To the delight of tour guides there, pink flamingo are thriving at the Celestún Biosphere Reserve.
Members of the cooperatives that operate tourist boats expressed astonishment at the number of birds that are forming their “lineas rosas,” or “pink lines.”
Between January and April, according to the guides, it’s the best time to spot pink flamingos, but they say this year their numbers are higher than average.
That’s good news for the tourism industry. Although visitors enjoy other birds and like the gulf, most mainly want to see the iconic pink flamingos.
The 146,000-acre Celestún Biosphere Reserve is home to more than 300 species of birds, including thousands of flamingos.
Generally, the Celestun Biosphere Reserve is their fall and winter breeding ground, and the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve to the east is where they nest in spring and summer.
Guides in Celestún maneuver their boats carefully so that the flamingos aren’t disturbed. This is low season for regional tourists, but high season for nationals and foreigners, who often take “selfies” with the birds.
Birding in Mexico is big in January, not just for the pink flamingos but also because of the migrating species that head south and nest here.
Most of these migrants are from the eastern United States. The American Bird Conservancy estimates 1.5 billion birds of 200 species migrate through the Yucatan Peninsula each year.
Flamingos usually migrate small distances, looking for food sources. There are exceptions. One flamingo banded in Yucatan was found later in Everglades National Park in Florida, and others have been found in Texas, indicating a flight of over 200 miles.
Celestún is about 88 kilometers from Merida, to the west of the state. It was first developed as a tourist destination in 1970, when there were only three residents.