Exmoor zoo has quietly added an exhibit of a flock of eleven flamingos for this summer during the lockdown of the economy.
The flamingos may be here for this and next summer as they belong to another zoo collection which is moving their exhibit.
Exmoor is blessed with quality rain from the Atlantic (as it always misses Southern Ireland) and the moorland soaks this like a sponge creating springs and small streams. In our case all the water flows into the river Yeo. Absolutely ideal for our flamingos so they can paddle in the shallow, peat filtered, fresh spring flowing water! With some additional shelter and the careful choice of location (out of the worst of the eventual winter winds) they have settled in well! Even to the extent that two of the mature cock birds in the flock have started to create their typical raised mud nests! Flamingos are renown for being able to stand on one leg and it was a genuine concern here that the Exmoor winds may have been able to blow them over!
There are 6 species of flamingo, four native to the Americas and the other two to Africa, Europe and Asia. The flamingos we have on display here are a mix of Caribbean and Lesser. It would be good to breed these birds but not essential as unlike some bird species, flamingos can live and breed for over 30 years! A flamingo died in Adelaide zoo at 83 years of age!
Flamingos are unique in many ways. Foremost they are filter feeders using their tongue to create a water vortex in their bill sucking water over lamellae which traps plankton and copepods that swim in the water. This is how they become pink as their food contains carotenoids that colour their feathers. They actually use their beak upside down!
Here at the zoo they are fed a special diet that floats in water that they can filter! The diet may be boring but it is substantial and they have been thriving since their arrival. The flock make a distinctive and unique flamingo sound referred to as “nasal honking”!
It is hoped in time that Exmoor Zoo will be able to permanently exhibit and display flamingos.
The weather conditions and environment are very suitable for the high altitude and European species of this family of birds on the side of Exmoor in North Devon.