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Flamingos get Frisky

 The Zoo Keepers at Drusillas Park, East Sussex have come up with an ingenious plan to encourage breeding amongst the zoo’s Chilean flamingos. To get the feathered favourites in the mood, they have been playing some soothing love songs to the group, which they hope will egg on the romance.

The mega mix is being played alongside pre-recorded mating vocalisations of Chilean flamingos. Amongst the group’s preferred playlist are a number of bird-themed ballads including Manfred Mann’s Pretty Flamingo and Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings. However, it is the classic seduction songs of love lyricists Barry White and Marvin Gaye that keepers are most hopeful will get some feathers ruffled and the birds in a flap. 

Classified as a threatened species, Chilean Flamingos are native to western South America. Sadly populations have declined in the wild mainly due to water pollution, interference in their wetland habitats, as well as human activity near breeding sites which can lead the birds to abandon their nests. 

The flamingos arrived at Drusillas Park in 1982 and despite many notable breeding successes throughout the years, there has not been a successful hatching since 2009. This year the zoo keepers hope to break this cycle by giving the group a gentle nudge in the right direction in an effort to encourage their natural courtship behaviour. 

Head Keeper, Mark Kenward commented: “We had been playing the bird calls in the enclosure when someone suggested that we give some love classics a try to see if they made any difference.” 

“Since playing the compilation and vocalisations, we have seen some subtle changes in the birds’. They appear to be spending more time at the nest sites and taking a greater interest in each other. We are not entirely sure which sounds are having the desired effect but we are just trying to do everything we can to set the mood.” 

“However, this is not the only way we are trying to prompt breeding within the group. The birds are very sensitive to their surroundings and feel more secure in large numbers, so we have placed mirrors in the enclosure to create the illusion of a fuller flock. Over the coming months we will also supplement their diet with extra protein to ensure that all the birds are feeling in the pink and we have even started building nests in the mud to show them how it’s done.” 

In Latin the word flamingo means flame. Hopefully, with a little help from Barry et al, love will burn brightly at the zoo this year and the keepers efforts will be rewarded with the flutter of tiny feathers later this year. 

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