It doesn't seem possible that the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory could add any more color to their already stunning collection of 800 butterflies and 37 species of birds, but their new residents--a pair of flamingos--certainly do the trick. The male and female duo round out the exhibit in the 5,000-square-foot glass-enclosed atrium located on Duval St. in Key West.
New flamingos at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory — Photo courtesy of Rob O'NealThe new birds were born on Valentine's Day 2012 at a zoo in Toronto, Canada that specializes in hatching flamingos for other zoos around the world. While people often associate pink flamingos with Florida, they aren't actually native to the area. Instead, they stop over in Florida during their migration to the Caribbean. The Key West Conservatory is now the only place you can see flamingos in the Florida Keys, and it's the only butterfly conservatory in the United States to have them.
Preparation for their arrival has been in the works for quite a while, as permitting and inspections for the facility to be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took almost two years. The Conservatory had to build a special sandy beach and pond for the pair, which is enclosed for them during the daytime hours. After business hours, the birds are free to roam the rest of the atrium with their fellow denizens.
They're fed a special diet that contains the alpha and beta carotenoid pigments found in algae and various invertebrates that the birds eat in the wild, which gives them their pink color. At 18 months old, the juveniles are more of a soft pink right now, and they’ll reach full color by age two.