The Pink Visitors in the City

Flamingos with their pink plumage are the annual visitors to the mudflats of Seweri Mumbai. This visit this place in the month of March every year. They arrive here from Rann of Kutchh. This is a treat to watch and an assurance that everything is not lost on the environment front. They come here and since some of us are bent upon destroying the habitat of flora and fauna we are surprised and feel happy about their arrival. They are our guests and that they visit every year, we have to make their visit comfortable.

As you know, the Mumbai is very congested and everyone is fighting for his space. There are garbage heaps everywhere. The approach to Seweri jetty is also strewn with the heaps of garbage. But the visit is rewarding and it is sight to watch them in flight against the hot blue sky.

What brings these pretty birds here? Here is a paradox. Experts believe that they feed on the green algae which contains sulphur mixture from factories.

Some interesting facts about the birds

» Flamingos travel up to 500 km at a stretch, usually flying at higher altitudes to avoid preying eagles.

» The migratory birds flock into the city in winter from the Rann of Kutch and from abroad.

» As the birds feed far from the shore, one needs binoculars to spot them. The former practice of taking a boat to watch flamingos up-close was stopped after the terror attack.

» At the Sewri mudflats, during high tide, flamingos move to the mangroves to rest and return at low tide to feed.

Two species of flamingos are commonly found in India — the Greater Flamingo and Lesser Flamingo. Greater Flamingos are taller, with black-tipped grey beaks. Their necks are shaped like a perfect ‘S’. Lesser Flamingos( P. minor) are comparatively smaller, pinker and have dark beaks and red eyes. Ninety-five per cent of flamingos found in Mumbai are Lesser Flamingos.

The pink or reddish color of flamingos comes from carotenoid proteins in their diet of animal and plant plankton. These proteins are broken down into pigments by liver enzymes. The source of this varies by species, and affects the saturation of color. Flamingos whose sole diet is blue-green algae are darker in color compared to those who get it second hand (e.g. from animals that have digested blue-green aglae). Zoo-fed flamingos, who often lack the color enhancer in their diet, may be given food with the additive canthaxanthin.

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