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Flamingo birds

Did you know the eyes of flamingo birds are actually larger than their brain?

Here are some more flamingo facts.

Can a flamingo bird fly...backwards?

A Caribbean Flamingo Stands on its Nest and Feeds its Chick
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No of course it can`t, but it almost looks like it does. With its long neck and legs sticking out to the front and back it can be hard to see what`s the front and back of the animal! To fly, it starts running on its goose-like feet to gain speed and then...lift off!!

Mostly, flamingos like to wade in shallow saline waters in large groups of sometimes hundreds or thousands of birds. In East Africa you can even find groups as big as two million individuals. You won't see that happen on the Yucatan Peninsula because counts are simply much lower, between 18,000 - 26,000 birds overall. But it´s obvious that flamingo birds do not value privacy.

Where to find them

In the Yucatan, flamingos are best observed at either Celestún (an hour and a half drive from Mérida) or at Río Lagartos (named after the many alligators the Spaniards found here when they started exploring the area, "largarto" is spanish for "cayman"). To get to Río Lagartos from Cancún take the tollway to Valladolid and from there go up north. You'll pass the town of Tizimin (well-known because of the quality of its carpenters and among youth because of the local disco) to arrive on the north coast where you can hire a 'lancha' or small boat. There are also organized tours to both places. Roundtrips will sooner include Celestún because it´s so easily accessible from Mérida. Tours from Cancun to Río Largartos are generally combined with a visit to the ruins of Ek Balam where you can climb the 30m high Acropolis and admire the almost completely conserved frieze on one of the terraces.

American Flamingos on Lake at Sunset, Yucatan, Mexico

When is the best time to see flamingos

Flamingo birds are best observed between December and April. On my past Yucatan roundtrips we used to include Celestun and when we went in the rainy season there were sometimes very few birds, or none at all. Or sometimes we got lucky and we did get to see a flock. So this doesn't mean you should only go there in dry season. Celestun is beautiful even without flamingos. You can see many other bird species as well, like cormorants, the american stork, pelicans, spoonbills, ibis and, the cute little martín pescador. I've seen the odd boa constrictor and small mammals like coatimundis (tejon) and raccoons. There are also two types of crocodiles.

Are flamingo birds naturally pink?

No they're not. It comes with diet. The flamingo birds' nesting season is also the rainy season. That's when sometimes the water level is just too high and the flamingo runs out of leg, so to speak. From Celestun they move up north to the more inaccessible salt lakes and beaches, where they build cones of sand that look like small volcanos. In the depression on top they deposit one egg (rarely two). When the chick hatches it has a greyish color and a straight bill. The bill starts to bend within the week, but the pink color that gives the flamingo such high postcard value developes when they grow up. At the age of about three years they will have their vermillion color. Flamingos eat brine shrimp, algae and tiny crustaceans called Artemia which they sieve from the mud. Thisr food contains high levels of beta carotene, and consequently the higher the level, the more pink they'll become.

After your boatride, go to the nearby village. It´s not too touristy with a nice beach and a couple of decent little restaurants where you can eat great seafood. You may also find hammock vendors from the town of tixkokob selling their goods.

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