Hand Feeding Flamingoes

Caribbean flamingo via wikimedia (c) Adrian Pingstone, 1/2007

I was lucky enough to visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay last week with a number of close friends. Inbetween riding roller coasters (including Sheikra, which nearly killed me..) we found plenty of time to observe African wildlife and some native Florida wildlife in the exhibits. I visited Busch back in October of last year on a safari experience to feed giraffes. (Or as we in the buisness like to call them, “G-rafs!”) This time around we were lucky to stumble across Busch’s education area and hand fed flamingoes!

While its true flamingoes have upside down beaks and usually go sifting through the shallows for crustaceans and algae and other goodies, they apparently also have a love for duck chow. Letting giant five-foot-tall male Caribbean flamingoes nibble chow from my hand was sort of surreal. Their enormously loud honking was even better. And those upside down beaks, goodness. I had no idea they would feel so strange! Unlike most of the raptor beaks I’ve touched in the past flamingo beaks feel almost unnaturally smooth and nearly plastic-like. I’m not even sure how to truly describe it! Just by looking at the animals you would imagine that those giant beaks would be rather hefty hardware but when we touched them they seemed incredibly lightly built.

The flock made a total mess of nibbling chow from our hands but the Hawaiian nene geese – also in the exhibit – made short work of the leavings.

All in all a spectacular visit to the park. If you find yourself in Tampa, and you’re feeling adventurous, do try the Safari tour to feed g-rafs and get yourself back to the education buildings. In addition to flamingoes they’ve got African servals, coatimundi, African crowned cranes, Hoffman’s sloths, and other critters in their care.

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