An orphaned Greater Flamingo chick is carefully placed into a used eggshell in preparation to hatch a second time — in its foster parents’ nest.
A pair of flamingos have become proud foster parents after they took an abandoned chick under their wings at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, Great Britain. But this probably doesn’t sound unusual, until you know that the birds, Carlos and Fernando, are two male Greater Flamingos. Despite both being male, they had resorted to stealing eggs from other pairs as they sought to fulfil their desperate desire to start a family of their own.
The facility’s staff were so impressed with the pair’s incubating abilities that when a Greater Flamingo nest was recently abandoned shortly before the egg hatched, Carlos and Fernando were the number one choice to “adopt” the resulting chick.
“Fernando and Carlos are a same sex couple who have been known to steal other Flamingos’ eggs by chasing them off their nest because they wanted to rear them themselves,” said WWT spokeswoman Jane Waghorn. “They were rather good at sitting on eggs and hatching them so last week, when a nest was abandoned, it seemed like a good idea to make them surrogate parents.”
Even though a healthy chick hatched, staff were concerned that the foster pair would not bond with this hatchling because the process normally begins when the chick begins calling to its parents from inside the egg. So the staff relied on a little deception: the chick was carefully placed in an old eggshell, which was taped up and placed in the unsuspecting pair’s empty nest. The pair were soon seen talking to the chick inside the egg and a little while later it hatched for a second time. It was then greeted by its loving new foster parents.
So-called “gay” flamingos are not rare and seem to enjoy an elevated status based on their choice of partner. Carlos and Fernando have been together for about six years, and are capable of feeding their foster chick by producing milk in their throat, without any female help. The chick, who is currently nameless, is being brought up in a “creche” with 15 other hatchlings under its foster parents’ watchful eyes.
Greater Flamingos are the most widely dispersed of the six flamingo species, being found in Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America. Their average lifespan is about 30 years.