires in England and Wales, melted glaciers in Austria and Sweden, and broken records in Portugal — a surprising thing happened at the reserve.
Six of the flock laid nine eggs, which Mark Roberts, the aviculture manager at the reserve, called “a wonderful and welcome surprise.”
“We’ve been encouraging the flock by helping them to build nests,” he said in the statement, “but there’s no doubt that the recent heat has had the desired effect.”
Unfortunately, the organization said, none of the eggs were viable, so no new Andean flamingos will emerge from this batch.
In a bit of human meddling, caretakers decided to get the Andean birds into parenting mode: They took a few eggs from Chilean flamingos, “near relatives,” and planted them among the Andean birds, who became foster parents to new chicks, the reserve said.
A spokesman for the organization, based in Gloucestershire, said by phone on Saturday that the Andean flamingos were some of the oldest at Slimbridge, which describes itself as the only such reserve where all six flamingo species roam.
A few flamingos arrived in the 1960s, according to the reserve, and some of them have been there longer than staff members. The Andean flock last bred successfully in 1999, the reserve said.
Both the Andean and Chilean flamingos are considered at risk of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Chilean birds are described as “near threatened” because of egg-harvesting, hunting, disturbance and the loss of habitat, while the Andean ones are called “vulnerable” because of past exploitation that shrank their population.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Yonette Joseph © 2018 The New York Times