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By Hein Kaiser


Flamingos make beautiful return to Boksburg [PICS]

Flamingos are not migratory birds but, as some nature resources describe it, they are opportunistic, nomadic travellers.

Boksburg residents welcomed back large numbers of pink flamingos to the area’s wetlands this year. The large, somewhat peculiar birds have returned en masse after an absence and limited presence for some time.

Lakes and wetlands from suburbs like Witfield through to Bartlett, near OR Tambo International Airport, have seen winter shades of brown and grey brightened up with Kardashian-pink. For many years, these avian supermodels opted for Benoni lakes instead.

Local ward councillor Simon Lapping was elated at the return of the avian beauties.

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“I have not seen the flamingos in the area for a very long time. There were a few last year, but nothing quite like the numbers we are seeing now. It’s been a long time,” he said.

He suggested that pollution may have played a part, but local business in the area have been making concerted efforts to clean up alongside the municipality.

Flamingos are not migratory birds but, as some nature resources describe it, they are opportunistic, nomadic travellers, moving to wherever conditions are favourable and food is plentiful. They do not tend to return to the same spots, but rather just forge ahead, looking for favourable conditions.

Two types of flamingos

There are two types of flamingos in South Africa, the lesser flamingo, which usually stands at a height of just under a metre and the greater flamingo, its much taller cousin at around double its height.

Greater flamingos usually occur around the salt pans and coastal lagoons of the Western and Northern Cape and they have a diverse diet that includes microorganisms through to larger crustaceans and small invertebrates, as well as a bit of algae for their greens. They are pale in colour and have black tips at the end of their beaks.

Greater flamingos have their origins in North Africa. It’s the lesser flamingo that’sgot the pageant-winning, salmon coloured plumage along with a Kardashian-pouty deep-red bill. And, just like their bigger cousins, saline and alkaline conditions are their preferred hunting ground for the tiny organisms that live there. They enjoy these bacteria, called spirulina, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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The lesser flamingo, the pink ones in the suburbs of Boksburg, are likely born at Tanzania’s Lake Natron, in the Rift Valley, also known as the “flamingo factory” for its unbelievable numbers of salmon-coloured supermodels.

Not just beautiful to behold

But they’re not just beautiful to behold. Flamingos play important roles in the ecosystems where they occur.

They contribute to nutrient cycling in the lakes, lagoons and pans that they inhabit and dine at and naturists agree that when these birds are around, it indicates that the surrounding environment is in relatively good health.

Lapping credits the private sector for much of the improved environment. He said many companies joined local businessman Luke Botha’s initiative to clean up the area, one pavement at a time, and to invite nature back into the suburbs while making the environment pleasant.

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Resident and community activist Hilary Coke said she has noticed water levels in pans around Boksburg drop recently, creating a more saline environment that in turn, probably attracted the flamingos.

“There’s been nothing more pleasant than birdwatching, or even driving, only to be met by this splash of colour on a cold, dreary day.”

– news@citizen.co.za

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