There are baby flamingos at Tracy Aviary for the first time in 3 years

Three chicks have made their public debut — and may be joined by more.

Three baby flamingos have hatched at Tracy Aviary — and a couple more may be on the way.

The three chicks were all born within the last two weeks and now are out with their parents in the exhibit.

On Friday, the two older chicks stood in the mud near a collection of tree stump-like nests, waddling around, eating blood-colored milk from a parent’s beak and intermittently attempting to stand on one leg. The third chick, born Thursday and not yet old enough to wander, laid in the nest beneath one of its parents.

These are the first flamingos born at the aviary since 2019, said Kate Lyngle-Cowand, the aviary’s curator of exhibit collections. Two more eggs were incubating in a back room, with projected hatch dates toward the end of August and mid-September, respectively, if they both hatch.

Lyngle-Cowand checked the eggs’ innards on Friday, shutting off the lights in an incubation room and holding the eggs up to a bright light. While the older egg showed signs of life, the week-old egg seemed to be mostly liquid. There were no veins or obvious heartbeat.

“My gut’s telling me it’s probably not fertile,” she said, “but we’ll keep watching and monitoring to see.”

Lyngle-Cowand said it’s normal that not every egg will hatch. It’s happened a few times this year. The important part is that three of them, so far, have.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A flamingo chick at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.

It’s good news after three mating seasons where the flamingos seemed uninterested in breeding. Lyngle-Cowand said that sometimes happens in the wild, but she wonders if the pandemic may have played a role. The birds had been breeding consistently in the years before.

“It was really curious because we were closed to the public and all that,” she said. “We weren’t sure if they sensed too much of a change, and they were like, ‘Nope, we’re not going to do this.’”

For whatever reason, they did not have the same reservations this year.

On Friday morning, handfuls of people at a time came to visit the flamingo exhibit, where staff had hung signs announcing the new arrivals.

These chicks don’t resemble the adult birds they will become. They are grayish white, with fluffy, cottony feathers and solid black, relatively straight beaks.

The baby phase doesn’t last long, though. A chick’s beak will begin to curve after 30 days. It will reach adult size in six months. At two years, it will turn completely pink; as pink as a Chilean flamingo can be, anyway. They typically are a pale, nearly white, hue, with darker pink tail feathers, unlike their more brightly colored Caribbean cousins.

Parenting also changes the adult flamingos — not unlike human parents.

“As the parents continue to feed the chicks, you’ll see the parents start to get a bit white...,” she said. “All their energy and resources are going to those chicks.”

Lyngle-Cowand said guests will be able to watch those changes over time.

She added that flamingos are great parents, protective and attentive, and are tougher than many people give them credit for. They put up a fight when keepers take the chicks inside overnight, to keep them safe from predators.

The birds can also withstand super hot and cold conditions, Lyngle-Cowand said, and have adapted to be able to drink water that is very acidic or very basic water — “polar differences in water quality.”

“I think people just think of them as a pink bird that stands on one leg,” Lyngle-Cowand said. “They’re so much more.”

Tracy Aviary is located inside Liberty Park and open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Mondays through the end of August. To purchase tickets, visit tracyaviary.org/liberty-park/visit.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A flamingo chick at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.