Rare Andean flamingos at Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, England have laid eggs for the first time in 15 years. The New York Times reports that this rare feat was likely caused by a recent European heat wave. The birds are inconsistent breeders and can go years without nesting. 1999 was the last year that the reserve saw a successful breeding of the rare flamingos. The park has been encouraging the flock to nest, but the high temperatures had more of a desired effect according to Mark Roberts, the reserve’s aviculture manager.
“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.”
He called the eggs a wonderful and welcome surprise. Unfortunately, there will be no new Andean additions to the flock. All nine eggs laid by six different members of the flock were not viable. But that will not stop the flamingos from raising chicks. Managers hope that a little parental practice will help the birds with further breeding endeavors, so they gave the flock a few eggs from Chilean flamingos to foster.
The managers at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust said that the Andean flamingos are some of the oldest birds at Slimbridge. The first birds arrived in 1960 and some of the birds have been there longer than newer staff members. The reserve is home to all six species of flamingo, including the Andean and their near-cousin, the Chilean flamingo.
The eggs and chicks are an important part of saving both the Andean and Chilean species of flamingo, both of whom face threats of extinction. Past exploitation has shrunk the population of Andean flamingos, putting them at “vulnerable” status. For Chilean flamingos, the threat comes from egg harvesting, loss of habitat, and hunting. They have been classified as “near threatened.”
Flamingos might be one of the only bright spots to come of the heat wave sweeping through continental Europe. Glaciers have melted in Austria and Sweden, while record temperatures have been recorded in Portugal. At the same time, wildfires are blazing in parts of England and Wales. Torrential rain also caused violent flooding in France, leading to the helicopter rescue of more than 1,600 people. And a mudslide occurred in the town of Grugnay, Switzerland, located in the Chamoson municipality. No injuries have been reported.