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How Do Zoos Help Birds Breed?

Like many other birds, flamingos in captivity breed more with the presence of mirrors as it fools them into thinking their flock size is big, helping them communicate more with their flock. Captive flamingos build their nests close to mirrors and display more group behaviors. 

To aid breeding and to generally promote behavior in birds, zoos often use mirrors to trick birds into thinking their flock size is bigger than it is.

Colchester Zoo and their Mirror-Loving Flamingos

In an article written for BBC Essex, a zoo in England explains how they helped their flamingos to breed. Sarah Forsythe, the zoo curator of Colchester zoo, states that they used mirrors to fool birds into thinking their flock size is big. With that, the 15 captive Chilean flamingos began to nest and lay their eggs.

Even if we don’t get eggs this year, it’s taken us a step in the right direction; they have all built their nests in front of the mirrors, so maybe they do like looking at themselves, and that’s what has spurred them on!

Sarah Forsythe

Although this mirror-using method may seem strange, many zoos use mirrors to aid the captive flamingo’s breeding. Like many other birds, flamingos tend to breed more in larger flocks. The Colchester zoo’s personnel felt surprised at the immediate positive effect of the placement of mirrors as the Chilean flamingos displayed courting behavior and constructing nests within the week. (Source: BBC

Flamingos in captivity not only build their nest near mirrors, but they also show more signs of group behavior, such as an increase in movement, sounds, marching displays, and postures that indicate flock communication. Mirrors generally promote more communication to help the captive flamingos look for safety.


As zoos only have a small flock of flamingos, they often use other methods to help flamingos breed. Using plastic flamingo dummies, placing fake flamingo dummy eggs and nests, and playing sounds common in larger flamingo flocks to captive flamingos are the most common practices zoos use to promote nesting and group behavior. (Source: Flaminglet)

Flamingo Flocks and their Breeding 

As stated in a research article entitled Flock Size and Breeding Success in Flamingos, many factors impact the breeding rate of flamingos in captivity; these include the enclosure’s design and nest site, diet, sex ratio and the age structure of the flock, flock size, and more of the like.

Breeding flamingo flocks significantly have more flamingos compared to non-breeding flamingo flocks. In the research, the breeding success of the captive flamingos correlates with flock size in the Caribbean flamingos and Greater flamingos in Britain and Ireland. Only the Chilean flamingos bore no correlation under the assumption that they were nearly reaching the carrying capacity for their habitat. In addition to that, the Chilean flamingos were subject to more fluctuations in weather.

The research concluded by stating how larger flocks breed more often than smaller flocks. In addition, Chilean flamingos need 40 flamingos to ensure reproduction, while Caribbean flamingos need 20. And although the significance of flock size in breeding is confirmed, other factors in correlation with breeding success also need to be investigated. (Source: Zoo Biology

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