Two greater flamingos have been spotted at a river near the coast of Pingtung County, which, if confirmed to be wild birds and not escapees, will be the first-ever sighting of the species in the country.
So far, there are no sightings on record of wild greater flamingos in Taiwan, Chinese Wild Bird Federation president Lin Shih-chung (林世忠) said on Tuesday.
The federation is still evaluating whether the two birds are wild, Lin said, adding that if there is evidence to prove they are wild, the official number of bird species in Taiwan will be updated from 626 to 627.
Bird watchers in Pingtung informed the federation after they spotted the two flamingos at the mouth of the Linbian River (林邊溪) on Jan. 5.
After close observation, Lin said he thinks the birds are young, judging by the few red feathers in their wing coverts.
Lin said that over the past few days, the two flamingos have spent most of their time sleeping.
This indicates that the birds might have lost their way during migration because migratory birds normally sleep for long periods after a long flight, he said.
However, it is still too early to say whether the birds are wild, although there have been no reports of lost flamingos from the Shou Shan Zoo in Greater Kaohsiung or the Taipei Zoo, the only zoos in the country that keep greater flamingos, Lin said.
The two birds might have escaped from a private farm that breeds the species, or from people who imported them from overseas, Lin said.
Greater flamingos are found in in the wild in Africa, Latin American, India and East Asia.
The birds migrate in an east-west direction, Lin said.
In recent years, lost flamingos have been spotted in China’s Xinjiang, Qinghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou areas, Lin said.