Borders Chilean flamingo chicks a first for Scotland

Chilean flaminglings at Bird Gardens Scotland in Oxton.
Chilean flaminglings at Bird Gardens Scotland in Oxton.

The owners of a rare bird centre in the Borders have become the first people in Scotland to hand-rear flamingos.

Mark Haillay and Owen Joiner of new Oxton visitor attraction, Bird Gardens Scotland, took delivery of nine flamingo eggs last month.

Mark Haillay feeds a flamingling at Bird Gardens Scotland in Oxton.

Mark Haillay feeds a flamingling at Bird Gardens Scotland in Oxton.

Laid by the established Chilean flamingo flock at Chester Zoo, the eggs, which take 30 days to develop, were incubated there before being carefully transported to Oxton to hatch.

The two-week-old flaminglings are now being hand-reared by Owen and Mark in the centre’s baby barn.

“It’s a special moment when you first hear a flamingo egg grunt, and you know that within 48 hours there will be a chick asleep, resting after its epic journey from inside the egg out into the world,” Mark said.

“It’s incredibly exciting to think that these little balls of grey fluff will grow to be majestic flamingos.”

A newly-hatched Chilean flamingo at Bird Gardens Scotland in Oxton.

A newly-hatched Chilean flamingo at Bird Gardens Scotland in Oxton.

The flaminglings require round-the-clock care, with Owen and Mark currently syringe-feeding them every two hours.

“Rearing flaminglings is hard work,” Mark said. “It takes the energy of both parent flamingos to rear just one chick. We’re hoping to rear more than 10 chicks each year from surplus eggs.”

Established next to Oxton Pottery in 2017, Bird Gardens Scotland has this year erected a crowd-funded rearing barn, which was built by volunteers, with a visitor centre and cafe set to be developed next at the Riggsyde site.

“The lovely thing is that the rearing facility, or the baby barn as it is now known, was built with the help of people from across Scotland and around the world,” Owen said.

“There is a wet rearing room for chicks of the rare ducks, geese and swans we work with through the summer months, and then for flamingos in the autumn and their first winter.”

After that, the flamingoes, which can live for up to 70 years, will move to the flamingo house and pond in the grounds.

“Working with birds that are threatened or endangered is our lifetime’s work,” Owen added. “Being able to create a new flock of Chilean flamingos is virtually unheard of. It’s very special, and we’re grateful to the Borders community for supporting our efforts.”

To help raise the money needed to buy materials for the flamingo house, Bird Gardens Scotland is offering the opportunity to name a flamingo, for a minimum £500 donation.

Visitors will soon be able to catch a glimpse of the fluffy bairns through the baby barn’s viewing window. You can also follow their progress at www.birdgardensscotland.com

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