Friday, 21 February 2014

Flamingo watching... with your dog

When most people think of Cyprus, they think of beaches and blue sea, perhaps night life, maybe history... I think very few people would associate Cyprus with flamingos. Yet every year, as the winter rains re-fill the salt lakes, hundreds of Greater Flamingos arrive and feed in the lakes. They can be found in the salt lakes near Larnaca (Aliki) and Lemesos (Akrotiri), as well as in the wetlands and smaller lakes around the island, such as Oroklini and the area by Kalavassos. They arrive in about December and stay until around March.   
Flamingos in Oroklini Lake
A few flamingo facts:
  • Flamingos are a white colour when born. The pink colouring comes from the high quantities of beta carotene in their diet. The less healthy birds will retain a whiter-brown colour
  • Greater flamingos feed on insects, algae, worms and vegetation
  • They have a lifespan of up to 40 years
  • Greater flamingos are monogamous
  • They have a wing span of up to 1.7m
Flamingos on the Aliki, Larnaca
I love going to see these birds. Sometimes you can just make them out from a distance, out over the Salt Lake at Larnaca. Other times there seems to be hundreds of them spread out in small groups. At the small nature reserve on the road to Oroklini from the Dhekelia Road, there is a small lake by the road where you get a great view of the birds. Here you see flamingos mixing with much less 'exotic' ducks as well as other migratory water birds. 

View of Hala Sultan Teke, Aliki
This post doesn't have much to do with my dog, actually. But we do spend a lot of time by the lake in Larnaca together, with and without flamingos. I'm not sure what she makes of them - you can see in the video that she seems interested, but not too bothered. Fortunately she hasn't tried to chase them....
The number of flamingos wintering in Cyprus changes each year, depending on rainfall and how much water is in the lakes and wetlands. A Cypriot friend of ours said that this year the numbers seem to be particularly low, and other years he remembers the lake turning pink from the thousands of flamingo visitors. 

As well as problems caused by a lack of rain, flamingos and other migratory water birds are suffering from the destruction of their natural habitat (the wetland areas) through over-development. On this very built up island, preserving the small areas of wildlife that remain is extremely important.

Another major concern is the close proximity of Larnaca airport to the Aliki, their favourite of the feeding grounds in Cyprus. I have read that there are literally hundreds of collisions every year between the birds and low flying aircraft.

I really hope that this amazing wildlife is given the support and conditions needed to enjoy their holidays in Cyprus too.

For more information check out this useful article from 2012:

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