Monday, August 8

Operation flamenco chicken: the ritual of ringing the young returns to the Fuente de Piedra lagoon


Saturday began very early in the Malaga municipality of Fuente de Piedra to face one of the annual summer rites. Practically at dawn, the process began in the lagoon of the same name, culminating in the ringing of flamingo chicks, in a year in which the wetland has recorded more than 3,700 births of these specimens, of which 600 have been captured for later use. ID.

The Fuente de Piedra lagoon, a changing spectacle in the home of the flamingos

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The more than 400 participants in the ringing of the 600 flamingos in the Fuente de Piedra lagoon have started the capture phase at 05:00 hours to later go on to mark the specimens in a large corral. The entire process is carried out with the utmost care and in the shortest time possible so as not to harm the chickens.

The general director of Natural Environment, Biodiversity and Protected Areas, Giuseppe Aloisio, who has participated in the activity together with the territorial delegate of Sustainable Development in Malaga, José Antonio Víquez, and the conservator director of the Laguna Fuente de Piedra Natural ReserveAfrica Lupión, has reported that this spring the flamingo colony has welcomed more than 8,700 pairs and has counted a total of 3,764 chicks.



This is due to the fact that this year the right conditions have been given thanks to the rainfall registered in the month of March, which reached 198 liters per square meter. This caused the wetland to present a water level of 42 centimeters at the beginning of April. In this regard, he explained that for the flamingos to nest in this lagoon they need a water level that guarantees the isolation of the area where they lay their eggs and that provides food for the breeding pairs.

More than 400 volunteers

More than 400 volunteers participated in this Saturday’s meeting, whom Aloisio thanked for their commitment “to an environmental program that celebrates the life and biodiversity of such an emblematic bird of this lagoon as the flamingo rose”. He also underlined that for the first time this year four specimens have been equipped with a satellite transmitter, “which will allow the study of this species to be even better”.

The population of Fuente de Piedra has been involved again with the assistance of residents of the town itself. They have been joined by scientists and nature lovers, who “have once again converted the ringing of flamingos into an environmental and scientific activity, which allows us to know, love and protect this aquatic species in this Nature Reserve”.

Lupión also explained that “chickens from birth usually take about 90 days to be able to fly, so at the beginning of September we will no longer have their presence in the Fuente de Piedra lagoon.” Until then, he has specified, “the flamingos leave the lagoon at dusk to feed in areas with managed waters and return at dawn to feed their chicks.”



One of the most important wetlands

The Fuente de Piedra lagoon is one of the most important wetlands for the reproduction of the population of flamingos in the Mediterranean and northwestern Africa, which has 1,400 hectares essential for biodiversity. Since ringing began in this enclave in 1986, 19,577 chicks have been marked with plastic rings, with digits that allow remote reading with a terrestrial telescope.

The objective of the program is to be able to monitor it and obtain very valuable information for the management of the flamingo colony, in a wetland that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year since the first recognition of its natural values, since it was in 1982, after its acquisition by ICONA, when the area was declared a National Hunting Refuge.

In the period from 1984 to 2022, a total of 230,948 chicks were born in this lagoon, results that show that Fuente de Piedra, in wet years, generally houses the main reproductive nucleus of this population of flamingos.

The Junta de Andalucía has resumed this Saturday, July 30, after two years on hold, an activity that it organizes annually and has had the collaboration of Iberdrola. The suspension of the program years ago was due to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus health crisis in 2020 and by the lack of water in the lagoon in 2021, which is why the flamingos were unable to nest last year.



a delicate operation

The banding of baby flamingos entails a very delicate operation that requires a large number of participants and meticulous planning, in matters such as the date of the ringing, which is set according to the moment in which the last chick hatches, in order to guarantee that everyone has a minimum age. In addition, it is essential to specify the capture and marking strategies, construction of the catchment area, as well as the coordination of teams.

The monitoring of the ringed flamingos, carried out within the Flamingo Ringing Program, allows a better understanding of different aspects of the biology of this species such as the dispersion of the population, use of the different wetlands, reproductive behavior or survival, among other aspects. In addition, the temporary capture of fauna specimens is a unique opportunity that researchers from different centers take advantage of to take biological samples for their projects.

Flamingos from all over the Mediterranean

Most of the flamingos that nest in Fuente de Piedra were born in the same colony in previous years (80%), 16% were born in the French colony of Camargue and the rest come from other Mediterranean colonies (Italy, Sardinia, Delta of the Ebro,…).

This year it is worth highlighting a significant presence of flamingos born in the colonies of Algeria, as well as a flamingo born and ringed in Turkey, which indicates that a good number of breeding flamingos from the Mediterranean and Northwest Africa have been nesting this season in the lagoon of Stone Fountain.



Also noteworthy is the presence of the lesser flamingo in this wetland, with a maximum of six specimens this year and the successful reproduction of a pair, this being the seventh time that this species has reproduced in Fuente de Piedra.

This space is protected by several protection figures and international recognitions, such as the classification as Wetlands of International Importance by the Convention of Ramsar of 1983 or for being part of the Network of Protected Natural Areas of Andalusia (Renpa)among other.

The Fuente de Piedra Lagoon Nature Reserve also has the José Antonio Valverde Visitor Center, located on Cerro del Palo, next to the wetland, a facility for public use where people interested in getting to know the wetland and observe the flamingos can obtain more information.



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