CubaPLUS Magazine

When the firebird soars the skies

By: Alina Veranes
Jan 07, 2022
When the firebird soars the skies

Perhaps there is no more fascinating sight than the flight, early in the morning, of a flock of pink flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber) very close to the Caribbean beach where you spend the summer, even if it is winter in your country. Then you will think, looking pleased in the distance, that you finally arrived in paradise.

We will tell you more, the Cuban pink flamingos –the only species existing on the island, of the five scattered around the world- are part of the great family that populates the Caribbean and Yucatán, but they have the charm of being the largest.

Their vivid colors, ranging from salmon to deep pink, originate from the food they eat, consisting of crustaceans, mollusks, red and green algae, and insect larvae.

Ancient cultures such as the Egyptian identified this species with fire and its own name in Spanish: flamenco, comes from the word flame or flame, in turn related to the French flame.

The writer Ernest Hemingway said they were decidedly ugly if you looked closely at them: a bird with a curved beak, excessively long neck and legs, large wings, and a scrawny chest. But nobody resists the prodigious imprint of his elegant flight, in formations of hundreds of very sociable and supportive individuals. Caring for the integrity of the family and the flock is a matter of life and death.

The way these creatures reproduce shows in the first place how selective they are in choosing their habitats. They lay one to two eggs a year only, and when the parents hatch, the young feed them until they can fend for themselves.

Since the 90s of last century Cuba has grown refuge and nesting sites and protected areas for the pink flamingo, which is strictly forbidden to hunt. It lives mainly in the cayerías that surround the archipelago and the sighting points of Jardines del Rey –cayo Coco, Guillermo and Romano- and the extensive plain of the mouth of the Río Máximo, in Camagüey, are famous.

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