fb-pixel Skip to main content

Amid Europe’s heat wave, rare flamingos lay first eggs in 15 years

An Andean flamingo looked after a surrogate Chilean flamingo chick.Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust via Associated Press

LONDON — In a feat attributed to the heat wave that swept across Europe, rare Andean flamingos at a wetlands reserve in Britain have laid eggs for the first time in 15 years.

The exotic birds are “fickle breeders” and can go years without nesting successfully, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, England, said in a statement this past week.

But amid scorching temperatures on the Continent — which have spawned wildfires in England and Wales, melted glaciers in Austria and Sweden, and broken records in Portugal — a surprising thing happened at the reserve.

Six of the flock laid nine eggs, which Mark Roberts, the aviculture manager at the reserve, called “a wonderful and welcome surprise.”


“We’ve been encouraging the flock by helping them to build nests,” he said in the statement, “but there’s no doubt that the recent heat has had the desired effect.”

Unfortunately, the organization said, all the eggs were infertile, so no new Andean flamingos will emerge from this batch.

So in a bit of human meddling, caretakers decided to get the Andean birds in parenting mode: They took a few eggs from Chilean flamingos, “near relatives,” and planted them among the Andean birds, who became foster parents to new chicks, the reserve said.

A spokesman for the organization, which is based in Gloucestershire, said by phone on Saturday that the Andean flamingos were some of the oldest at Slimbridge, which describes itself as the only such reserve where all six flamingo species roam.

A few flamingos arrived in the 1960s, according to the reserve, and some of them have been there longer than staff members.

Both the Andean and Chilean flamingos are considered at risk of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The Chilean birds are described as “near threatened” because of egg-harvesting, hunting, disturbance, and the loss of habitat, while the Andean ones are called “vulnerable” because of past exploitation that shrank their population.


The heat wave broke in other parts of Europe, meanwhile, unleashing torrents of rain that caused flash flooding in France.

Officials used helicopters to rescue about 1,600 people, mostly campers, in three regions in Southern France, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said in a statement, the Associated Press reported.

In Switzerland, footage emerged this past week of a mudslide hitting the village of Grugnay in the municipality of Chamoson, as witnesses scrambled to safety.

No injuries were reported after the mudslide, which local news outlets said had begun after storms caused a river to burst its banks.

In a separate story from the animal world, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium celebrated World Elephant Day by announcing that one of its Asian elephant mothers is expecting.

Zoo officials said Saturday that 31-year-old Phoebe is expecting her fourth calf and her third in Columbus, where she came to live in 2002. Officials say she’s in her third trimester and is expected to give birth in December. Elephant pregnancies last about 22 months.

The identity of the baby’s father is a mystery that will be solved with DNA after Phoebe’s calf is born. Phoebe was inseminated with sperm from Columbus Zoo partner Hank and an elephant from another zoo. She also was bred by Hank.

Phoebe’s previous two deliveries in 2004 and 2009 are the only two Asian elephants to be born at Columbus Zoo.