Stamping flamingos in Portugal

Stamping is unique to flamingos, and not a foraging technique you see often in the Algarve as usually the birds walk slowly forwards with heads immersed, occasionally up-ending if in deep water. So I was delighted when we actually saw a pat of them stamping one day in Ludo and Lagoa de São Lourenço.

As they stamp and sink into the mud, the birds turn in a circle around their bills, gathering invertebrates/larvae buried in the mud or eating the mud they sieve from the centre of the circular depression they have created. If the water was to recede you would see saucer like depressions. Sometimes they don’t turn but simply ‘mark time’ as they stamp rapidly to stir up the mud and bring their prey into the muddy water. On this occasion as you can see from MrB’s video they seem to be doing both! Apologies by the way for the camera shake it was an incredibly windy day.

One of the most unexpected things I think about flamingos is their call. Before I heard it for the first time, I had envisaged a rather elegant sound given their appearance, but instead it is honk like a goose! And flamingos don’t just sound like geese they also graze, well almost. Flamingo grazing takes the form of filtering the water or mud in order to capture their invertebrate prey. Their unusual shaped bill contains a complex mechanism which enables them to filter organisms from mud and water. By opening the bill a few milimetres water is sucked in. The bill is then closed to enable the flamingo to filter the water by using its tongue; the water is expelled near the base of  bill. They do something similar when they eat mud, but I am still trying to get my head around that!

I have also learnt that flamingo foraging behaviour varies depending on their feeding environment. The most common foraging behaviour to be observed in Portugal is the first one depicted in the Poyser diagram – walking and filtering. Diagram from The Greater FlamingoIt is also not uncommon to see up-ending and even swimming as some of the lagoons are quite deep. The latter though always strikes me as odd! In winter when their normal food is in short supply, you are more likely to see them walking forwards with the head immersed and snaking side to side. By the way if you see one ‘running’ after its prey that you are indeed privileged as it is rare for any flamingo to seize prey in this fashion. It has been observed though, so you never know! The only reason I know any of this is because of my fascinating Greater Flamingo book, a Poyser Monograph, written by Alan Johnson and Frank Cézilly. Poyser monographs are superbly written and authoritative ornithology books, and well worth their price tag.

Author: BeckyB

It's a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, reading, blogging, and best of all spending time with family, friends & the cat!

45 thoughts

  1. I can see how passionate you are about these wonderful birds, great photos of them and the Spoonbill. Won’t be long before you are back there.

  2. Ah….the Flamingo. One of Gods beautiful creations…..pity he put the knees on backwards.
    As the Flamingos stamp about, the Spoonbill couldn’t care less.
    I am glad that some people will learn a thing or two about Flamingos Thanks Becky 🙂

  3. Good shot of spoonbill in the background.They appear to behave in that solitary fashion in Olhao,not often sharing the same feeding pools as the Flams.
    Some of the Egrets appear to puddle, in a similar fashion,to the Flamingoes,on the mud/sand foreshore to the west of the marina and certainly at low water in Fuseta.
    What a shame the latest plans for a new hotel,where the council storage is situated on the western side of Olhao,alongside the nesting areas of the Blackwinged Stilt and Flamingo feeding areas,ignores the threat,to this part of the natural park.

    1. Thank you, and yes we’ve noticed that about the spoonbills too. tend to be solitary in these saltpans but not always . . I’ve got a wonderful set of photographs of a runcible. I will be posting them in a week or so

      and yikes are the plans progressing? I guess it depends how much land they take up. If it is restricted to the storage area and paths/roads are kept the same it might not be too bad. I do find it odd though how so much building can take place in what i thought was a natural park.

  4. learned so much about flamingoes and when I watched the video (not that shaky at all and had the “if I was there” vibe” it reminded me why I love blogging – it seasons me so much (leaves a stamp… ha)

    1. So glad you enjoyed it 😊 it was fascinating to watch and I couldn’t wait to get back to my book to check I had understood it all correctly!

        1. It’s incredibly detailed, and this one I think superbly written. Not cheap though so you do need a passion for the bird in question!

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