Flamingos have started arriving at Manakudi estuary in Kanyakumari district. With their long sinuous necks, delicate pink legs, cup-like beaks and white bodies with scarlet and black tinge on the sides, flamingos can be seen wading through the shallow waters of the serene Manakudy estuary with a ballet dancer’s grace.

These birds are spotted in the estuary from mid-September to mid-February every year. A team of environmentalists has made a survey of these flocks and spotted 60 pairs of greater flamingos this season.

The greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) is the most widespread species of the flamingo family. It is found in parts of Africa, southern Asia – in the coastal regions of Pakistan and India – and southern Europe. The web-footed birds stand about 1.5 metre high. The bird resides in mudflats and shallow coastal lagoons with saline water.

They live in flocks and get their food by wading through shallow water. Using its feet, the bird stirs up the mud, sucks water through its bill and filters out tiny crustaceans, small shrimps, insect larvae, worms, seeds of marsh plants, blue-green algae and mollusks.

Manakudi estuary and the adjoining areas are fertile breeding grounds for crustaceans, freshwater fish and shrimps.

As the human population near the estuary area is comparatively thin there are few disturbances to the birds. Hunting and poaching are almost nil.