Caribbean Flamingo Banding in Yucatan, Mexico

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Caribbean Flamingo Banding in Yucatan, Mexico


Caribbean Flamingo Banding in Yucatan, Mexico
by John Krogmeier, Animal Keeper

Over Labor Day weekend 2012, I was privileged to be able to travel to Yucatan, Mexico to assist in leg banding of 500 Caribbean flamingo chicks. The 500 chicks were ten percent of the estimated 5000 chicks that hatched in that area. The banding was sponsored by the Mexican conservation organization known as Ninos y Crias, which translates to Kids and Critters.

Me with one of the flamingos

Banding is applying metal or plastic ring around an animal’s leg, wing or neck. The banding allows researchers an opportunity to see where the birds travel and can be used to check mortality or longevity.  

There were six of us from U.S. zoos that met together in Cancun and traveled to the Ria Lagartos Wildlife Preserve, which has one of the largest nesting colonies of Caribbean flamingos.

The next day we traveled by van to the fishing village of Ria Lagartos, which borders the preserve.  We stayed there two nights. Part of the first day of our stay was spent getting orientated about how we would assist with the banding the following day. About 100 local volunteers registered to help, watched a presentation about handling the flamingos and we practiced how we would herd the flamingo chicks into the holding corral.

Banding day began at 3:00 am as we needed to meet up with all the other volunteers in Los Colorados at 4:00. From there we took a 30-minute drive on dirt roads and then had a 30-minute walk through shallow water and mud to reach the banding site, a small island. We volunteers formed a chute for the chicks to walk through on the way to the corral. They were then locked in and we waited for sunrise to start working.

Forming a chute to band the flamingos

Once we had daylight, about 6 am, the banding process began. The chicks were weighed, and wing and leg measurements were taken. The flamingos were then given two leg bands, one numbered metal leg band and one large plastic one with letters, for easy identification from a distance. Those birds that weighed over 2 kg were taken to the veterinary station where blood was drawn, a keel score taken, and the inside of their bills were swabbed.

Banded flamingo chicks

We finished banding the birds by 8 am. The sun was already very warm as we headed back across the water and to our vehicles. After a joining the other volunteers for a thank you breakfast, we headed back to Cancun, had dinner on the beach and then headed home the next morning. 


06/03/2013 10:49 AM |Add a comment
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