Die Flamingos am Zwillbrocker Venn teilen sich ihren Lebensraum mit Kolonien von Lachmöwen, © Biologische Station Zwillbrock e. V.

Flamin­gos in Mün­ster­land: Zwill­brock­er Venn

The exot­ic pink birds have made their home in this area of moor­land and wet­land

Flamin­gos in NRW? The exot­ic birds have in­deed made their home in a nature re­serve in Mün­ster­land. They can be seen in the moor and heath land­scape of Zwill­brock­er Venn.

Vis­it­ors to this part of Mün­ster­land could be for­giv­en for rub­bing their eyes in dis­be­lief: Pink birds? Ac­tu­al flamin­gos? But their eyes do not de­ceive them: the world?s most north­erly breed­ing colony of flamin­gos has in­deed been liv­ing for the past three dec­ades at Zwill­brock­er Venn, a re­gion of forest, moor­land, wet­land mead­ows and lakes in North Rhine-West­phalia. In March, the exot­ic birds fly in from their win­ter­ing grounds on the Dutch coast to spend the sum­mer in Mün­ster­land, and some­times even raise their young. Most of the birds are Chilean flamin­gos from South Amer­ica, but sev­er­al European flamin­gos and even a red flamingo from the Carib­bean com­plete the col­our­ful com­pany. Their char­ac­ter­ist­ic plumage is the res­ult of their diet of small shrimps, whose pig­ment be­come de­pos­ited in the birds? feath­ers.

No-one is ex­actly sure how the flamin­gos ar­rived in Mün­ster­land. The most likely ex­plan­a­tion is that the exot­ic birds some­how man­aged to es­cape from zoos or private col­lec­tions. The European flamin­gos could even have flown to Cent­ral Europe from South­ern Spain or the South of France by them­selves. They may not be nat­ive to this re­gion, but the flamin­gos now feel very much at home in Mün­ster­land. And they are wel­come here, too ? the exot­ic birds pose no threat to nat­ive spe­cies and they are caus­ing no dam­age to the wa­tery hab­it­ats of Zwill­brock­er Venn. The ex­perts, mean­while, are not at all sur­prised that the flamin­gos have settled at this spot near the Ger­man-Dutch bor­der, as this is ex­actly where they can find the food they love. Zwill­brock­er Venn also hap­pens to be the home of Ger­many?s largest in­land black-headed gull colony. The ex­cre­ment pro­duced by these birds res­ults in an abund­ance of mi­cro-or­gan­isms in the lakes of the re­gion, and the flamin­gos are able to feast on these in the sum­mer. When the tiny aquat­ic or­gan­isms be­come much harder to find in winter, the birds head for the south-west coast of Hol­land in search of food. The mi­gra­tion of the flamin­gos to their win­ter­ing grounds is a unique and im­press­ive sight. Vis­it­ors can watch them soar in­to the air and glide away in­to the dis­tance from view­ing plat­forms and towers.

White polled heath sheep help to main­tain the eco­sys­tem

With their col­our­ful plumage and exot­ic aura, the flamin­gos are of course the num­ber one at­trac­tion at Zwill­brock­er Venn. But there are many oth­er good reas­ons to vis­it this di­verse nature re­serve. Wet­land mead­ows, moors, heath­land and lakes provide breed­ing grounds and hab­it­ats for around 60 spe­cies of birds as well as many oth­er plants and an­im­als. From the end of June un­til au­tumn, the blos­som­ing heath­er provides a col­our­ful back­drop. White polled heath sheep can be spot­ted all around in the land­scape. They play an im­port­ant role in man­aging the nat­ur­al eco­sys­tem by graz­ing on birch sap­lings. The birch trees were able to es­tab­lish them­selves here in the past as a res­ult of man-made drain­age chan­nels. Sub­sequently, the birches had to be la­bor­i­ously felled and re­moved to re­store the moor and heath to its nat­ur­al tree­less state. The white polled heaths are now free to roam the en­tire ter­rit­ory and graze on emer­ging birch trees to pre­vent them from grow­ing and draw­ing wa­ter from the moor.

First-time vis­it­ors to Zwill­brock­er Venn should make the vis­it­or centre of the bio­lo­gic­al field sta­tion their first port of call. This is the start­ing point for walks, hik­ing paths and cyc­ling routes, and its per­man­ent ex­hib­i­tion provides rich in­sight in­to the re­gion?s nat­ur­al land­scape and her­it­age. Out­side the centre, vis­it­ors can get a pre­view of the nat­ur­al hab­it­ats wait­ing to be ex­plored at Zwill­brock­er Venn in an ar­ti­fi­cial moor, dry heath and mini­ature lake. There is also a play­ground and a sens­ory garden for the young­est fam­ily mem­bers. Zwill­brock and the bio­lo­gic­al field sta­tion are both on the Flamin­goroute, a 450-kilo­metre cyc­ling route named after the pink birds at Zwill­brock­er Venn.

Bio­lo­gic­al field sta­tion vis­it­or centre:

Novem­ber un­til the East­er hol­i­days:
Monday ? Thursday: 8:00 ? 16:30
Fri­day: 08:00 ? 14:30

East­er hol­i­days un­til Oc­to­ber:
Monday ? Fri­day: 08:00 ? 16:30
Sat­urday, Sunday and pub­lic hol­i­days: 12:00 ? 17:00

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Images and videos

Be inspired: images of your NRW

Die Flamingos am Zwillbrocker Venn teilen sich ihren Lebensraum mit Kolonien von Lachmöwen, © Biologische Station Zwillbrock e. V.
Flamingokolonie auf einer Insel, © Biologische Station Zwillbrock e.V.
Zwillbrocker Venn Gebietsansicht, © Biologische Station Zwillbrock e.V.
Gebietsansicht auf das Zwillbrocker Venn, © Biologische Station Zwillbrock e.V.

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