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‘Project Hatch’ Takes Flight

‘Project Hatch’ Takes Flight at Drusillas Park

Spring has sprung at Drusillas and romance is not far behind with many love birds building their nests and settling down to nurture eggs across the park in East Sussex.

With a Spectacled owl sitting on two eggs, two kookaburra chicks due to fledge their nest any day now and the lorikeets and lovebirds busy making nests of their own, it’s a very exciting time for keepers at the park.

This year, keepers are specifically encouraging the Chilean Flamingos to breed. Deputy Head Keeper, Gemma Romanis, is working on ‘project hatch’ to encourage the birds to mate using a variety of tricks and techniques carried out by zoos across the world.

Gemma said: “We have 13 Chilean Flamingos at the park, 7 males and 6 females, and we would love to see them breed this year. I have been working with the other keepers to proactively encourage them using a variety of techniques so we have our fingers crossed for a successful year.”

The keepers at Drusillas Park have been busy digging over the nest site and adding a soak-away to ensure the ground stays moist enough for the birds to build their nests from the mud. Keepers will use this space to create ‘fake nests’ to encourage the birds to build their own and take over the land for breeding. Alongside this, they have many other clever tactics to encourage reproductive behaviour.

“Flamingos feel most comfortable for breeding when in a large group, so we have many inventive ways of adding to the flock” said Gemma.

“We have mirrors around the enclosure and play breeding noises from other flamingos over speakers which trick the flamingos into thinking there are more birds in the enclosure and that it’s safer to breed. We also put fake eggs into the nesting site which look, feel and weigh the same as a real egg which encourages the flamingos to lay an egg of their own.”

Keepers are feeling positive after already seeing movements that suggest positive breading behaviour such as a ‘head-flagging dating dance’ and ‘wing salutes’ which are used by the males to get the attention of the females.

The incubation period for flamingos is 32-34 days, so it will be a while before keepers know if their efforts have been successful this year.

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