You can find Flamingos pretty much anywhere apparently, including Corfu, but not Antarctica or Australia, though ironically Adelaide Zoo did have the world’s oldest Flamingo until a couple of year back when it died aged 83, which means he hatched while Bonnie & Clyde were still at large, before Nana Mouskouri was, and lived as long as Joan Rivers.
Talking of plastic flamingos, Donald ‘Don’ Featherstone past away last year, he was the American artist responsible for the ‘Plastic Pink Flamingo’ garden ornament, a fad that began way back in 1958. There are accounts that he kept 57 of them in his Massachusetts garden, other accounts suggest he and his wife dressed the same for over 35 years; I wonder who wore the pants?
Why Flamingos? Because they’re here, right now in Corfu at the Lefkimmi salt pans. The area isn’t used commercially anymore to harvest salt, so nature’s been busy reclaiming the saltwater marsh near Igoumenitsa. It’s a pretty remote spot, and perfect for the various waterfowl and shorebirds taking advantage of the reed beds, although there’s a great long sandy beach nearby which is busy come summer, it doesn’t seem to faze the wildlife, though the flamingos are usually gone by then.
Corfu attracts the ‘Greater Flamingo’, which is common around most of the Mediterranean, it’s pretty hefty at nearly 10lb, though I’m not sure how that compares to a Turkey or an ostrich but it starts to add up pretty quick when you buy them by the bunch; a bunch of flamingos by the way is called a ‘flamboyance of Flamingos’ – you couldn’t make it up.
It turns out that Barbara Cartland and Flamingos aren’t pink straight out the gate. Flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp; the Queen of Romance because Norman Hartnell made her bead-encrusted gowns that way. Rich swarms of tiny brine shrimp inhabit salty lakes like Lefkimmi, flamingos scoop them up in their strangely curved beaks, which they hold upside down in order to strain out mud and water, and then they swallow the shrimp. The shrimp contain a nutritious natural chemical called beta-carotene, and after a bit of jiggery-pokery with some enzymes the flamingos go pink.
Unlike the passionate flamenco, the flamingo is monogamous and produces but a single egg each year. If that egg is lost or damaged, they do not typically lay a replacement, and there’s the rub, as the greatest threat to the flamingo is Johnny no friends who likes to collect eggs. It would be great if we could collect these soulless twerps that we might pierce them with a needle and give them a good blow, which would be a first for any of them – but I digress, it’s not the case that sad ol’ Johnny is totally responsible, as flamingo threats also include habitat loss, poaching for their decorative feathers and, here’s my favorite, that group of people that take them for their tongues as meat – not to worry though, we’ll pretend it isn’t happening – lalalalalalala, and enjoy the fact that an adult flamingos legs can be 30-50 inches long, I’m not sure you get jeans that size, and their backward bending ‘knee’ is in fact its ankle. The actual knee is very close to the body and is not visible through the bird’s plumage.