70-Year-Old Flamingo Lays First Egg

Photo by KhairilAzharJunos/Shutterstock.com

At the ripe age of 70, a greater flamingo in English captivity laid her first egg.

Gertrude, one member of a 60-plus flamingo flamboyance at Pensthorpe Nature Preserve in Norfolk, England, achieved the life milestone last month. She is already quite old for a flamingo - the bird’s average life in the wild goes on for 20 to 30 years, though flamingos in captivity generally hover closer to 50 - and certainly quite old to be laying any egg, especially her first. But love was in the Norfolk air this past spring.

70-Year-Old Flamingo Lays First Egg

Every egg starts with a love story. This tale involves two lovers with generations apart.

In the spring, Gertrude shacked up with Gil, a 37-year-old male flamingo, This behavior that caught her handlers pleasantly by surprise, not for the age difference, but because it was outside the norm for the elderly flamingo.

“All throughout her life, she’s been fairly subdued and been at the back of the group,” Ben Marshall, the reserve’s managing director, told ITV News. “But suddenly, this year she found a newfound confidence and was flirting with all the guys!”

Gertrude started the season with a wide net, but as it wore on, her attention centered more and more onto Gil. 

“She and Gil were giving each other wing salutes, bowing to each other, and displaying some of the other 136 different courtship and mating dances that flamingos have,” Marshall said to Cathy Free of the Washington Post. “Gertrude normally sits in the back and has never shown an interest in pairing up during breeding season, but now she was really putting herself out there. It was lovely to see her natural instinct kick in with her ‘toy boy’ boyfriend.”

Naturally, Gertrude and Gil became the main melody of the reserve. Their relationship grew to be the talk of the town, and now their egg has elevated into international news.

Unfortunately, laying an egg is just part of the battle. It takes 27 to 31 days of constant care for a flamingo egg to hatch healthily, but after 10, Gertrude gave up on her offspring. Reserve officials assume it’s because the flamingo understood that her egg was not viable and therefore not worth continuing to nurture and protect. It’s also possible that it was simply too much work for the 70-year-old to handle.

Regardless, that isn’t dampening the mood among Marshall and his team at the reserve.

“Although it was a little sad for us, knowing the egg wouldn’t hatch, it was still a remarkable win for Gertrude,” Marshall told The Washington Post. “She made the call herself not to incubate the egg, and she was able to simulate those maternal instincts ingrained in flamingos and experience something completely new for her.”

Despite not having her own egg to look after any longer, Marshall told the Post that Gertrude continues to help other expecting mothers with their responsibilities. If nothing else, she enjoys providing them with some much-needed company.

Perhaps motherhood just wasn’t in the cards for Gertrude. But it is a remarkable accomplishment for her to have laid an egg at her age, let alone made it to 70 at all - the oldest-recorded flamingo, named Greater, passed away in 2014 at the age of 83. Gertrude still has more than a decade to go to catch her, but she has a chance, according to Marshall, who described the bird as “quite sprightly and healthy.” Maybe that’s her next major milestone to meet?

Has a 70-Year-Old Human Ever Given Birth?

If all this talk about a 70-year-old flamingo laying an egg got you wondering about if a human has ever matched that feat, then you weren’t the only one. For the sake of this exercise, I will ignore that laying an egg and birthing a human child are not the same things - there is only so much I am willing to look up.

The oldest known person to ever give birth was Mangayamma Yaramati on Sept. 5, 2019. The Indian woman introduced twin girls to the world at the age of 74, beating the previous record holder by about two years. I will voluntarily spare the intimate details of how this was achieved, but you can learn more on your own about it in this video.

Gertrude the flamingo wouldn’t even be the second-oldest woman to have ever given birth. Another Indian woman did so at age 72 in 2016, and two more Indian women had their children at age 70 in 2008, at best both ties for Gertrude. If the flamingo has aims of outdoing humans in this regard, she still has some work to do.