2021  N11-12(200-201)
NATURE
PINK CLOUDS OVER THE BAY
Birds of unusual beauty and constitution, listed in the Red Book of Turkmenistan, being the emblem of the Khazar State Nature Reserve, were among the first in the feathered kingdom to open the regular autumn-winter season of arrival of waterfowl and near-water birds to the places of permanent wintering.
Flamingo is a unique bird. One species of flamingos – the red-winged or pink flamingo or Phoenicopterus – is common in Turkmenistan and the CIS countries. It can be seen in many regions of Eurasia and Africa on migration. They nestle in the same regions, including Central Kazakhstan, closest to Turkmenistan, with its salt lakes of Tengiz, Shalkarteniz and other inland waters. The pink flamingo settles in colonies ranging from fifty to several thousand pairs. They build conical nests from silt and sand. They lay no more than three eggs, most often one, less often two, which clearly confirms the vulnerability of the rare species of birds in the wild.
According to paleontologists, flamingos appeared about 30 million years ago, but even now they are almost no different from their authentic ancestors that in prehistoric times made up a class of flamingo-like creatures of four families. One family of three genera and six species has survived in the world to this day, numbering a little more than five hundred thousand individuals. On a global scale, this is very, very small. However, according to the average statistics of the annual migration of birds, more than twenty thousand flamingos winter in the shallow waters of the inner bays and estuaries of the zone of responsibility of the Khazar State Nature Reserve. If we count in the entire Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea, which is of global importance in the conservation of fauna and migratory routes of birds, the number of wintering flamingos will be much higher. This is a good sign of environmental well-being achieved through the consistent implementation of environmental measures as part of the successful implementation of national environmental programs and the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea.
The avifauna of the Khazar State Nature Reserve accounts for about 300 species of birds. One half of them accounts for waterfowl and wetland birds, including the pink flamingo. The wetlands of the reserve are rich in underwater vegetation, mollusks, crustaceans and worms. Edible biomass is sufficient to feed not only fish, as there are more than twenty species of them, but also hundreds of thousands of birds. This is a real paradise for them. From time immemorial, flamingos, along with other birds, come here to winter, and some individuals sometimes stay for the summer and build nests. In extremely cold winters, flamingos migrate south and return when it gets warmer.
Flamingo is a large bird. Adult males grow up to half a meter and higher, females – up to one meter or more. The weight of males reaches 4.5 kilograms, females are twice as light. On forage grounds, birds graze at a distance from each other, without disturbing other individuals to get enough of their fill. Here they rest and sleep on one leg. Stability and balance are ensured by the features of the skeleton of the legs and wide webbed paws that do not sink into the silt.
Flamingos take food out of muddy water and silt with an angled beak. There are corneous plates on the tongue and along the edges of the jaws. Crustaceans, worms, seeds are filtered through them as through a sieve, and indigestible residues are reflexively rejected. Young flamingos, differing in size and color from adult birds, graze under the supervision of their parents, who incubated and fed their chicks in turn. Hence, male and female flamingos have a pronounced parental instinct to protect offspring.
Flamingos cannot be confused with any other bird. They have an original mosaic structure of the body. It seems to be assembled from puzzles of various birds: the long legs and neck of a stork, the body of a goose, the color of the eyes of a golden eagle, the rich multi-colored plumage of tropical birds and the yellow-orange knee-curved massive beak inherent only in flamingos, which is a real exclusive work of nature. Near and high in the sky, flamingos are wonderful creatures with pale pink plumage. However, a real miracle happens when they takeoff, stunning the viewers with the astonishing large fans of fly feathers. The viewer’s breath is taken away at the sight of flamingos flying above, like soundless light music made of alternating black-white-red stripes on the back of their wings.
When flamingoes arrive, thousands of birds paint the shallow waters of the bay in the colors of the morning dawn, while pink clouds of new flocks continue to circle above in the sky.

Mikhail BOBKIN