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'The power of the taiga... perhaps only migratory birds know where it ends'
Anton Chekhov, 1890

Why do flamingos fly to Siberia risking death from the winter cold?

By The Siberian Times reporter
07 November 2014

Two young birds saved after taking a seriously wrong turn during migration.

Pink flamingo walking along Usa river in Mezhdurechensk. Picture: social media

Four flamingos - all in different locations - got into severe difficulties in Siberia this week after apparently flying north instead of south. One was found hungry and cold by fishermen on the ice of a lake in Tomsk region. They rescued and warmed the bird before sending it to Seversky Zoo, where it is being nursed back to health after suffering mild frostbite. 

Another case ended in tragedy after a young flamingo, believed to be on its first migration, fell out of the sky in the Evenkia district of vast Krasnoyarsk region - only 500 km from the Arctic Circle - by chance landing almost at the feet of a hunter, Petr Sidorkin.

He wrapped the bird in clothes and carried it home where his wife Nadezhda fed it with mashed carrots, beets, fish and minced meat, on the recommendation of the nature care department of the local administration. 

Pink flamingo found in Evenkia

'The bird was severely emaciated and was in a critical condition when it came to Royev Ruchey.' Picture: Royev Ruchey

On 5 November, the bird was handed over to Royev Ruchey Zoo in Krasnoyarsk, but  it did not survive despite the best efforts of staff. 'Sadly, the bird is dead,'  zoo spokeswoman Ekaterina Mikhailova told The Siberian Times.

'The bird was severely emaciated and was in a critical condition when it came to Royev Ruchey. The body temperature was extremely low, and its legs were necrotic (due to frostbite). 

'There were severe frosts in Evenkiya, down to about minus 30C  and the bird could not get food at least several days because the lakes were frozen. Despite all the efforts of our veterinarians, we could not save it.'

Pink flamingo in Mezhdurechensk

'In the past 100 years flamingos arrived about two dozen times, but in Mezhdurechensk, this type of bird was spotted for the first time.' Picture: social media

More trauma struck another flamingo which landed exhausted near a village on the Turochack district of the mountainous Altai Republic. A local dog bit the surprising visitor but not seriously. 

The bird was taken to the pioneering Novosibirsk Centre for the Rehabilitation of Birds of Prey. Here the bird was examined, its wounds were treated and bandaged. Elena Shnaider, head of the centre, then passed the flamingo to Novosibirsk Zoo. 

Evgenia Pirozhkova, the zoo's press secretary, said: 'The bird feels better and if all goes well - as we hope - it will stay at zoo, because  it cannot be released into the wild due to the injuries. Though it will be our first pink flamingo, we have good conditions for such a bird.'

Pink flamingo in Novosibirsk

Pink flamingo in Novosibirsk Centre for the Rehabilitation of Birds of Prey. Picture: Elena Shnaider

Yet another flamingo was seen in Mezhdurechensk, Kemerovo region, walking on the snowy bank of the Usa River. Specialists from 'Kuznetsk Alatau' Reserve were summoned and tried to catch the bird. But it went into the river and crossed to the other side. Later it was seen flying to an island in the river. 

'We did not go there to catch the bird. Firstly, it is dangerous, and secondly, once it flies well, it can also fly away for the winter,' said director Alexey Vasilchenko, who was optimistic the flamingo could fly to a warmer climate. The bird needs to rest and eat well to gain strength for the trip.'

He revealed that the arrival of wayward flamingos is not unknown in this part of Siberia.

'In the past 100 years flamingos arrived about two dozen times, but in Mezhdurechensk, this type of bird was spotted for the first time. It was quite a young bird, and has grey colouring. Only on the neck and under the wing could be seen a little pink. 

'But the older the bird is, the brighter is the colour. Apparently, it strayed from the flock and got lost here. And could not fly (back) because all the passes (through the mountains) were hit by heavy snowfall.'

Pink flamingo in Tomsk region


Pink flamingo in Tomsk region


Pink flamingo in Tomsk region

Pink flamingo found by fishermen on the ice of a lake in Tomsk region goes to Seversk zoo. Pictures: Regional Committee for Environmental Protection, Seversk zoo

But why do flamingos stray to Siberia? What causes this fault in their navigation system. The birds are greater flamingos, common in Africa, southern Europe, as well as south and south west Asia. It is unclear where these flamingos are from. 

The closest population of flamingos is in Kazakhstan, with many birds migrating to Azerbaijan for the winter. The birds do not necessarily migrate but do so if their food source is frozen or threatened. 

Still, the puzzle is why they took a wrong turn and ended up in Siberia. Local experts believe the answer is in unusual climactic conditions as they migrated. A warm front may have fooled the birds into flying north but they rapidly encountered the extreme cold. 

Comments (1)

Maybe this is happening?
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/adjust-your-compass-now-the-north-pole-is-migrating-to-russia-2233610.html
Yana, Pt
21/03/2016 19:17
0
0
1

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