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Mumbai's Sewri mudflats must await pink-feathered flamingos

Friday, 23 December 2011 - 8:45am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Thousands of flamingos fly in from their breeding grounds in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat to the Sewri mudflats, searching for a safe habitat.

Winter has almost set in, but the city must wait for a few more days to welcome its annual pink-feathered guests. For, the flamingos, which grace the Sewri mudflats with their presence every winter, have hardly arrived.

Every year, thousands of flamingos fly in from their breeding grounds in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat to the Sewri mudflats in the city, searching for a safe habitat. This annual display of feathers brings thousands of Mumbaikars and bird-watchers from across the country to Sewri. However, according to Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the number of flamingos that have reached Mumbai could be a mere 500.

“The migration depends on the extent of winter in their original habitat in Kutch. Once the winter becomes extreme there, they find it difficult to search for food. That is the main reason why they migrate every year. The mudflats in Sewri or places near Airoli are their usual places of migration,” said Atul Sathe of BNHS.

While mentioning that a number of researchers were working at trying to find out on the exact reasons, deciding factors and the routes for migration, Sathe said, “Their migratory flight also depends on the breeding season. The babies should be strong enough to fly along. Also, the temperature factor plays a major role.”

“If they still have not started facing difficulties due to extreme winter in Kutch, then they might delay their migration to the city,” he said, adding that if the flamingos do not turn up until December-end, then it could be a matter of study.

Earlier, in March this year, a huge flamingo festival was organised. Attended by thousands of Mumbaikars, the public observed them flamboyant birds in company of experts. BNHS has plans to arrange another of such festival in 2012 once the flamingos settle in.

“Their reason for the present delay is as difficult to guess as the answer to how these birds choose a particular location. A satisfactory guess would be that the birds have not begun finding it difficult to find food in their intermediary habitat, the Rann of Kutch. Also, over the last few years, the birds are choosing different locations to migrate along the Konkan coastline, mainly because of increasing pollution and human interference in their earlier habitats,” said Rituraj Joshi of Nisarg Trust.

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