Natural Catastrophes in the Flamingo Colony of Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
In the past 25 years the Red Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber) of Bonaire, estimated by ROOTH (1965) to comprise a population of at least 5,000 breeding birds, have suffered more than once from harmful human interference. Between 1944 and 1947 they even had left the island altogether, a situation which in the memory of the Bonaire people had never occurred before. Considerable losses of eggs as a result of abandoning the nests, following thoughtless visits by tourists, photographers, and other inquisitive people, have been reported in 1951, 1954, and 1955. The last serious disturbance by tourists took place in January 1966, resulting in the abandoning of about 1,300 nests and eggs. In this particular case, about 1,200 incubating flamingos had been counted as early as 12 December 1965 and the total number of adults feeding in the Pekelmeer by that time was approximately 3,000. On 5 January 1966 about 500 breeding adults had remained. Only a few hundred young were ultimately reared.
Throughout their breeding areas in other continents, nesting colonies of flamingos of all species are known to have suffered serious losses of eggs and young as the result of adverse weather conditions from time to time. This also happened to the Bonaire flamingos in December 1966, the report of which, based on observations by the first author, follows below.