Chilean flamingoes spotted 7,500 miles off course in NORFOLK

July 1, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

This stunning pair of pink Chilean flamingos had birdwatchers in flap after they were spotted 7,500 miles from home at a nature reserve – in NORFOLK.

The elegant birds standing over 3ft tall visited Cley Marshes near Sheringham on the north Norfolk coast line, an area normally known for avocet and marsh harriers.

Experts are baffled by the sighting, and think the birds may have flown over from a feral breeding population living on the Dutch and German border.

Another theory is that the exotic creatures could have escaped from a private wildlife collection in the UK.

Steve Gantlett, editor of Birding World magazine and wildlife photographer, took the pictures on June 18 at Cley Marshes where the birds stayed for a week.

He said: ”I was amazed when I saw the flamingos. It’s not something you come across every day in Norfolk.

”About 20 years ago one came over for the winter and we haven’t seen one since.

”They didn’t stay for long this time. I’m not sure how much they like the climate over here.”

Matt Bradbury, head of nature reserves at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said excited birdwatchers had flocked to the reserve to glimpse the flamingos.

He said: ”Many birds are shifting their breeding range northwards as the climate changes and weather and food availability become more favourable.

”That said, these Chilean flamingos must either have made their escape from a local collection or are simply on a local visit from a feral population in Europe.”

The Chilean Flamingo usually lives in flocks numbering thousands and is an endangered species due to the fragile nature of its wetland habitats.

The bird’s trademark one-legged stance helps to conserve heat and they stand facing into the wind or rain to keep water out of their feathers.

Flamingos can live up to 50 years in the wild eating aquatic invertebrates which contain pigments that lend them their distinctive pink colouring.

Graham Madge, conservation officer for the RSPB, said that the flamingos had most likely escaped from a indoor collection.

He said: ”Flamingos normally like very warm tropical climates so the recent warm weather and the marshland habitat on the Norfolk coast was perfect for them.

”Whether they will be able to survive long here is an interesting question. The climate in Europe does not support flamingos any further north than the south of France.”

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