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Abu Dhabi Birdathon’s Flamingos Return To Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

The Abu Dhabi Birdathon, an initiative organised by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, EAD, and Etihad Airways to celebrate Sheikh Zayed’s legacy of environmental sustainability, has seen positive results one year on.

The initiative, which tagged 10 Greater Flamingos with satellite transmitters to track their movement and migration and were assigned to leading Abu Dhabi entities, aimed to raise awareness around wetland conservation and the importance of protected areas.

Of the 10 birds tagged as part of the programme, five had migrated across the Arabian Gulf to spend the summer in parts of Central Asia and today, all of them are at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve.

The flamingos were tagged and released from Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and the Bul Syayeef Marine Protected Area in Abu Dhabi in November of last year. The flamingos migrated to different areas, while some remained within the Abu Dhabi Emirate.

Below is an update, one year later, on each of the flamingos: - The flamingo assigned to Etihad Engineering, covered over 8500 km from the time of tagging to its return back to Al Wathba Wetland Reserve on 2nd November, 2019.

- The flamingo assigned to ADNOC, covered nearly 7800 km from the time of tagging to its return back to Al Wathba Wetland Reserve on 2nd November, 2019.

- The flamingo assigned to Abu Dhabi Police was one of the first birds to migrate across the Arabian Gulf and thus the winner of the Abu Dhabi Birdathon. It also migrated and spent the summer in Bakhtegan National Park in Central Iran before returning to Abu Dhabi on October 22, 2019 and covered a total of nearly 7000 km.

- The flamingo assigned to First Abu Dhabi Bank, named Fabingo, left Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in April 2018 to reach Maharlu Lake in Iran where it spent the summer before starting its autumn migration on 3rd September, 2019. It reached Bul Syayeef Marine Protected Area on September 16, 2019 and covered over 3100 km, during the entire journey.

- The flamingo assigned to Etihad Airways, named Amelia, which travelled to Qeshm in Iran from Al Siniah island in Umm Al Qaiwain and covered nearly 1700 km. The bird crossed the Gulf on 14th June, only to return back on 16th June and spent much of the summer in Ras Al Khor before returning to Al Wathba in late August.

The remaining five birds didn’t migrate and spent the entire summer in Abu Dhabi, mostly in areas where they were tagged and showing some local movements.

EAD has been tagging and tracking the movement of the Greater Flamingo through its globally-recognised satellite tracking programme since 2005. Each winter, thousands of flamingo return to the UAE, with nearly 4,000 spending the season at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, which has become the only site in the Arabian Gulf where these birds breed regularly.

The first Ramsar site in Abu Dhabi, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is home to over 260 birds besides the flamingo, 320 invertebrates, 35 plants, 16 reptiles and 10 mammal species. In 2019, a record number of 714 flamingo chicks hatched at the reserve – the highest number ever recorded so far.

The site, which is a Ramsar site and also features on the Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, welcomes thousands of visitors every year to witness the unique concentration of the Greater Flamingo.

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