Disney News

Lesser Flamingos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Have Unprecedented Breeding Season Thanks to Baseball Clay

Hi everyone!

Walt Disney World is constantly finding ways to innovate, and that includes for the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. We have learned that baseball clay from ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is being used at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for lesser flamingo nests.

Photos provided by Disney

The lesser flamingos have had an “unprecedented” breeding season due to the collaboration between two teams of Cast Members at Walt Disney World, as they figured out that baseball clay – which is designed to drain water quickly – would allow the flamingos to build taller and better nests. That led to the second lesser flamingo chick being born in a 20 year span – and they named the chick Sandy. The lesser flamingos have been building their nests seasonally near the Tree of Life on Discovery Island since 2003, but they haven’t been successful at breeding like the greater flamingos on Kilimanjaro Safaris. The greater flamingos have been able to hatch dozens of chicks, versus the one in 20 years for the lesser flamingos.

The Tampa Bay Rays play part of their Spring Training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World, and the pitcher stands on the same clay as the lesser flamingos now use!

What did it take for the animal care team to figure out how to jump-start the lesser flamingo breeding process? They figured out that since flamingos usually nest on the ground and build tall mounds from dirt and mud (to keep their eggs elevated), that baseball clay could be perfect for enhancing the mud. The animal care team then collaborated with the Sportscape team at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The Sportscape team has their own formula for clay.

Field manager Tommy on the Sportscape team says, “Our mixture at ESPN Wide World of Sports is roughly 78 percent sand, a little silt and nine percent clay. Here in Florida, we look for our clay to perk – or dry – as fast as possible given the amount of rain and sun we receive, and the demand of all of the events we host.”

While the baseball clay is wet, it is pliable – but once it is in direct sunlight, the clay “will bake like pottery in a kiln” and becomes solid. This is what was needed for the flamingos.

The birds soon began laying eggs – seven of them. And from those seven, came the one chick.

Jamie Sincage, Animal Manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom says that they knew they were successful when multiple pairs began building nests. “Having the entire flock engaged in breeding behaviors and multiple pairs working on nests and laying eggs helps us rate the success of the baseball clay.”

Watch more about Sandy on National Geographic’s “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” which airs Friday nights at 10/9c and streaming on Disney+.