The Bird department is all aflutter with flamingos – in the last three months they have had four chicks hatch behind the scenes and three hatch on exhibit to proud flamingo parents.

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Flamingo parents keep a close eye on their lovable little cotton ball.

“We requested eggs from the Atlanta Zoo,” explained Birds Supervisor Mollie Coym, “and then were surprised by our flamingos having chicks of their own as well.” The first two hand-raised hatchings are Atlanta Zoo flamingos, and the remainder are all ours.

Keepers weren’t sure if our flamingos would sit on the eggs and keep them warm until they hatched, so at first they pulled the eggs to be kept in incubators, and replaced them with dummy eggs. “We were careful to keep track of which egg came from which sets of parents,” added Coym. When they showed great parental skills at egg sitting, keepers swapped the dummies back out with their original eggs, and soon the chicks hatched.

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Is this a real egg or a dummy egg? Even the flamingo can’t tell.

When flamingo chicks hatch they resemble oversized cotton balls with beaks. They sprout up rapidly growing long necks and long legs, and their feathers turn a soft gray. Bright flamingo pink is first visible when they stretch their wings, but they won’t have their full adult plumage for two years, so you’ll be able to identify the young ones for quite some time on the webcams or your visit to the zoo.

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I’ve grown into a huge grey cotton ball and I’m still just as cute!

Bird keepers walk their hand-raised chicks on a parade from behind the scenes to the flamingo yard every day at 2 p.m. Check the Daily Schedule on your next visit and join them for the parade! The daily parades will continue as they get gradually more independent, but sometime in the next two months they will likely be old enough to spend all their time with the other flamingos.

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Flamingos on parade. I think this looks a bit like the Beatles Abbey Road album cover.

But don’t wait until then to see these cuties live; check them out on the Flamingo Webcam. If you’re watching the webcams you may see the parents feed their chicks a reddish liquid from their beaks – that’s crop milk. Don’t be alarmed – it’s supposed to be that color!

Like taking photos? Or just bird watching? This event is for you! Photo Day: Birding Phenomenon on Saturday, November 16 from 7 – 9 a.m.

Houston Zoo Video: Baby Flamingos Explore the Zoo