A PAIR of gay flamingos have finally become proud foster parents after taking an abandoned chick under their wings.
Carlos and Fernando had been so desperate to have chicks that they had resorted to stealing eggs to fulfil their unlikely dream of a starting a family at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.
But their egg-sitting and hatching skills impressed staff so much that when one of the Greater Flamingo nests was abandoned last week, they were considered the number one choice to "adopt" the chick.
The unhatched egg was whisked off to an incubator where it was warmed up and monitored.
Hours later a healthy chick hatched, but staff were concerned the flamboyant duo would not bond with the newborn because the process normally begins when the chicks are "calling" them from inside the egg.
So the chick was carefully placed in an old eggshell, which was taped up and returned to the unsuspecting couple's empty nest.
The pair were soon seen 'talking' to the chick inside the egg and a little while later it hatched for a second time - to be greeted by its loving new foster parents.
WWT spokeswoman Jane Waghorn said: "Fernando and Carlos are a same sex couple who have been known to steal other Flamingos' eggs by chasing them off their nest because they wanted to rear them themselves.
"They were rather good at sitting on eggs and hatching them so last week, when a nest was abandoned, it seemed like a good idea to make them surrogate parents."
The pair, who have been together for about six years, can feed their chick without any female help - by producing milk in their throat.
The chick, who is being brought up in a "creche" with 15 other newborns, has been welcomed into the flock, under the watchful eye of its new parents.
Gay flamingos are not particularly rare and enjoy an elevated status with their choice of partner.
"If there aren't enough females or they don't hit it off with them, they will pair off with other males," Ms Waghorn said.
The pair are Greater Flamingos, the most widely dispersed of the six flamingo species, being found in Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America. The average lifespan is about 30 years.