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Flamingos take wrong turn - and fly to snowy Siberia

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27 October 2015


'It could be they go astray during the weather changes, in the early autumn storms.' Picture: Pavel Shaposhnikov

Local resident Pavel Shaposhnikov, 29, was in a boat with friends along the Tom river on 25 October when he spotted flamingos. 'I'm shocked,' he posted. 'We've seen flamingos on the Tom river.' Seven of the birds were spotted. Zoologist Nikolai Skalon confirmed the flamingos on their video were the real thing, saying they must have strayed from their flocks and become lost.

'The northernmost nesting of flamingos is central Kazakhstan. And these birds are listed in the Red Book of Russia. This is due to the fact that sometimes they mistakenly fly to the Kuzbass [Kemerovo region], even though they ought to be flying in the opposite direction towards the Caspian Sea. It could be they go astray during the weather changes, in the early autumn storms. Sometimes even pelicans fly to us, but mostly we can see here the flamingos.'

Pink flamingos on Tom river

Pink flamingos on Tom river

Pink flamingos on Tom river

Pink flamingos on Tom river

They looked sluggish. It's natural because  the climate is wrong for them. Pictures: Pavel Shaposhnikov

'We sailed closer and began filming them on video, but they did not let us approach,' said Pavel. 'They took off and flew upstream. We decided not to disturb them. They looked sluggish. It's natural because  the climate is wrong for them. At this time, and it was around 10 am on Sunday, and the air temperature dropped to minus 1C.'

Pink flamingos have been spotted, too, in the Novochikhinsky district of Altai Region and the Turochaksky district of Altai Republic. Both of the birds were splashing in local lakes.

Sergey Pissarev, zoo director in Barnaul, said: 'The most important thing is to save them. They won't survive the cold.' He is offering a home to flamingos that can be saved. Other flamingos venturing to Siberia have suffered frostbite in their legs, preventing any rescue. 'They couldn't have been saved. We don't want this situation to repeat,' he said.

But because the bird is classified as endangered, special permission is needed to remove it from the wild. Fisherman Yury Pirozhenko had no time for red tape. He went fishing and suddenly saw the unusual bird. It was weak, was shaking and unable to fly. He caught the bird, took it home, and learned that it is a flamingo after searching the internet. 

Flamingo in Altai

Fisherman Yury Pirozhenko went fishing and suddenly saw the unusual bird. Picture: Svetlana Pirozhenko

He contacted the zoo about his find. He also saved its life by almost force feeding it with fish. The flamingo's strength grew and it began eating voluntarily. 

While Pavel and Yury were surprised, the first recorded case of flamingos taking the wrong turn was in 1907. There is anecdotal evidence that such wayward flights are becoming more frequent. 

Last year four flamingos were found at different locations in Siberia. Skalon, like Pissarev, insists the birds need urgent help as temperatures sink to as low as minus 10C. But why are these birds taking the wrong turn, mistaking south for north?

Comments (1)

Birds are often the first species to indicate magnetic disturbances, they rely on radar instinct and their aerial plotting is usually faultlessly instinctive. Birds in my own area are displaying unusual activity...singing late at night, nesting out of season and sightings of rarer birds than usual. I would be interested to know if similar activity is evident in other areas?
Carmen, Ireland
29/10/2015 06:12

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