Home run: Baseball clay helps Disney’s Animal Kingdom flamingos hatch first chick in a decade

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — After more than a decade of strikeouts when it comes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom flamingos hatching chicks, they finally hit a home run.

Sandy is the first lesser flamingo chick hatched at the theme park in more than a decade.


Her name is appropriate, considering animal keepers are crediting baseball clay with being the secret to the successful hatching.

For years, the flamingos just weren’t producing eggs. They would begin the mating process, first going through “the march” and selecting a partner. But when it came time for the next step, building the nest in the sand, their nests wouldn’t hold together.

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“What was happening was every time we would get rain it would kind of erode away some of the nest it just wasn’t packing together,” said Kris Becker, a flamingo keeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

Without the type of sand needed to build an appropriate nest, the flamingoes were then not producing eggs.

They found the answer to the problem just a few miles away at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

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The clay used for the baseball diamonds turned out to be the perfect mix for flamingo nests. Once the sand was swapped out, things moved quickly.

“Last year I believe we got up to nine eggs,” said Jamie Sincage, zoological manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

As they produce more chicks, they will not only sustain the flock at Disney’s Animal Kingdom but also help out what is considered the most threatened species of flamingo.

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“it’s been discouraging for many many years. So to have her hatch out and grow up, it’s probably been one of the top-10 moments of my career,” Becker said. “It’s been phenomenal.”

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.