The word flamingo comes from the Latin word for flame or fire. They are referred to locally by many names – in Marathi they are called “Rohit” or “Raktak”. In Hindi, they are called “Agni Pankh” or “Rajhans” and in English they are called “Flamingo” or “Flame Bird”…….The pink colour in their plumage is due to the “Beta carotene” rich food in the form of blue green algae and Shrimps (In zoos the flamingo food is often mixed with carrots that contain this pigment)…even their flesh is pink in colour…As the breeding season approaches the lesser flamingos (adults only) are adorned with rich pink colour all over the body, with wings and legs getting almost scarlet ……When-ever, I see the flashy wings of these flame birds, I often remember the famous dialogue by Amitabh in his film “Agnipath”……and I recite the dialogue in AB style…….“Agnipankh, Agnipankh, Agnipankh” ….
The lesser flamingos before leaving the shores of Mumbai to their breeding grounds…..perform a spectacular display that is rivaled by none…...Even if you do not get any images…...its an amazing experience to just watch this…..the bright pink adults group together in tight formations (sometimes over 300 adults) and move around adorning their lovely plumage, twisting and turning their necks, right & left, up & down, side to side, opening their wings in between, a flap here & a flap there, tapping their delicate feet in water……they march together to announce that they are ready and healthy…resembling like the flames rising from water……...this is what I call “The Flame Dance”
A "Pat" of flamingos dancing (Group of flamingos is called a "Pat").....is one of the strangest, most breathtaking sights in the natural world.....it is amazing to see this spectacle in the heart of one of the worlds most populous cities "Mumbai.....The lesser flamingos have specific feeding requirements unlike the Greater and the effluent rich warm waters released by the surrounding industries provide rich source of food for these pink beauties......But the pollutants that attract them here may also be slowly poisoning them in a long run.....These "Dancing Flamingos" of Sewri can be best seen in the months of April and May…..here you can see the spectacular “Broken Neck” display which is a part of their dance ritual :))
The myth of the legendary Phoenix has been around for centuries…It goes like this…..”The Phoenix is a legendary, beautiful, brightly colored bird of great size. Its plumage resembles the flames it rises from upon its rebirth from the ashes, combining orange and red hues. Its eyes glow a deep ruby red”…...The Flamingo is often associated with this mythical bird. The Early Christians thought that the flamingo was the basis of the legend of the Phoenix and viewed it as a metaphor for the resurrection of Christ. Phoenix is the Greek word for "red", which links this magical bird to fire and the sun, hence its family name Phoenicopteridae …. This image reminds me of that mythical bird “The Phoenix” that rises from the ashes like fire....
Some FAQs on the Flamingos of Mumbai:
1. What are Flamingos and why are they pink?
A Flamingo is a beautiful long legged pink feathered wading bird found in
The word "flamingo" stems from the Latin word meaning flame. Flamingos obtain their pink/orange/reddish coloration from what they eat. A diet high in carotenoid pigments (same stuff in carrots) gives the flamingo feathers their trademark coloration. Young chicks are pale to white in color and it is believed that flamingos won’t mate until they obtain their color. If flamingos do not receive enough carotene in their diet, they become malnourished and turn pale.
Flamingos sometimes stand on one leg while resting. They stand on one leg to shift their weight to a better rested leg. Flamingos have webbed feet which help to support them on soft mud. They can also swim. A gathering of flamingos is called a pat.
3. What do flamingos eat and How?
The typical flamingo diet consists of diatoms, seeds, blue-green algae, crustaceans, and mollusks that they filter out of the water. Using their long legs and partially webbed feet, flamingos will stamp on the muddy bottom of lagoons to mix the food particles with the water. They have a unique beak that is lined with comb like lamellae (similar to whales) which help them to filter out water and take in their food. Flamingos drink fresh water.
When they are ready to lay eggs, birds will form pairs. Within the whole colony, groups of birds will be engaged in courtship displays -, a predictable sequence of displays including marching and head turning, calling and preening. Several hundred to several thousand flamingos are all doing the same behaviors at the same time. This helps to synchronize breeding within the colony, so that most of the birds are laying eggs or raising young at the same time.
Every flamingo does not nest every year. When they do nest, they typically lay one large, white egg. The nest is built of mud, small stones, and feathers on the ground and is in the shape of a volcano.
Parent flamingos do not regurgitate food for their young the way most birds do. They feed their nestling a liquid substance called 'crop milk' (Like the pigeons), a secretion of the upper digestive tract stimulated by the hormone prolactin. Crop milk is dark red in color and very high in fat and protein and is produced by both male and female birds. Both parents nurse their chick for about two months until their bills are developed enough to filter feed.
Flamingos not only come to Sewri but also in other places like Vasai, Trombay, Thane Creek and also travel to other parts of
Flamingos are very selective in their habitat. They prefer only Muddy beaches and not sandy beaches, because they get their food (Blue-green algae & Brine) only in muddy shores. Hence these flamingos are not found on shores like Alibaug, Juhu, Girgaum chowpatty or Dadar chowpatty which are sandy shores.
In reality, all flamingo populations have undergone a rapid decline in their populations, since they live in large groups in concentrated numbers in fragile wetland habitats that could easily become polluted, fragmented (divided up into smaller un-usable pieces).
The flamingos worst enemy is man, who destroys the bird's habitat, directly by using the land for other purposes or indirectly by changing the natural processes that occur on that land (water depth, water quality, salinity).
13. Are flamingos safe in Sewri?
Most of these waders are of different species that include Sandpipers, Stints, Shanks, Plovers, Curlews, Whimbrels etc and majority of these birds are winter migrants coming to sewri from as far as Siberia, Central Europe and the Himalayas. They too start arriving here in October and migrate back to their breeding places in April – May. During the month of April, it is a preety site to watch waders in their breeding plumage, when, not only they look spectacular, but also easy to identify.