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Birds never seen, with iridescent wings, rise from the pond, as they gushed from the water, drawing a kind of rainbow in the sky: perhaps a mirage (Grazia Deledda)
The Sardinian people call them "sa genti arrubia", translating to the "red people." The friendship between the Sardinians and the pink flamingos is still young. In fact, for the last 25 years in Sardinia, there has been a steadily increasing population of flamingos, particularly in the ponds of Molentargius and Santa Gilla, near Cagliari. In 2017, during the nesting period, the lake of Molentargius welcomed more than 26,000 pairs of flamingos, ready to spawn.
The pink flamingos that live in Sardinia belong to the species of "Phoenicopterus roseus," with pinkish-white plumage, feathers covered with fiery red and black flight feathers. Their beak is pink with a black tip, their legs are long and pink, and their eyes are yellow. Flamingo babies are grey and turn to their "adult color" after 3 or 4 years. The pink flamingos can reach 180 cm of wingspan, with 4 kilos of weight for the males and 2 kilos for the females. Their average age is around 30 years, although some specimens of over 50 years old have been recently identified.
The wet and inhabited areas of the ponds represent the ideal habitat for these waders, which in spring nest and fill the lakes with "flaminglets". Passing on the surrounding streets or looking out the window of an airplane while moving over the pond, you can see a tremendous pink cloud.
You can often see them in the early hours of the morning or before sunset while flying to move from one pond to another, looking for food. In fact, these birds eat the "Artemisia salina" or small pink crustaceans, of which the Macchiareddu salt pans are particularly rich. These small shrimps contribute to the pink coloring of their feathers; Flamingo's pink color intensity depends on the number of shrimps ingested.
It is particularly funny to observe a flamingo while searching for food; while it remains in an upright position, it moves its legs back and forth with a cyclic movement, as if it were digging. Then, with its curved beak, it filters the water and sand and takes the shrimps. A flamingo can stay with its head underwater for several minutes. The population of the flamingos in Cagliari consists mostly of indigenous specimens. However, many flamingos are also said to be coming from the Camargue in France, from the Donana park in Spain, and also from Morocco. Species from more distant countries such as Greece, Turkey, and Iran have also been spotted around the area.
The most exciting time to see pink flamingos in Sardinia is during the first weeks of June, when these birds decide to stop, nest and lay their eggs, forming that way, an extended pink cloud. The best moment of the day to spot flamingos is just before sunset, when everything turns pink, from mountains to salt pans. The silhouettes of flamingos in flight, forming a "v" shape, stand out in the sky, creating an exciting spectacle every day.
Kip is 40 years old and is the oldest flamingo in the park of Molentargius. It was born in Camargue, in the pond of the Fangassier and throughout his life he traveled a lot, always between France and Italy. It arrived for the first time in Sardinia in 1987, in the salt pans of Quartu, and it remained since then in this pond.
Many of the flamingos are identifiable because they carry a ring of recognition in the upper part of their paw. This ringing technique, that has been put in force in Sardinia since 1997, allows to carry out studies on travel and population, as well as to compile statistics and reports regarding flamingos' life.
In addition to the Cagliari area, there are many places to spot flamingos in Sardinia. In particular, the area of Oristano is rich in ponds and marshes where flamingos live. The pond of Cabras, the pond of Santa Giusta, the pond of Sale ‘e Porcus and the lagoon of Mistras, are among the most significant ones! Other areas in Sardinia where you can spot flamingos, are Olbia in the area of Poltu Quadu, Orosei in Sa Curcurica pond, and the Chia beach, located at about 30 kilometers away from Cagliari.
Cover photo credits © iStock/millerpd
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