Friday, December 15, 2017

Beautiful Birds of Pakistan - Flamingos

I first came face to face with this beautifully colored, long legged and amazing bird in Lahore Zoo in my childhood. While I admired this tall with elongated curvy neck and pink plumage, I was equally fascinated the Urdu translation of its name as Lamdheeng - someone with long legs, which is a befitting translation of a flamingo's appearance.
Flamingos do not have a sizable population in Pakistan, but out of the six species found world wide, Greater Flamingos are spotted in Pakistan, mostly in the salt lakes or the coastal regions of Pakistan. As per Wikipedia, the greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) is the most widespread species of the flamingo family. It is found in Africa, on the India-Pakistan subcontinent, in the Middle East and southern Europe.

Many years ago, while going to Skasar in the Soan Valley near Khushab/Sargodha, I came across this beautiful birds in the Ucchali Lake at the footsteps of Skasar hills.It was getting dark that day and traffic going up the hills was almost non existent, so I sat with the guard in the guard room. As it was his evening food time, he picked up his shot gun, went out and I heard a single shot. And then he triumphantly returned with a duck in his hand that he cooked and we both ate. Thankfully, he did not shoot a flamingo.

Flamingos have long, lean, curved necks and black-tipped bills with a distinctive downward bend. The specially curved beak of flamingos helps in stirring up mud to sucks water through its bill and filters out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms and mollusks. 
The close up of the bill of a greater flamingo - Photo: National Geographic

It is observed that the Greater Flamingo feeds with its head down and its upper jaw is movable and not rigidly fixed to its skull.
Why flamingos are always found in the saline water - there is an interesting Argentinian folktale that describes its colours and saline water abode. Here is how the folklore goes:
Long ago, the animals of a forest arranged a ball. While the rest of the animals had a new dress, the flamingos had nothing but a white cloak only. This really saddened the flamingos and decided to consult the jungle wizard, the owl, for a solution. The owl designed vividly coloured striped trousers and the flamingos looked really attractive. At the ball, they caught everyone's attention but the snakes got angry as the trousers were made of snake skin - for owl prey on snakes and the owl wizard had only snake skins left in her nest. The snakes as a protest bit the flamingos who ran to the nearest lake to ease their pain. Since that day, the flamingos do not leave the saline water as the saltwater keeps away the pain caused by the snake bites away. That is why they have red legs red and their feathers pink.
The flamingos breed in the form of a community around large lakes and water reservoirs. In captivity in zoos, they still breed well as the zoos keep large mirrors in their cages, which gives a feeling of not being alone as the mirror imaging looks like a community to the captive birds.

ave you heard flamingos calling? Well I have not, but it is said that their call is a goose-like honking. 

The photos by Mirza Naim Baig have been taken in the coastal region around Karachi, Pakistan. But flamingos are mostly spotted in the central Punjab in the salt lakes like Ucchali and Khabekki.
About the Bird Watcher and Photographer
Mirza Naim Baig is a freelancer member WWF who takes part inn the preservation of wildlife, beside being a wildlife tour operator. He is from Karachi and studied Bachelor of Arts at Edwards College, Peshawar and lives in Karachi. He is the owner of Dream Merchants.

His birding experiences and photos can be seen on FacebookAll photos above are the property of Mirza Naim Baig and have been shared here with his exclusive permission. In time more of his birding photos will be posted to share his hard work and love for these little flying birds.
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