Flamingos: did you know?

Hi Kurungabaaites,

I have been up to the top of my boots in mud and sewerage.

I have been styudying the flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus which frequents the Mediterranean wetlands. In recent decades, the population of this species has increased significantly in the Mediterranean region, despite the reclamation of many wetlands. The increase is thought to reflect the opportunistic behaviour of flamingos. They are clever critters. They visit some sites more frequently, most often in response to human activities such as pollution.

My hut was on the edge of the Tunisian wetlands, which are major wintering and nursery habitats for the flamingo that in very wet years can also become important breeding areas. These areas can support up to half the population of the western Mediterranean, which is estimated at around 80 000 to 90 000 birds!

My wet notebook is full to the brim of new research. Such as, I can now show that Essijoumi, an urban wetland in Tunis, has changed from a hypersaline to a brackish waterlogged site for most of the year. The change can be traced to the recent urban extension of Tunis which led to a water balance surplus due to increased runoff and decreased agricultural land in the catchment area.

As I mentioned, organic pollution is playing a major role in the nutrification of water resources leading to better feeding habitats. This, in turn, has influenced the distribution of flamingos and the carrying capacity of the wetland.

Increased water depth to about 3 m has made the northern part of Essijoumi inaccessible. However, the southern and eastern parts of this wetland have become more attractive to flamingos and to a diversity of waterfowl. The world is funny old place.

Take care,

The friendly bird watcher

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