Greater Flamingoes breed again at Al Wathba

The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) said that the Greater Flamingo has successfully bred once again at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi.

Flamingos first bred in this area in 1998 and then again a decade later. 

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, which lies about 45 minutes' drive from Abu Dhabi city, was declared protected by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1998 after it was created by an accidental discharge of over-capacity treated sewage water from Al Mafraq Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Sheikh Zayed's vision was to provide a suitable habitat for migratory birds and a breeding area for the Greater flamingo. Today, the reserve covers a total area of 5km and is managed by EAD.

It is home to nearly 250 species of birds that depend on the wetland for resting, feeding or breeding. It also provides a safe refuge for many species of reptiles, small mammals and insects.

Internationally, the Reserve gained recognition when the Greater flamingo successfully bred at Al Wathba in 1999 while a 1993 flamingo breeding attempt at Al Wathba, foiled by human interference after a first chick had hatched, was the first known breeding in the Arabian Peninsula since 1922. 

Today, over 2,000 Greater flamingos are present at AL Wathba and a high percentage of these are adult breeding birds. As part of the routine monitoring undertaken by EAD's Bird Conservation team, nests were recorded at several locations; however they successfully bred at the one site only. 

The bird nested at their traditional nesting which has been successful on the past two occasions in 1998-99 and in 2011.

The first eggs were spotted during the last week in May and the first new-born chick was recorded on June 27. More chicks were born on the following days. The 2012 nesting season saw 17 chicks born, similar to the number of chicks born in 2011. 

"Through our work managing areas such as Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and other protected areas in Abu Dhabi Emirate, it has become increasingly evident that the protection of such areas is crucial in ensuring the preservation of our environment, as our economy continues to grow," said Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Executive Director, Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD.

This successful breeding of flamingos in the Reserve is an indicator of the suitability of habitat for the flamingos in the Reserve. 

"Monitoring of water quality and Artemia, a key food source for flamingos has helped us in improving the overall management of the Reserve enabling flamingos to successfully breed", said Dr. Shaikha Al Dhaheri.

"Our flamingo monitoring and tracking programme and the valuable data that has been collected over the past few years has helped us monitoring trends in numbers and improved protection of their habitat" added Dr Al Dhaheri. 

The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) is a species with a broad distribution range fromthe western Mediterranean Basin to Sri Lanka in the north, to South Africa in the south.

It is the most common visitor to the UAE and can be observed all year round in lagoons, fresh and salt waters of artificial wetlands, even close to human settlements or activities, such as highways, suburbs, industrial areas, salt pans, sewage ponds.

The Greater Flamingo is a flagship species for conservation in the UAE and has successfully bred at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Shahama and Bulsyayeef, all in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The Greater Flamingo makes mound on islands or in sheltered coastal habitat and lay a single egg. EAD has a successful flamingo tracking programme, implemented since 2005. 

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