Friends of Yucatán’s famed pink flamingos have broken the 2011 record in the number of birds banded for study.
The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), in coordination with the Fundación Pedro y Elena Hernández, A. C., coordinated the banding of 595 pink flamingos in the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. The previous record was 534.
In the shallow waters of Ria Lagartos, in the north of the Yucatán Peninsula, the world’s largest and most important colony of flamingo contains about 70,000 pink-plumed inhabitants.
This year, over 15,000 nests were counted, of which 13,000 saw hatchlings.
A healthy population of flamingos indicates that the mangrove ecosystems are in good condition. Mangroves ecosystems are rich in biodiversity, home to crocodiles, jaguars, more than 395 species of resident and migratory birds as well as fish.
Under the supervision of the CONANP, dozens of volunteers, including rangers, scientists and trained residents of local communities, were aided by technicians and specialists in addition to veterinarians.
For banding, flamingos chicks must be between 75 and 80 days old. The ideal time to band is the last 10 days of August.
Banding begins before dawn. A group of experts weighs and measures them. Then each will put on two rings, one metal and other plastic, that the flamingo will wear for this rest of its life.
The plastic ring has a series of 4 letters, the alphanumeric identification code of the bird, just like the license plate of a car. The metal band is more like a dog tag, with contact information for the foundation.
In addition, blood samples and feathers were examined to determine the health status of the population.
In this task, the civil organization Fundación Pedro y Elena Hernández has actively involved since 1999.
The participation of local people is essential, so the CONANP in coordination with this organization seek to guide communities in conservation actions. To do this, they have joined a group of women from the community of Coloradas in Ria Lagartos in the training process for monitoring the species.
Pink flamingos by the numbers
The Caribbean Pink Flamingo is one of six flamingo species in the world. They can live 25 to 30 years in the wild and 50 in captivity. They weigh between 2.2 and 2.8 kg, have a height of between 120 and 140 cms. and a wingspan of 150 cm.
They live in Mexico, the Bahamas, Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela and the Dutch Antilles. They lay one egg a year to hatch in 28 to 30 days. For proper development, a flamingo requires shallow water and freshwater streams.
The pink color of its plumage is due to its intake of small crustaceans called brine shrimp, which is a flamingo’s favorite food and contains high amounts of carotenes.