CHESTER Zoo has welcomed some new additions to its flamingo flock.
The Chilean flamingo chicks started to hatch back in July with 13 more arriving since.
The adorable balls of fluff are sure to be a firm favourite with visitors to the zoo, which has been the home of a number of animal births this summer.
While flamingos are known for their trademark pink feathers, it will be around six months before the latest arrivals start to look like their parents, currently donning a mix of grey and white feathers instead.
Curator of birds Andrew Owen said: “They’re like fluffy tennis balls with legs at the moment.
“After initially staying really close to their parents, the chicks are now gaining in confidence and some have even started to wade in the water around their island.
“It has been a very successful breeding season for us and we’re very pleased with these new arrivals.”
Despite their name, Chilean flamingos are not just found in Chile and also live in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador where they reside mainly on estuaries, lagoons, mud flats and salt lakes.
The species is classed as a near threatened one – meaning they are likely to become endangered or threatened with a high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.
Habitat loss and poaching of their eggs are blamed for a decrease in their numbers but Chester Zoo’s very own Chilean flock – which has been at the zoo since the 1960s – now numbers 112.
This adorable flamingo has been described as looking like a "tennis ball with legs".
Mr Owen added: “They’re a particularly interesting species as it’s not yet known whether or not Chilean flamingos choose different mates over the course of their lives or for how long they breed for.
“So our group, including our newcomers, are part of a long-term study looking into these sorts of things.
“This kind of information can then be passed on to help conservationists in the wild and help protect the long-term future of the species."
The newborns will not develop their trademark pink feathers for around six months.
What do you know about flamingos?
- Each chick at Chester Zoo was born to a different female as flamingos are monogamous birds and only lay a single egg each year.
- There are between 200,000 and 300,000 Chilean flamingos in the wild where continued monitoring of their numbers is vital as they have long been a target of poachers who pinch their eggs. This, along with a loss of habitat as developers and farmers move into areas where they live, has put the flamboyant species under increasing threat.
- They live mainly on estuaries, lagoons, mud flats and salt lakes.
- Salmon pink coloured with grey legs and pink knees, they are closely related to Caribbean Flamingos, which are also found at Chester Zoo, but the Chilean birds are paler in colour.
- They get their colour from crustaceans and algae that they eat.
- Chilean flamingos are classed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a near threatened species – meaning they are likely to become endangered and threatened with a high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.
- The word flamingo comes from the Spanish and Latin word ‘flamenco’, meaning fire.