Flamingos: "The Creation of the RANN of KUTCH"

November is the Month of this Bird Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)

Kutch is the biggest district of Gujarat and the second largest after LEH district in India, and nearly half of that is in the form of Deserted area called the RANN of about 20,720 square km , white, salty and like crystal. In this RANN, a place I called 'SURKHAB NAGAR' in which you won't find any human habitat. It is a home of Flamingos. In Asia, Flamingo's nests are found only in the big RANN of Kutch. When the water from sea spreads on this RANN in monsoon, it creates little ponds of mud everywhere. In this ponds grows moss little bugs makes them this home. With the sufficient food source and the security, you won't find any hunter birds here. In these ponds, flamingos build their nest and lay their eggs. Flamingos live in big groups. They land into these ponds in the month of September and October and built nests near each other by making little hills of mud. After few days, they build around 12" high by 10" wide nests. When the mud dries in sun, the female flamingo lay one or two light eggs in nest and male and female hatch the eggs turn by turn. Form the vein of neck of flamingo comes the red liquid like milk that they feed to their newborn.

Many say that flamingo migrates from the cold regions to India in winter but actually they live in India only. After their newborn get old, they spread in the parts of the Asia. Flamingos live near river ends, channels, ponds and near sea levels after monsoon. Flamingos have special place among tall birds. They live on earth since millions of years, they are about 4 feet tall and have long neck and pink coloured wings. Their bodies are small compare to their height. Their eyes are red. They fly in-groups in shape of the letter "V"or sometimes in long row.

The Flamingos barely needs description with its long S-curved neck, long pink legs and thick curved bill. It is pinkish-white with striking crimson and black wings. A flying flock with necks and legs outstretched is one of the most thrilling bird sights. One interesting phenomenon is that young birds fly while they are still only half-grown and small flamingos are regularly seen in the flocks. These sometimes give rise to reports of Lesser Flamingo but this species is very unlikely in our area as it has much more specialised feeding requirements and is almost always found on saline waters. It is a darker pink bird with a more kinked black-tipped, deep red bill and red eyes.

Gujrati call them 'SURKHAB', Fishermen in Maharastra's coast line call them 'Rohini' or 'Rohit'. In Kutchi, they call them 'Hanj' and also known as 'Lakhe-Ja-Jani'. Thousand years ago the king of Kutch called Lakho Fulani was nature lover. He said that this 'Hanj' are the guests of Kutch and so if anyone tried to hunt them, he used to punish them severely. So that's why flamingos are also known as 'Lakhe-Ja-Jani' in Kutchi.

Kutch's Maharav Khengarji Bawa is also a Bird and nature lover. He informed 'Bombay natural History Society'. This was published in 1896 journal of the society. According to this, there were around 5,00,000 birds there. Late Dr. Salim Ali "PAKSHI VISHARAD"also supported it, after he visited the big desert of Kutch and studied it well. The region from Khavda to Khadibet in the middle Khanjda hill in big desert then known as 'Surkhabnagar'.

There are four kinds of spices of flamingo in the world today and among them the greater and the lesser flamingos are found in India. The difference between these two is that lesser flamingo as darker pink colour wings then the grater flamingos. Diet of the flamingos affects their colour also.

Modern world's industrialisation also affected the habitats of flamingo. Few years back, when worm control medicines sprinkled in this region. This medicine mixed with rainwater and mixed with the river water and came in the desert. Due to this, the moss of the mud pond and other bugs were swept away and the lack of food affected the lives of flamingos. To survive they had to move to other place. But among the human habitats, they found less space for them and they divided themselves into small groups. Due to the security reasons at the border, the army also came and goes through this area which affected their quietness. Little time ago, flamingos are also found in JAKHAU PORT (Near NALIA) Solt works farms and also in the Lake of MAKANPAR DHONSA near Bhuj (18km).

We need to save flamingos, as we are also the part of nature and survival of all can only stop earth from getting extinct,

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The flamingo has been one of the world's best known birds. It is also one of the most highly adapted and uniquely shaped. Out of the two species in India, only the Greater is at all widespread. It is however only known to breed in the remotest parts of the Rann of Kutch, many recent books say that it is rare or sporadic away from there. In fact in and near Delhi - near YAMUNA banks it can be seen in flocks in every month. This might well be because they don't breed every year because their rather special shallow saline water conditions do not always exist in the RANN It is one of the most familiar birds on the Yamuna at Okhla and flocks have been seen on the flooded fields at Basai, when there is sufficient open water, at Sultanpur and Bhindawas. In October there were up to 600 on the Yamuna. The species may have increased very recently but Usha Ganguli recorded big flocks in the 1950s and 60s including 4-5000 at Shamspur Jheel in 1965. She thought it was more of pre-rains summer visitor but earlier writers refer to it as a winter visitor! We are now seeing it throughout the year but in varying numbers as the species appears to need particular water depths and conditions to feed. Flocks therefore travel around in search of the right conditions. From the number of tiny snails present in even polluted water I suspect these are a major food item. They feed by up-turning the bill and moving it from side to side through the water. Water is strained out of the bill through fine filaments along the edge of the bill and the food remains to be swallowed. They can also be seen swimming in deeper water and even up-ending like ducks, their long legs peddling furiously to maintain their balance. Presumably they continue to use their bills in the same way even in this position.

The best places to get close to Greater Flamingos are, appropriately, (when they are present there) they seem quite undisturbed by human presence and present quite a spectacle as they sift the mud and water in busy, honking parties.

© Kutch Science Foundation 2006