happyworld - Tropical Bird That ‘Fell Out Of The Sky’ In Siberia Is Leaving Experts Stumped By Matt Castoral

When it comes to animals being out of place, nothing really surprises people anymore. Every other day someone’s pulling a snake out of their toilet or an alligator from their pool, and the prevalence of zoos has taken the majesty away from some of the world’s most breathtaking creatures. Short of a tiger running through New York City, what’ll it take to really get everyone’s attention?
Well, when one tropical bird wound up in one of the harshest climates on Earth, more than a few eyebrows were raised. Not only were experts puzzled as to how the creature got there, but the bird’s journey also posed a pressing question: what did this mean for the future of our planet?
After all, Siberia isn’t exactly the kind of place you’d expect to find warm-weather birds. The average annual temperature in the province is 23 degrees, and in winter, most regions dip well into the double negatives.
Bolot Bochkarev
As such, brown bears, reindeer, and other creatures equipped to survive the freezing cold have come to dominate the Siberian wilderness. Yet just outside the village of Motygino, a very different animal decided to make an unexpected pit stop.
Sergey Gorshkov
That creature was a young greater flamingo, just barely a few years old. A group of children discovered the bird resting along the banks of the Angara River, and judging by how tired it looked, this flamingo had flown quite a long way.
Siberian Times
In fact, the bird was so exhausted that it barely resisted as the children scooped it up and brought it back to Motygino. There, they decided to name it Vasya and began feeding the bird shrimp to nurse it back to strength.
YAKUTIA 24
As word of the unusual guest spread through the village, people couldn’t help but wonder: what was a greater flamingo doing in Siberia? While these birds were known to reside in the warmer regions of Africa and Eurasia, the closest known populations were located thousands of miles away.
The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo
What’s more, most of these populations made for the hot sands of Saudi Arabia during this time of year — some 3,000 miles from Motygino, below. How could this lone bird have strayed so far off course?
According to Irina Vorontsova, an expert at Krasnoyarsk Zoo Royev Ruchey, Vasya was likely headed in that direction from Kazakhstan but grew too weak to make the full journey. Tired and disoriented, the young bird altered its course and wound up flying in the opposite direction.
Alexey Khramtsov
This phenomenon, known as reverse migration, is relatively common among avians, with young birds often being the most susceptible. Greater flamingos, however, have been known to experience this disorientation in later life as well.
Dave_S. / Flickr
“Greater flamingos are famous for wandering,” explained Kenn Kaufman, right, a field editor at the National Audubon Society. “They have a wide range in Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, and southern Asia, and flocks may travel major distances in response to changes in water conditions.”
Camilla Cerea / Audubon
Incredibly, this wasn’t even the first time a greater flamingo had found its way to the far north. A pair of fishermen watched several birds fall from the sky in 2003 and 2004, and a decade later, a flock was spotted on the Tom River near the city of Kemerovo.
Eric Kilby / Flickr
In fact, historical records show that flamingos have been spotted in Siberia as far back as 1907. However, tired wings and rough winds may not be entirely to blame for Vasya straying off course.
CJ Oliver / Flickr
According to Andrew Farnsworth, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, he believes that reverse migration may also be genetic in origin. While some birds learn migrations routes from their parents, others have them innately passed down to them.
Cornell
“This is often a case of variation in the expression of whatever genes control birds’ abilities to orient,” explained Farnsworth. “So, for example, some individuals may orient one way… but then a small percentage will vary in their orientation vis a vis genetic variation and perhaps move in 90 or 180 degree offset directions.”
Wikimedia Commons
If two birds possessing this orientation mutation were to survive and breed, there’s a high chance their offspring would also reverse migrate. As this gene is passed down through generations, we could see entire colonies of birds migrating the wrong way!
Wikimedia Commons
Fortunately, it appears that Vasya’s misadventure was simply the result of a bit of confusion. Yet could this increasing frequency of reverse migrations be hinting at something more sinister going on with our planet?
Wikimedia Commons
In Farnsworth’s mind, the answer is a tentative “no.” If it were the case that climate change was causing these disruptions, we’d likely see breeding populations residing in Siberia, indicating that the region had warmed enough to support the flamingos. Still, we’re not out of the woods yet.
Tambako the Jaguar / Flickr
According to a 2006 report in Bird Species and Climate Change, increasing global temperatures threaten to devastate world avian populations. If the average temperature goals set forth in 2016’s Paris Agreement aren’t met, bird extinction rates could exceed 38 percent in Europe and 72 percent in northeastern Australia.
Photographer is only a witness. / Flickr
As for Vasya, he’ll continue to recuperate under the watchful eye of the people of Motygino. While it’s unlikely the flamingo will ever find his way back to his flock, his caretakers are hoping to reunite him with birds of his own kind.
“We would like to pass the flamingo to a zoo or shelter with rare birds,” said Antonina Maisa, who is currently caring for Vasya. “Somewhere the flamingo will be comfortable, alongside companions with whom it can communicate. Ideally, the same bird breed, or at least from the same region.”
Regional Committee for Environmental Protection, Seversk Zoo

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