Photo by Wynian/Shutterstock.com
Flamingos and Morton Salt aren’t the most likely of pairs, but for decades, the two have shared a symbiotic relationship in the Bahamas.
In the late 1930s, Morton Salt Co. began operating on the island of Great Inagua in the Bahamas. Great Inagua offers an excellent climate for salt production, with a hot sun that dries the salt and wind that cleans away debris. In all, the island produces roughly one million pounds of salt every year within its 300,000-acre confines. And it just so happens that Morton Salt’s operations on the island have had a massively positive impact on the local flamingo population.
So, how has Morton Salt helped the flamingos of the Bahamas?
How Morton Salt Helped Bahamas Flamingos
The fabulous fowl was nearly wiped out from Great Inagua about 100 years ago from overhunting. Over time, greater protections have allowed the birds to regain their footing on the island, but nothing has provided the same boon as Morton Salt.
Morton Salt runs one of the largest solar evaporation saltworks in the world on Great Inagua, according to a report from John McKinney for the LA Times.
“Dikes hold back shallow but extensive reservoirs that contain water pumped from the sea,” McKinney wrote. “The sun glares relentlessly onto the reservoirs, evaporating the moisture. The seawater thickens first to concentrated brine, then congeals into layers of almost pure salt. Morton dump trucks drive onto the salt flats to collect the harvest, some 1 million tons of sea salt annually.”
Flamingos in salt flats - Photo by SvenJakubith/Shutterstock.com
These salt flats make for a perfect spot for algae, brine shrimp, and other various invertebrates to congregate. The environment around the saltpans are hellish for humans, all of Morton’s machinery, and most living things, but for the durable flamingo, it’s no match. The birds have taken notice of the tasty morsels available in the area, and the vast salt deposits have become all-you-can-eat buffets for the fowls. As a result, the national park located on Great Inagua - Inagua National Park - is the largest breeding colony of Caribbean flamingos on the planet.
The flamingos aren’t the only ones making out on the deal. As the birds pig out in the brackish waters, their method of filter-feeding helps clean the evaporating ponds that produce the company’s salt. Essentially, flamingos feeding in their waters speeds up the process that the sun and wind were already doing.
Morton Salt and the flamingos of Great Inagua have spent decades working together to get the best out of the island’s resources. For as long as the company operates a massive salt production facility on the island, the flamingos in the area should continue to eat pretty well.