130 new arrivals: chicks at Priolo Gargallo

130 new arrivals: chicks at Priolo Gargallo


Enel and Lipu (Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli, stands for Italian League for the Protection of Birds) have been working side-by-side to safeguard and improve an area near the Archimede power station, in a project undertaken with respect for the region and its wildlife.

This is Priolo Gargallo, within Sicily’s Saline di Priolo Nature Reserve, the last remaining section of a large wetland area that once covered a huge stretch of coast between Priolo and Marina di Melilli. 242 species of bird have been recorded in the area, approximately 40 per cent of the species observed to date across the whole of Italy. The agreement between Enel and LIPU, which manages the Saline di Priolo Nature Reserve, has seen the size of the protected area grow, as well as the creation of a nature trail that provides access to the Spire of Marcello, an important archaeological site in the Priolo district.

Our Archimede combined-cycle power plant plays an important role for the many protected species that seek refuge in the park: following a mayoral order, the plant has pumped sea water into the basin over the past two summers to ensure a constant water level, essential for preserving a welcoming habitat.

The reserve even plays host to a colony of flamingos. Three summers ago the birds risked dying when evaporation caused the bog to dry out. Given the urgent situation, over the space of a few days roughly 600m of pipe were assembled, along with the necessary equipment to connect and manoeuvre them. The flamingos thus ended up symbolising the environmental clean-up in this area, which for years was dominated by the petrochemical industry. One of the most intensely emotional moments was when the flamingo eggs hatched. The feat was repeated last summer, with a total of 130 chicks hatching at Saline di Priolo, almost three times the number recorded the previous year.

Nesting is a long process, which starts in winter when the parents build their nests and use their beaks to build the mud cones that will house their eggs. The eggs are laid in April and for roughly 28 days the parents take turns to look after them. In May 2015, 55 chicks hatched – an encouraging initial result after 15 years without flamingos in the area. 

The chicks stay with their parents for around 80 days before fledging. These first days provide the most exciting moments, since they reveal how important it is for adults and young alike to feel safe in a protected environment. The flamingos’ first attempts at flight only hint at their majestic nature, which is still hidden beneath the cute exterior of the youngest birds. In winter, many of the flamingos migrate south to northern Africa, although some birds head for the valleys of Comacchio, the Camargue and Sardinia, while others remain in Priolo. They can be recognised from a distance by reading the coloured rings attached to their legs by researchers from the Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA, Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research), LIPU staff and huge numbers of volunteers.

Saline di Priolo is the only flamingo nest site in Sicily. Their arrival was the crowning moment of years of hard work to restore ecological balance to the marine area. They are very fragile and demanding birds, which require extremely clean water, plenty of food and optimal water levels in the marshland they call home. This safe and inviting habitat is also an important sign of the environmental health of the surrounding area.

With 55 chicks born in 2015 and 130 in 2016, we’re expecting a huge number of pink arrivals next summer!