More than 150,000 magenta-feathered friends have descended upon Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state in western India, about 25% more than is normal for the breeding season, the Hindustan Times reported last week. There are several reasons for the increase over last year, which comes after the birds delayed their breeding season altogether.
“A major reason for the large numbers is also the large flocks of juveniles moving to these sites, following the successful breeding documented two years ago.” Deepak Apte, director of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), told the Hindustan Times. “Additionally, the lockdown is giving these birds peace for roosting, no disturbance in their attempt to obtain food, and overall encouraging habitat.”
The birds have overflowed into surrounding wetlands that are normally bustling with construction and other human activity, the Hindustan Times said. So many, in fact, that the BNHS wants wildlife authorities to declare an area called Seawoods as a flamingo sanctuary rather than turning it into a golf course as is currently planned.
“Wetland destruction and developmental activities across several areas of the eastern seafront is another reason why larger bird numbers are getting squeezed into smaller pockets like in Navi Mumbai,” said Apte, referring to a suburb of Mumbai.
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Another possible reason for the influx: a plentiful supply of food, thanks to increased domestic waste, BNHS assistant director Rahul Khot told the Hindustan Times. The extra sewage allows planktons, algae and macrobenthos to thrive, which is a main food source for flamingos and other water birds, he said.
Flamingos tend to hang out in “warm, watery regions on many continents,” according to National Geographic, favoring environments such as estuaries and saline or alkaline lakes.
Though gangly, they are fluid swimmers, NatGeo said, though they prefer the extensive mud flats.
Animals take over empty streets during coronavirus outbreak
Mumbai provides just such a habitat, when humans aren’t mucking around in it. Normally flamingos visit area wetlands between November and May to feed, starting right after the monsoon season, the BNHS said.
India has been on lockdown since March 25, keeping more than a billion people indoors and closing down all non-essential services. The strict measures were initially slated to end on May 4, but on Thursday the Indian government announced it would go on through May 18, according to Time.