Monday, April 26, 2010

With the Phoenix under the blazing sun

In Europe, the Greater Flamingo breeds in the Iberian Peninsula, southern France and Sardinia. It also breeds in Turkey and in North Africa, close by. Flamingoes are nomadic and move around sites as water levels rise and fall. Crossings between Europe and North Africa are not uncommon. These photographs were taken in the marismas of the Guadalquivir on the 23rd April.

On average around 31% of the western Mediterranean flamingoes breed in Spain but, when water levels are right, this proportion has been known to be up to 57%. That was in 2001 when 23,011 pairs bred. The lake at Fuente de Piedra in Malaga Province usually holds the largest colony by far, the number of breeding pairs having fluctuated between 2 and 20 thousand in recent years.

Flamingoes also breed in the marismas when water levels are right but these tend to be inexperienced birds and they usually have problems completing the reproduction. One year the pools in which they had raised the young dried up too soon and the young, which could not fly, had to be herded by horsemen to another pool or they would have all perished!

Fuente de Piedra lies roughly 150 kilometres east of the marismas and the breeding birds regularly commute between the lake and the marsh in search of food. Their movements to and fro offer spectacular views of these wonderful birds in flight.

The Latin name of the Greater Flamingo is Phoenicopterus ruber. Phoenicopetrus means Phoenix-winged and it has been suggested that the combination of flame colours and the rising heat currents in the inhospitable salt lakes in which they breed, inspired the Egyptian Phoenix.

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