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The bird of fire of the tropics
By: psilo 
Page: 3 of 3

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When the chicks hatch, their parents must take care to keep the infants from falling off the nest into the caustic lake. The babies are born grey with a straight bill, the upper mandible with a slight hook. For up to two months, the parents produce a special "crop milk" that they feed to their young. This crop milk is primarily fat and protein, and is initially dark red! This secretion is formed by glands in the upper digestive tract that is rich in blood. The young are very agile and very quickly become good at running and swimming.
In the wild, when the chicks are old enough to venture further from the nest they go and join the thousands of young that group together in the centre of the flock. Here they are protected by the adults, particularly as the caustic water levels drop from any opportunistic predators that watch for any unsuspecting young or sick birds that wander too close to the edge of the lake. From here the chick explores its home lake whilst waiting for its parent to bring it mouthfuls of food. Parents know their own young by their voice and will feed no other.
Once the young flamingoes have fledged and have survived all the dangers that face them they then can go on to live a very long life. The life span varies quite considerably from species to species and can range from 25-50 years.

The worst enemy of the Flamingo is man. Either directly through sport or indirectly through his actions of destroying their habitat or through changing environmental conditions.
Whilst the flamingo is not endangered in the wild it is very vulnerable.
Its specialised methods of living and feeding put it in danger if anything threatens their natural environment. Not only do the flamingoes need food but they need fresh water too. Under the hot African sun, water can dry up very quickly, leaving behind sludgy mud. A dried up lake is a dead one and flamingoes know that this is the sign that they have to move on. If the young havent fledged before this happens then they are left behind to the fate of the predators. And so begins the migration of hundreds of thousands of flamingoes, who may have to soar for days, covering hundreds of miles in their search for a suitable lake.

The loss of a single suitable lake deprives tens of thousands of flamingoes of food. These birds are such specialist feeders that they will not be able to adapt fast enough to changing conditions, thus putting their future in serious jeopardy.
For me being able to watch flamingoes at places like the WWT centres is a huge priveledge. Not only are they beautiful but they have a uniqueness that cannot be rivaled by any other species on earth. It would be far too easy to lose these fascinating birds, and to do so I feel, would be a sign that our planet truely is in danger. Conservation organisations do a brilliant job of monitoring flamingoes and other vulnerable and endangered species, making sure that they remain and continue to thrive for future generations to enjoy.
These pages have been created by Annette Cutts. All photos are copyright October 2004.

Psilos Wildlife & Nature Photography

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