“Her longevity is a testament to the dedication and care of our Bird House team,” the zoo said in a statement, adding that it will conduct a pathology report to better understand Betty’s “remarkably good health” as well as the cause of her death.
Betty lived the first years of her life in the wild — zookeepers believe she hatched around 1954 — and was acquired by the National Zoo in 1976.
Zookeepers said Betty liked to stand at the edge of the zoo’s flock keeping watch over the other birds, and that they often gave her eggs that were ready to hatch so that she would raise newborn flamingos. She had one chick of her own and many generations of foster chicks.
“Just recently, when two hand-raised chicks did not readily integrate into the flock, Betty patiently interacted with the youngsters and taught them how to be flamingos,” the zoo’s statement said. “We are grateful for all she taught us about flamingo biology, behavior and breeding.”