The flamingos arrived to a rousing welcome from Mumbaikars…

They love the sun, feed on algae, and are pink! The flamingos are back in Mumbai for their annual migration.

Thousands of flamingos have flocked to the brackish water at Mumbai’s Sewri-Mahul mudflats, after having flown all the way from Gujarat. The birds that breed in Kutch, Gujarat, migrate to Mumbai every year to escape the winter. This time around it is estimated that around 20,000 flamingoes have paid their visit to Mumbai. This area, besides a few others in Mumbai, are rich in algae, insect larvae and diatoms which the birds love to feed on.

To watch this spectacle and learn more about the city’s seasonal visitors, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) along with Mumbai Port Trust organised the Flamingo Festival.

Mumbaikars flocked to see the sight of a thousand pink flamingos that looked like dots on a sprawling brown plain, set against a harsh backdrop of smoke and steel structures — a chemical fertilizer factory, two oil refineries and a thermal power plant.

Make friends

At the festival, there were several BNHS bird experts and volunteers who spoke about the birds and their migration to the visitors. The children especially seemed to love the binocular and spotting scopes that were available to get a closer view of the elegant birds. There were also other activities organised like face painting, tattoos, measure your span against that of birds like Indian Bustard and Siberian Crane, which turned the event into a carnival.

“Public engagement is essential because when people observe nature first-hand it is always exciting. And through nature education, opinion-building occurs among the public which then leads to conservation,” feels Atul Sathe of BNHS.

For brothers Waqi and Eibaad Quereshi of Stds VI and VII respectively, this was their second visit to the Flamingo Festival. They say they love the sight of so many birds at once in one place and have learnt a lot about the flamingos as a result of their visits. What do they like most about the birds?

“Their colour!” they say in unison.

Some facts

- The flamingos can be spotted in Mumbai between December and May

- Two species of flamingos migrate to Mumbai — the Greater and Lesser Flamingos

- Lesser flamingos: Dark-red bill that looks black from a distance; has red iris and facial skin; deep rose pink on head, neck and body. They breed in Gujarat.

- Great flamingos: Long and thin neck; pale pink, black-tipped bill. They are winter visitors to India, said to arrive from Siberia, and breed in Gujarat.

- Their migration to Mumbai was first observed by Mumbai Port Trust employees around 15 years ago.

- Other water birds that belong to mudflat habitats can also be spotted like White-bellied Sea Eagles, four species of egrets, three species of herons, two species of cormorants, plovers, kingfishers, gulls, terns, sandpipers and more.

- The Sewri-Mahul mudflats has been declared an important bird area by BNHS. There are 422 important bird areas in India as identified by BNHS out of which 26 are in Maharashtra.