Once a rarity, Mallorca’s flamingo population is on the rise… and making headlines Mallorca is in the pink!
The Greater Flamingo- for some, it evokes tropical images and Miami Beach postcards, for others, an ornithological fascination; and for others still, a mildly ridiculous bird with a bold choice of feather colour. Whatever your bent, this nomadic bird is now a staple of our coastline and the population is increasing every year. In fact, one particularly daring bird held up traffic at Palma Airport in April, causing quite a stir!
Fine Feathered Friends #
In the 1980’s, the Greater Flamingo population on the island could hardly be called a “population”. There were three, yes, you read that correctly, THREE, birds that visited our shores. Today, that population has swelled to around 800 in the Balearics, with a substantial number hanging around Mallorca for the winter.
Who could blame them? Much like their human counterparts, the island makes an excellent place to spend the colder months. There are two main areas they tend to gravitate toward. The first is S’Albufera Nature Reserve, in the north of the island, and the second is Salobrar de Campos in Ses Salines in the south, where a much larger and impressive group congregates.
Their choice of temporary lodgings is simple. They prefer shallow, brackish water for nesting, and these two sites offer both, as well as protected areas to create the mud nests required for their eggs.
Flamingos are incredibly social birds and will not breed unless there is a large number of them in one place. To the human eye, their courting rituals verge on the hilarious, with synchronised wing raising, and wild head waggles. Greater Flamingos like to put on shows in general, and spend a vast amount of their days preening, flapping their wings and noise-making. This daily scene makes for extraordinary bird watching!
Fun Facts #
An adult flamingo female will produce only one egg per season, and it is incubated by both parents for roughly a month. After a week, the chicks leave the nest and form a “creche” where they grow together until they are strong enough to fly, which is at about seven weeks.
Flamingos have few natural predators and therefore have long life expectancies - up to fourty years in the wild. They are quite large birds, weighing up to four kilos, with height ranging from 90-127cms, and they have an impressive 140-160 cm wingspan.
The colour we associate with the flamingo is not natural. Believe it or not, it’s a dye job! The pigment in the crustaceans they eat causes their feathers to turn pink. And they have a very efficient way of "harvesting" their food: Their scoop-shaped beaks have lamellae around the edges allowing them to filter water like a sieve. Dipping it in, swinging it around sucking in water with their tongues – that's all it takes to eat their fill.
The best time for seeing these wonderful creatures on Mallorca is late summer to the end of April.
By Stephanie Horsman
9 May, 2019