The day started very early: at 5am last Saturday coordinators and volunteers gathered at the lagoon in Fuente de Piedra to ring the baby flamingos. Since the scheme began in 1986, many volunteers have taken part year after year, but for some it is always a new experience.
This is the first year the flamingos have been ringed since 2019, due to the pandemic in 2020 and because a lack of water in the lagoon in 2021 meant that the birds were not able to nest there. In 2022, the nature reserve recorded the birth of 3,700 chicks, and 600 were captured so they could be ringed. This is done so their movements can be monitored in future without them having to be caught.
About 80% of the birds currently at the lagoon were born there, and 16% came from the flamingo colony in the Camargue in France. The remainder have arrived from other colonies in the Mediterranean such as Italy, Sardinia and the Ebro Delta, although the general director for the Environment, Biodiversity and Protected Spaces, Giuseppe Aloisio, says an “important” number were born in Algeria and one was born and ringed in Turkey.
More than 400 people from all over Spain took part in the ringing process this year, and it is carried out as swiftly as possible so the chicks come to no harm. It consists of placing a metal ring on their right leg and a plastic one on the left leg, then their wings, beak and body are measured, they are weighed and samples are taken. This year for the first time four of the young birds have been fitted with a satellite transmitter. Once the procedure is completed, the chicks are released and can walk back to the water on their own.
Flamingo chicks don’t normally learn to fly until they are about 90 days old, so in early September they will leave the Fuente de Piedra lagoon. In the meantime their parents fly to other areas for food and then return to feed their young.
Since the ringing project began 36 years ago, 19,577 flamingo chicks have been ringed and the plastic rings contain a number which can be read through a telescope.
Since 1984, a total of 230,948 chicks have been born at the Fuente de Piedra lagoon, which is one of the most important wetlands in the Mediterranean and northwest Africa.