Flamingos are the one the most flamboyant migratory birds in the world. Though they have only six species in all, India is lucky to sight two of their distinct species. The greater flamingos with tall height and black-tipped pink bill and the lesser flamingos with short height and dark crimson bill. It is mesmerizing to observe them moving in a flock with their elegant stick-like feet, necks bent down and bills enjoying the food. They mainly come from Africa, South West Asia, South Europe, and also foothills of Himalayas. From winters, Lakhs of flamingos start migrating to India and can travel up to 500 km at one time. This sounds amazing, Isn’t it? Also, in their migration period, they take only one or two stoppage points! To spot them, make sure that you visit the spots usually in the morning time between 6 am to 10 am.
Check out the wanderlust spots In Maharashtra now!
1. Sewri Creek
This is the most popular spot to view the flashiest flock of flamingos. Sewri has a muddy and marshy area and is one of seven islands of Mumbai. This comes in the South Mumbai region and visitors from all around the Mumbai come every year to spot both lesser and greater species flamingos. The best season to visit this spot is from September to April. The matter of fact is that flamingos first migrate to the Kutch area in Gujarat where they have their breeding period. After that, they come in the Mumbai region to feed on tiny insects, blue-green algae and molluscs. In this, 90% of them are lesser flamingo species.
Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) also organizes the Flamingo Festival, a photography contest, and information sessions of flamingos during this season. So, this is the favorite place for photographers too. But for 10 years, there is a lot of wetland destruction and constructions going on in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) region. This resulted in the delay in flamingo’s migration. In January 2020, around 34k flamingos were spotted but the number increased to 1 lakh in February 2020. As lockdown grew, there was less disturbance and hence the number grew to 1.5 lakhs from 1.2 lakhs compared to last year. Thereby, this year their population even increased by 25% compared to last year in the whole MMR region.
This lockdown gave the good news to Navi Mumbaikars. This is because the flamingos in Navi Mumbai region known as Talawe wetlands like near Chanakya College, NRI Complex, and Seawoods Lake squeezed in here to feed on the blue-green algae. Can you think why these birds are pink in color? They are not pink color since their birth but the consumption of blue-green algae and bacteria gives them a pink plumage. The presence of beta-carotenoid pigment in such things they feed on turns them pink from gray or white. This year surprisingly in one of the wetlands near the NRI complex turned deep pink due to the algae and also humid weather conditions.
Interestingly, due to the lockdown, there was lower human activities and less construction work. So, these flamingos enjoyed their peace and also flabbergasted people over here. The eye-pleasing view of the pink city was captured by many people from their balconies living nearby these wetlands. The overall Talawe wetlands have crossed 8.5k from 6k compared to last year. BNHS is empathizing with the fact that wildlife authorities must convert this area to Flamingo Sanctuary soon.
3. Thane Creek and Boat Ride from Airoli
You can spot a flock of flamingos at Thane Creek in the presence of mangrove forests every year. Maharashtra Government and State Mangrove Cell have successfully declared it as India’s first flamingo sanctuary. Eager birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts get fascinated by the closer look of these wading birds with boat tours starting from the Coastal Marine Biodiversity Centre in Airoli near Thane. The boat ride which lasts for one hour is getting very popular but is closed in the lockdown period. There are big boat rides with 24 seaters and also 7 seaters boat. Cost per person ranges around Rs.440 on weekends and Rs.300 on weekdays. If you want to travel in groups, they also give good discounts. Last year over 1.34 lakhs flamingos were spotted here. This creek is surely well maintained and is providing good support to the pink beauties and its habitat.
4. Bhandup Pumping Station and Boat Ride
From mangroves to saltpans, grasslands to lakes, bird watching is getting awe-struck near Bhandup Pumping Station which is the part of Thane Creek. Wildnest, a tour group arranges boat trips for nature enthusiasts. They conduct regular tours in this region, with larger boats of 12 seaters and 24 seaters too. Also, they provide smaller 2-seater rowing boats for those people who are especially interested in taking a closer look and fond of photography. You can see both lesser and greater flamingos here, with other beautiful birds like the purple heron, black-headed ibis, egrets, spot-billed duck, and sandpipers.
Bhigwan is typically a small town and also called as “Bharatpur of Maharashtra”. It is situated on the border of Pune and Solapur district. Bhigwan town attracts people from Maharashtra when pink greater flamingos arrive here during January. You must visit this place in winter between 7 to 10 am. Moreover, there are two sights to see bird sightings, Diksal and Kumbhargaon. Once you reach Bhigwan, take left turn to reach Diksal. The “bird watching” place is around 5-6 km inwards. You can ask for “Juna Phul” which means “Old bridge”. To reach Kumbhargaon, you drive ahead from Bhigwan for 2 km and look for signboards of “Kumbhargaon” or “flamingo point”.
It is just spectacular to watch the colony of flamingos in such places. Many other states like Gujarat, Odhisha, Andra Pradesh, and Rajasthan also witness the sightings of flamingos. But the majority of flamingo spots are from Maharashtra. It is home to the highest flamingo population in India and conservationists are taking adequate measures to conserve them and spread awareness about them. Make it a point to one of these spots and cherish it for a lifetime!