Words by Amrita Advani
Photos by Sadhina Abeysuriya
The flamingo with its vibrant plumage and unmistakable swagger is the kind of bird many travellers would cross the world to see. Who wouldn’t like to stand at the edge of a tranquil lake painted pink by a visiting flock? In Sri Lanka this tropical mirage is a privileged reality. The Greater Flamingos, not unlike the typical traveler, flock yearly to the island to escape harsh winters.
Sri Lanka is the southernmost landmass of the Central Asian Flyway and is the final destination for many migratory birds exiting the eastern and western Indian flyways. Flamingos used to be a prevalent sight in the southern nature reserve of Bundala. However, the past decade has shown a change in their migratory pattern and it is now more common to see the flamingos in Mannar and other areas of northern Sri Lanka including Jaffna and Chundlkulam. With varying landscapes from the Vankalai mudflats to the Korakulum wetland, this 195 square kilometer island proves to be an excellent feeding ground for these blush beauties.
Embodying the saying “you are what you eat”, flamingos get their distinctive pink feathers from carotenoid pigments in their food, typically consisting of shrimp, plankton and crustaceans. Born white and grey, the typical flamingos will mature in to its pink splendor depending on the strength of its diet. Monogomous by nature and laying one egg a year, the colony all mate at the same time so they can hatch at the same time. Working together to protect each other from predators, flamingos fly in a distinct V-shape with the young in the middle for added security. A flock of flamingos is also known as a Flamboyance and once you are blessed to see them in the wild, it becomes all too clear why.