Baby flamingos and squirrels leave reserve rangers tickled pink
- Credit: Steve Adams
The first flamingo chick has hatched at a Norfolk wildlife park which has been keeping them for 15 years. Elsewhere on the reserve, four red squirrel kittens have been seen for the first time.
On Sunday, the first flamingo egg hatched at Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham. While 14 eggs were laid two weeks before, only one was fertile, leaving the chick to hatch late in the season.
Chrissie Kelley, head of species at the reserve, said: "We're thrilled we have our first hatching here, and hopefully it means more next year. When the first egg was laid, the other young birds all got excited and started laying. The older birds were too wise to lay so ludicrously late."
There is some concern over how the chick will handle the colder weather when it is too large to fit under its father's wing. Mrs Kelley said: "We've had discussions about what we can do, and the flamingos have a winter shelter to help.
"The parents are currently feeding the chick with crop milk, and it's about the size of its father's foot. They're are a good age to start laying, so hopefully we will see more eggs from all the flock next year."
Flamingos can live to be 80 in captivity, and the laying pair are both aged 14. The group of flamingos, known as a flamboyance, moved into a new habitat last year, as their number almost doubled over 12 months.
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Having a larger flock and a less exposed enclosure both encouraged the birds to breed, keepers believe.
The first egg laid was swapped for a wooden replica egg, and placed in an incubator for safety until more were laid. After assessing how the parents cared for the fake egg, the real one was returned to the nest, and hatched a few weeks later.
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Mrs Kelley said: "We tried not to interfere, because this is good experience for the parents in their next breeding season, and for us in caring for the chick."
Elsewhere in the reserve, red squirrel kittens were born in early August, but due to squirrels' shy and protective nature, wardens first saw the babies in the past week. Parents Hartlaub and Harlequin, named after species of duck, were seen with four babies in their first litter.
The kittens have not been named, but as their parents have names beginning with 'H', this generation's names will start with 'I'.