The pink rebirth of the Ebro Delta (Spain)

The flamingo, a tourist brand of the wetland, explodes in its breeding area after being threatened.

Flamingos breathe relieved in the Ebro Delta, after years of threats, even threatening their reproduction in the wetland. This summer, 2,985 couples of this emblematic bird and tourist attraction have been able to carry out 2,201 chicks. A success: almost an absolute record for the Ebro Natural Park (a Ramsar Site), which began the recovery of the breeding of flamingos in the early ‘90s.


The 3000 flamingo pairs with their 2101 chicks in the Trinidad salina, in the Ebro Delta. Photo: © La Vanguardia


It has not been the result of chance. The human factor was the key after years of fine work. It is an extremely sensitive and vulnerable species when it reproduces, and any discomfort or threat makes the flamingo couples give up and look for alternatives for breeding.

The repeated attacks of two predators of flamingo chicks, the aggressive and expansive yellow-legged seagull (Larus Michahellis) and the fox, caused the number of offspring to be alarmingly reduced (just over 300 chicks in 2014), and the reproduction was entirely frustrated in some years.

The Natural Park has acted against its predators, the seagull and fox, to protect their young.

The presence of the seagull forced the technicians of the Natural Park to prepare a plan for the flamingo zone of reproduction. This seagull species had previously managed to displace the colony of the Audouin’s gull, a threatened and valuable bird, outside its breeding area, which had reached 70% of its world population in the delta.

After assessing several scenarios, it was finally decided to intervene to drastically reduce the presence of the dreaded seagull, which had risen to more than 11,000 birds in the area – at present it is estimated that there are only 200 pairs of this species remaining. The technicians have applied a plan over the past five years that has consisted of leaving baits with a narcotic to gradually reduce the number of these birds. “It has been a great effort, one week a year of full-time work,” explains Toni Curcó, head of the protection and research area of the Ebro Delta Natural Park.With the foxes, they have acted, through the capture of specimens one by one, until their presence has been practically eliminated.

Since 30 years ago, visiting the flamingo reproduction area has not been permitted, in order to avoid disturbing the birds. But every year, the technicians proceed to count the number of reproductive couples and the number of chicks. The success this year indicates that out of four couples present in the Delta, three of them have managed to raise a chick.

In spite of the fact that there are more than just flamingos in the Ebro Delta, with more than 300 distinct bird species, the flamingos constitute the most attractive of them all.

Tourists, even those who are not “birdwatchers”, come to the Ebro Delta with one ‘obsession’: to see flamingos. It is an easy task, with a population that each year reaches between 10,000 and 18,000 birds, notably between November and January when they are most numerous. Most of the tourists are foreigners, but the native tourism is also beginning to be interested in admiring these beautiful birds.

Source: summary of an article published in the newspaper La Vanguardia (Barcelona, Spain) on 1 September 2019.