Pink flamingoes are treasured in Florida. They are often seen as a symbol of good luck and happiness. This is why they have been a key focus for the restoration efforts in the Everglades.
State of the everglades
The Everglades wetlands span across six Florida counties. The area is home to 20,000 animals and plants, the largest mangrove forest in the Western Hemisphere, and two protected species - Flamingos and American Crocodiles.
Over the past century, human development has dramatically changed this ecosystem. Through the years, the Everglades became home to large developments, farms, golf courses, and many other types of construction projects. These changes left the area fragmented and degraded, with damaging consequences for both people and wildlife.
Critically widespread concern about the Everglades has been its pollution levels caused by agricultural runoff from surrounding farms. When farmers spray pesticides on their crops, it pollutes the wetlands with chemicals like DDT. This contaminates soil which in turn contaminates water sources, causing dangerous levels of toxic contamination.
The National Park Service has been working towards restoring the Everglades since 1982 by removing invasive species, dredging lakes, and removing excess water from agricultural areas near Lake Okeechobee. They are also replacing canals.
The flamingos are the center focus of the restoration efforts because they need sizeable freshwater areas to live in. These wetlands are home to many other native species, like alligators, crocodiles, turtles, egrets, and herons.
Biologists have also found that flamingos are an excellent ally for restoring ecosystems because they feast on invasive species like snails that can cause major damage to habitats!
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 2000 and is the largest environmental restoration project in US history.
The CERP is a 25-year plan with eight components designed to restore, preserve, and protect the natural resources of the Everglades Ecosystem through ecosystem restoration; water quality improvements; flood control; economic assistance; research; monitoring; evaluation; and stakeholder involvement.
For centuries, mangroves served as Florida's first line of defense against hurricanes and severe storms. But in recent decades, it became clear that mangroves had lost their ability to rebound after these storms due to changes in land use and sea-level rise caused by global warming." Currently, the restoration goal for mangrove forests is to make them resilient against future storm events."
Kissimmee River Restoration
Restoration projects are currently underway on the Kissimmee River to help keep water at a healthy level during its dry season and expand wildlife habitat by rehydrating some 20 square miles of dried marshes along the river.
Restoring the Kissimmee River's flow is expected to revitalize Florida's Lake Kissimmee - which, in turn, will raise the level of the lake back up by 1.5 feet.
Flamingo sightings in Florida due to restoration efforts
A group of flamingos, the Pinks, have returned to the Everglades and other parts of Florida. They were initially thought to be extinct, but they were re-discovered in Louisiana and Alabama during a survey in 2008.
The return of flamingos and other birds to the Everglades has been one of the core success KPIs for restoration efforts and organizations. This is because birds always flock back to where they know they can get what they need!
With the return of the Flamingos, the Everglades is finally nearing restoration to its state of natural beauty and as a habitat to a variety of wildlife. It's an upvote for their investments done so far by the federal government, the state, and environmental groups in restoring this precious ecosystem.
American flamingos have a lot of culinary options, but they mostly eat plankton and small marine invertebrates. They also eat large amounts of crustaceans, and algae, so their return points to the progressive success in restoring the Everglades ecosystem.
Touring the Everglades?
Here are fun facts to inspire your Flamingo watching tour.
How do they eat?
They feast in a pretty hilarious way - flapping their beaks up towards their upside-down faces, turning them so that they're right side up, and pushing water into their beaks using a sucking motion. After the Flamingo has emptied its beak of water, it closes the musculature around its bill to force any "extras" left inside outwards. What remains then gets spit back into the ocean from which it came from!
Why are they pink?
Their vibrant color can be attributed to the beta-Carotene they ingest in their diet. Their foods, from crustaceans to algae, give them red-orange pigments.
Why do they stand on one leg?
This question has puzzled scientists for many years. While we can't say that there is a sure answer for that, it is widely believed that flamingos stand on one leg to conserve body heat.
Why are they so noisy?
Flamingos are some of the noisiest birds—they do this to grow/show friendship in flocks to keep the group together. Also, sometimes when they get loud, it indicates that it's a mating season.
You can expect to spot flamingos flocks on mudflats throughout the Everglades. Perhaps you should consider a boat tour for a front-row seat to all the fun.