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Marching Flamingos of Nassau

Strut alongside these pink-feathered soldiers who run the show in Nassau in the Bahamas.

 

Legs are raised high as the drill sergeant whistles. The troops move in unison: right, left, forward. They stop on a dime with precision. What a spectacle! But this is no ordinary drill march. These are Caribbean flamingos at Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Center, in the Bahamian capital of Nassau.

Ardastra Gardens is a casual zoo, home to tropical animals like the endangered Bahamas parrot, jaguars, caimans (a type crocodilian reptile) and large but cute capybaras of the rodent family. There are so many species here that I’ve never seen before, species that can survive only in hot, tropical climates like that of the Bahamas. But the stars of Ardastra Gardens are the flamingos. At 10:30 a.m., 2:10 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. each day, the flamingos enter a small stadium to the cheers of children and other visitors to begin their performance.

Precision in Pink

Since the 1950s, the pink flamingos have been performing at Ardastra, after the zoo’s founder discovered that the flamingos responded over time to voice commands. In reality, their actions are more reactive than an exact science. One of the zoo’s trainers tells me that it’s innate for flamingos to flock together. So, when the drill sergeant moves toward the flamingos, barking his commands, the flamingos are actually just moving as they naturally would, flocking together and racing out in front of the drill sergeant. But the flamingos’ bent marching knees and regimented formation look well planned. Even so, the flamingos do seem to bask in the cheers of the crowd.

Join the Ranks

The Ardastra audience joins in on the fun with children and an occasional adult volunteering to join the pink troops in center field in attempt to march like flamingos. It’s amusing to see kids trying to perch on one leg like the birds, let alone march like them. The scene makes for a lot of laughs and precious smiles from young faces. As for the flamingos, they then go rest by the marshes until it’s time for their next tour of duty.

Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Center. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Admission: Adults, $15; children ages 4 to 12, $7.50; free for children 3 and under. Tel. 242-323-5806, www.ardastra.com


Destinations: Bahamas, Nassau

Themes: Beach Vacations


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