Flamingo health check

This February the decision was made to catch our flock of 56 greater flamingos at Pensthorpe. One of our two year old chicks had a lump on his head that we wanted the vet to check out and we decided it would be an excellent opportunity to catch the whole flock to give them all a health check. Catching the whole flock would mean we could collect feathers from our younger chicks to be sent off for DNA testing to find out their gender, closely assess the health of some of our older individuals, microchip our chicks, check on the health of our breeding birds, as well as assessing the general condition of the flock.

In the days before the catch the flamingo house extension was prepared as a safe catching area for the flamingos. The plan was to move approximately ten flamingos into here at a time as it can be closed of from the main corral by a sliding door which means you would not disturb the entire flock every time you caught a bird. Whilst processing in small groups no bird would ever be by itself in the corral or out on their pond during release, this is to keep the birds as calm as possible. The flock was effectively kept together as they were in visual and auditory contact at all times, which would also help keep the flock calm.

The flamingo house extension was lined with green shade netting with the corners eliminated to reduce the risk of any possible injuries occurring during the catch. The small pond was also blocked off by a temporary shade netting wall to ensure the flamingos were walking on flat ground the entire time

This was prepared before the day of the catch so the flamingos had time to get familiar with the new objects in their environment, this was a key step as it is important that the birds remain calm during the catch.

On the day of the catch the flamingos were left in their house, from there as a group they were calmly guided to the back of their house. Flamingos are a great species to guide like this as generally where one bird goes the rest will follow. Once the flock was at the back of the house a human wall was used to keep them there whilst a pre-made temporary wall of shade netting was installed.

Once a bird was caught its identification ring number was read and its microchip was scanned for. The vet then assessed the body condition score by feeling along the bird’s keel (breast bone) to feel how much muscle was present along the side of it. The feet were then inspected, in flamingos the feet are a good indicator of the overall health of a bird.

New plastic Darvic rings identification rings were put on flamingos with damaged rings. And our young chicks were given microchips, the same as you would for cats and dogs.

Some of our interesting observations were:

Although none of our flamingos had particularly bad feet, the individuals with the worst feet in the flock are some of the parents to last year’s chicks. Parents to chicks can be spotted by their paler pink feathers.

Birds such as BAN and chick BAE who spend more of their time running compared to the others in the flock had worse feet than the others.

Cosmo, the first chick bred at Pensthorpe has a larger pupil than the other flamingos.

Last year’s chick BAJ has proven to be a very chilled out flamingo and so far has not been phased by anything.

Our elderly flamingo GPC at the impressive age of 69 passed the health check with flying colours with only the generalised swelling under the toes expected in flamingos her age.

Catching the flamingos went very smoothly thanks to everyone that helped. Please come down and see our flamingos, very soon they will start to display, preparing for the summer.