(29 September 1997)
Flamingos nesting in the Mediterranean region have been ringed as chicks, before they can fly, for many years. Large metal-coloured plastic rings are used, inscribed with a three or four letter and/or number code that can be read with a telescope at up to 300 metres.
In the Camargue, France, a programme has been going on since 1977, with between 600 and 900 birds ringed each year. In Spain, between 500 and 1300 flamingo chicks have been ringed most years since 1986 at Fuente de Piedra in Andalucia. In Italy, 26 birds were ringed in Orbetello in 1994 and 400 in Stagno di Molentargius in Sardinia in 1997. It is worth noting that all four nesting places are designated Ramsar sites. The records of ringed birds of course allow multiple sightings of the same bird (as opposed to metal-ringed flamingos, when the ring is usually discovered only when the bird is found dead or shot). The plastic rings show the whole life history of the flamingos, and their movements around the Mediterranean; they illustrate the birds' dependence on North African wetlands during the immature period (Tunisia and Morocco may be considered the kindergarten of many flamingos born in the northern Mediterranean); equally the rings demonstrate the dependence of the flamingos on North African wetlands (and sites as far south as Senegal) in the winter months.
One particular observation seems worthy of consideration for the Guinness Book of Records: on 12 August at Korba Lagoons (featured in the MedWet programme), 300 flamingos were present, 30 of them (an exceptionally high proportion in itself) carrying rings. The thirty ringed birds included at least one colour ringed bird from each of the four colonies. This must be a record - unless other readers know better?
And who can tell whether the group did not also contain flamingos from colonies in Mauritania (often observed in Tunisia) and perhaps the occasional colonies in Tunisia and Morocco?
-- reported by Mike Smart, sadly probably his last appearance here as a full-time member of Bureau staff