Hugh Bollinger
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Misha the Flamingo flies north

I used to think of flamingos as being tropical birds who only enjoyed African lakes and coral islands in deep blue seas -- but no more. [caption id="attachment_3375" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="African flamingos in soda lake"][/caption] It seems that some of these iconic pink birds have been trying to reach more northerly climes as described in an amazing story on NPR recently. Reports of flamingos found near the eastern Siberia city of Irkutsk seemed like a thing of fantasy until they actually turned out to be true. Irkutsk is known as a major stopover on the Trans-Siberian Railroad near Lake Baikal -- the deepest lake on Earth -- and hardly a place where you would expect to find a migrating tropical bird. Several of the poor things were found freezing in the forest by local kids who brought them home, fed them gruel, and then took the birds to a greenhouse at the local botanical garden to recover. At first, I thought this was one more weird consequence of climate change, since flamingos do exist in Kazakhstan, located on the Caspian Sea to the south. Climate change may have had a role here, but more likely the story is an example of directional confusion during the flamingos' annual migration. The birds may have thought they were flying south, when they were actually heading north into the arctic. When the flock hit a storm, they just fell out of the sky into the Siberian forests, where several were discovered by the locals. Annual migrations of whales, turtles, birds, and butterflies are fantastic events delicately timed and  hardwired into their brains. However, Misha the Flamingo may need some new GPS coordinates the next time he decides it is time to locate that tropical island in Siberia. WHB
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