Flocks of flamingos turn Plettenberg Bay pink during lockdown

Plettenberg Bay
Photo credit: Courtesy of Plett Tourism with permission from photographer Pastor Johan Coetzee

Greater flamingos are painting areas of Plett pink, migrating to the seaside coastal town to nest and hatch a few chicks as the country and the world are in lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Though the beautifully coloured birds have occasionally been ‘spotted’ in Plettenberg Bay since the early 1900’s, the lagoon was lucky to have 2 or 3 and one could sometimes find a pair up the Bitou River during migratory season. Known for its natural green thumb when it comes to wildlife, coastal reserves, river estuaries, indigenous fynbos and forests, Plett has seen the numbers of these migratory birds soaring over the past few years.

Greater flamingos are close to 6 feet in height, and they have the identifiable pink feathers with black-tipped wings. These remarkable birds rarely breed in South Africa. Their more popular breeding grounds include Sua Pan in Botswana and Etoscha Pan in Namibia and they have an average lifespan of 60 years.

Locals are protective of these special guests and understand how fortunate it is to have these remarkable birds visit and are extremely excited about the recent roosting and hatching of chicks. They are comfortable with their new environment, a testament to the conservation efforts of the Bitou Wetlands and surrounding birding areas. Visitors are encouraged to visit, but not to disturb or disrupt the birds by getting too close or allowing dogs on the premises without a lead.

Perhaps it is less human activity and commercial fishing due to the Covid lockdowns that began in March, creating an opportunity for near perfect foraging conditions in the lagoon and river estuaries. “The lockdown has given these birds peace for roosting, little to no disturbance and overall an encouraging habitat,” says Patty Butterworth (Plett Tourism media spokesperson).

“While there is a decline in potential water waste due to the closure of tourism businesses during the lockdown, there seems to be an undisturbed formation of planktons, algae and other micro-formations which provides food for flamingos and other wetland birds,” says Butterworth.