Photo by YanLev/Shutterstock.com
You probably only imagine flamingos hanging out in a warm lagoon with their fellow bird buddies, surrounded by palm trees and coconuts. But it’s common for birds to migrate during the breeding season - are flamingos one of the bird species that migrate?
Do Flamingos Migrate?
Sort of. Let me explain.
Flamingos are considered to be non-migratory birds, meaning that they don’t inherently seek out a new location annually to breed and avoid cold. That means that on paper, no, flamingos do not migrate.
However, in practicality, there are some situations that cause migration, and they’re not super rare.
Photo by VickeyChauhan/Shutterstock.com
Flamingos love water - that’s where they find their food, that’s where they breed, that’s where they hang out. Having a body of water is essential to flamingo life. So when a lake freezes, it’s time to go.
Some flamingos live in very high altitudes, especially in the Andes in South America. During the winter months, it can get cold enough to turn the bodies of water flamingos enjoy normally to turn to ice. Flamingos can’t hunt for food or breed in ice, so when that happens, a migration is required to somewhere with warmer temperatures and non-frozen water.
Flamingos forming an endless sea of pink in Navi Mumbai.— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) May 8, 2020
According to the Bombay Natural History Society, there has been a 25 per cent increase in flamingo migration since last year.
(Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty) pic.twitter.com/xuR6890e9W
Changing Water Levels
Sometimes spurned by climate change, sometimes just a natural occurrence, changing water levels can lead to flamingo migration, too. A drought can dry up the water that flamingos need, and for the same reasons as when the water freezes, flamingos can’t have that. Alternatively, if water levels rise too much and there isn’t enough water shallow enough for flamingos to wade in, breed in, and feed in, then they’ll also have to move to find somewhere that better suits their needs.
Photo by YanLev/Shutterstock.com
Humans & Predators
When humans bring bulldozers and build strip malls on marshlands, it’s not exactly conducive to the flamingo lifestyle. Similarly, if an area becomes overrun with predators and it’s no longer safe for flamingos to patrol those waters, they’ll go find somewhere else that’s more comfortable for them to convene.
When Do Flamingos Migrate?
Flamingos prefer to make their moves during the night. The ideal situation for a flamingo to fly is a clear, cloudless sky with tailwinds that help and don’t hinder its travel. These conditions are more commonly found after the sun sets. However, in the event that flamingos don’t have the luxury of waiting until nightfall, they’ll generally fly at a higher altitude, perhaps to avoid potential predation from eagles.
Pakistan lies at a crossroads for bird migration, as a result of its deliberate geographical location. The Indus basin is one of the world’s great migratory flyways and is the principal route followed by many bird species,one being the flamingo.— PNA (@Scheherzadeh) March 5, 2020
Images from Soon Valley & Karachi pic.twitter.com/DiFNagf6ua
Where Do They Go?
That depends on where they’re starting, why they’re migrating, and more. But we do know about one specific set of flamingos - those that call Carmarque in southern France their home.
The flamingo population in Carmarque has been studied since 1977, and it’s been found that most of the fowls who migrate away either go southwest to Spain or southeast to Tunisia or Turkey during the winter. It seems that the decision to go east or west comes down to which way the prevailing winds are blowing in the fall.