Everglades Flamingo Project
A Piece of urban Kitsch helps repopulate the wilderness.
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Near West Palm Beach,Florida-It seems an unlikely sight:Biologist Lisa Borgia and Dale Gawlik,both actual scientist,are toting life sized plastic flamingos into the alligator-infested waters of the Everglades
Gawlik is employed by the South Florida water management district;Borgia,A biology graduate student at Florida International University.Their early morning ritual is part of one of the largest and most costly Everglades wildlife restoration projects ever.
They hope that pressing the wire-legged flamingoes into service will bring vanishing species of flesh-and-blood wading birds back to the swampy refuge.
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From Atop observation towers,the biologist check out more than 100 of the phony birds to see wheather they lure in the real thing.As they look they record their sightings.
And the result?It works,proving once again that beauty is in the Eye os the Beholder.The birds were not repelled by the notoriously tacky plastic birds,but cozied right up to them.
To encourage the intimacy,the plastic flamingos originally pink,were painted white to attract wading bird species with white plumage,like snowy egrets,great egrets and wood storks.
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"What we're trying to do is evaluate the social patters of these birds,"said Borgia
The scientist might have used fakes of the wading birds they sought to attract,but they were expensive.Some cost $27 each.The price was right for research flamingos,at $2 apiece.
Back around the turn of the century,more than 1 million wading birds are estimated to have nested here,Now scientist believe,there are fewer than 20,000,and their numbers continue to dwindle.
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"We're starting to get a picture of how wading birds make a living in the Everglades,the kind of things that important to them,"said Gawlik
Already,the biologist have learned about the best water depths and typs os food to attract wading birds back to the Everglades and help them thrive here.
And so,they say,it's fair to conclude that plastic flamingos,a common Florida front-lawn fixture,really are for the birds.