Mumbai’s yearly pink guests come visiting

Peaceful sojourn Flamingoes seen at NRI Wetland in Navi Mumbai   | Photo Credit: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE

While the whole of Mumbai stays indoors, thousands of flamingoes are frolicking by the Thane Creek. They can be seen from afar, a haze of pink that quivers under the sun. If you look closer, you can see them move on their elegant stick-like feet, their long necks bent low, and bills probing the slush for food. Most of us may not be able to see the birds now, but they sure do not seem to be missing us.

According to Rahul Khot, Assistant Director, Bombay Natural History Society, who heads long term ecological studies on migratory birds around Mumbai, the flamingo count was at one lakh in February this year. “Currently, we estimate their numbers to be 1.25 lakh,” he says. This is a yearly phenomenon in Mumbai, according to Khot. “90% of them are lesser flamingoes. They breed in the Kutch region of Gujarat, and come here to feed on the blue green algae, tiny crustacean, molluscs and insects present in the water,” he says, noting that the rest are greater flamingoes, which fly all the way from West Asia and Africa. “Every year, flamingoes migrate to Mumbai around September with the number peaking around March,” he adds.

Hundreds of Greater and Lesser Flamingos were spotted at NRI complex in Navi Mumbai

Hundreds of Greater and Lesser Flamingos were spotted at NRI complex in Navi Mumbai   | Photo Credit: Aadesh Choudhari

Can the rise in number of flamingoes be attributed to the lockdown, which has brought out more birds elsewhere in the country due to reduced noise and pollution levels? “No, it’s not that simple,” says Khot, adding that the birds have increased in number over the last three decades.

A sight to behold

Last year, as many as 1.34 lakh flamingoes descended in Thane Creek. Khot attributes this to “loss of suitable habitats, the nutrient load in the water that makes it a rich feeding ground,” and the newly-created Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary that has provided “additional protection” to the birds and its habitat. If not for the pandemic, many of us would have taken a boat ride on the creek to watch these pink beauties. “You can see them from places such as Sewri, the wetlands located behind TS Chanakya and NRI Complex and even while travelling from the Vashi bridge. They will be feeding on nearby mudflats during low tide,” explains Khot.

The flamingoes will be on their way back home in May or June. It may be too late for us but the good news is that they will be back next year.

A pink-hued festival
  • The BNHS conducts various programmes to raise awareness on flamingoes; among them is the Flamingo Festival. The last one was held in 2017 in Sewri Jetty. They also take people on bird watching expeditions on boats in Airoli and Navi Mumbai. However, this year, these events stand cancelled.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 5:06:14 AM |

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