Caribbean Flamingo Conservation and Research in Yucatan, Mexico
Caribbean flamingos (Phoenicopterus r. ruber) occur throughout the eastern coastal areas of Mexico, Central America, the northeastern areas of South America, Cuba, the Bahamas, and southern Florida. Even though their range is extensive, they have few breeding areas and may be indicator species of healthy coastal wetlands. The primary nesting area in Mexico is on the northeast shore of the Yucatan Peninsula within Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Lagartos. Approximately 85% of the flamingo hatches in Mexico occur in this estuary. Basic biological information, such as migration routes, nutrition, and parental care has not been intensively studied in the field. To obtain this information, a long-term conservation and research program was initiated in 1999. Every year, if all goes well during the breeding season, hundreds of juvenile flamingos are banded, weighed, and measured, and blood and crop samples are taken. All chicks are then released to join the main group or crèche where they resume normal activities.
The movements of the banded birds are monitored throughout the year by field technicians. The breeding colony is frequently checked and band numbers recorded. Through this information, migration patterns are analyzed. Blood and crop samples are analyzed in laboratories in the U.S. and provide bird gender information as well as nutritional information.
The information obtained from the banding program will be used to develop a sound conservation strategy for flamingos in the Yucatan peninsula and throughout their range. Information obtained from the birds and nutritional analysis of crop samples may also be used to improve captive management practices of the birds. Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Lagartos also is important to many species of international migratory birds. It is one of the last stopover sites before and after the migrants cross the Gulf of Mexico. If the Reserve is exploited and the habitat degraded the impact on migratory birds could be severe. The concentration of research on flamingos could elevate them to status as a flagship symbol for wetland habitats. By stimulating an interest in preserving flamingos, the entire wetland ecosystem will be preserved.
For more information, please visit the Caribbean Flamingo Research website.