Flamingos in my city…
Greater Flamingos are tall, magnificent birds with a pink boomerang-shaped upper bill with black tips. It has small pale eyes with dark centres and long S-shaped necks. It has pink painted wings that have black edges and long pink stick-like legs. The tail is white and looks like a flower when in flight. This one is found across three continents.
The Lesser Flamingo is smaller and the body is deeper pink and the beak is nearly all-black. It has red eyes. It is found mainly in Africa and Asia.
Both these species prefer salty water but the Lesser Flamingo needs saltier water because its diet is different from the Greater Flamingo.
When I first saw the Greater Flamingo, it was wintering in Okhla bird sanctuary on the Delhi-UP border. There was a small flock of mainly young birds feeding in the Yamuna river with their heads and necks down. On another occasion I saw a single bird in shallow water. It was using its beak to stir up the bottom and probing for good feeding spots while swaying its long neck like a pendulum. All this while it was keeping its beak in the water. Every once in a while, it would look up and around for signs of danger.
According to Dr. Salim Ali, both the Lesser and Greater Flamingoes breed in the Rann of Kutch. It is the only Flamingo breeding site in Asia for both the species. .
I saw this report on the TV, which showed a video of an abandoned Flamingo breeding site in the Rann of Kutch. Something had gone wrong in the last stages of incubation and the shot showed thousands of abandoned and mostly unopened eggs near mud nests and between the dried scrub. A few bird carcasses could also be seen. I tried searching the internet for this or similar reports but could not find anything.
From my experience, birds do not abandon their nests unless the threat is really serious. Who or what caused that disaster is not known. But one thing is for sure – the breeding cycle of these birds had been disturbed and hence, their numbers could go down. What also remains to be seen is whether the birds will come back to this area now that it has been disturbed.