Winter has come, and Mumbai, Thane, and the surrounding areas are welcoming the Greater and Lesser Flamingos. They migrate from states such as Gujarat and Rajasthan, as well as from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even Israel. The flamingos’ arrival and departure are dependent on the movement of the monsoon. A late receding of the monsoon, will delay the arrival of the birds, and vice versa.
Count Them In
The number of flamingos migrating to Mumbai has increased dramatically in recent years. The results of a Bombay Natural History Society 2019 census showed 1,21,000 flamingos inhabiting Mumbai. The study shows that the number of the Lesser Flamingo is rising, while that of the Greater Flamingo is declining.âÂ¯While former requires saline water to live and breed in, the latter thrives in brackish water.
Packed With Pink
Painting the creeks and mudflats in varied hues of pink, these gentle birds wade through the water to get a fill of their favourite food, blue-green algae. The algae are also why the flamingos (Spanish/Portuguese for ‘flame-coloured’) are pink. The grey fledglings feast on the brine shrimp and other small crustaceans, which feed on carotenoid-rich blue-green algae. This beta-carotene pigment turns their feathers pink. You can imagine the amounts of algae-fattened shrimp they ingest!
There are three places for flamingo observation:
Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary, Bhandup Pumping Station bird-watching area, and the Sewri mud flats. The last one is now a restricted area, for the next seven years, due to the construction of the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link.
At the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary, you can visit the Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Museum. It is a treat, especially for the kids. Boat rides take place only during high tides since it is easy to reach closer to the birds and navigate. At Thane and Bhandup, you will see many other migratory birds, as well as indigenous animals, and insects. These regions are high-level biodiversity spots. Besides Mumbai, vast flocks of flamingos have been spotted at Uran, in Navi Mumbai, and Panju Island, in Vasai creek, Palghar district.
Safety: Please follow the guides' instructions, and do not attempt to disembark from the boat or distract the birds with sounds or actions. It is suggested you carry mosquito/insect repellent.
Clothing: Ensure you are wearing pants and full-sleeved shirts. The shoes must be sturdy and water-resistant, if possible. Carry sunglasses, scarves, hats, etc.; it will get sunny.
Photography:If you want good photographs, try to visit early in the morning, preferably before 9 a.m., especially since tide timings vary.
Where: Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary and Bhandup Pumping Station
Best time to visit: November to April
Timings: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Boat rides are subject to high-tide timings
How to get there:
Bhandup Pumping Station: Via the Eastern Express Highway, 32 km, approximately from Churchgate. It is 6 km, approximately from Powai.
Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary: 37 km, approximately, from Churchgate. It is 13 km, approximately from Powai.
Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary: