The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos

Synopsis: In a remote and forgotten wilderness, one of nature's last great mysteries unfolds: the birth, life and death of a million crimson-winged flamingos. Against a dramatic backdrop of never-before filmed landscapes, these secretive birds struggle to survive and prevail over danger and fate. This inspiring story, set in the extraordinary 'otherworld' of Lake Natron in northern Tanzania, the cradle of humankind, reminds us: here on earth is a universe waiting to be discovered.
Genre: Documentary
Production: Disneynature
  1 win & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
78 min

Once upon a time,

in the heart of Africa,

there was a lake of fire.

The lake's water burned

with color,

scarlet and crimson,

and in its stillness,

held heaven's reflection.

After months without rain,

there came a season of drought.

And the lake dried

and turned white as ash.

But in the desolation came

the promise of another season.

A season of color and life,

a season of beginning.

Lake Natron,

in northern Tanzania,

lies at the very center

of East Africa's Great Rift Valley.

This is a raw and unfinished land.

Ol Doinyo Lengai rises from

the lake's southern shore,

a living volcano,

restless and impatient.

Hidden deep in its dark core,

a chamber of magma burns

with primeval energy.

For the local Masai tribe,

Lengai is simply where God lives.

Natron is a vast, shallow lake,

and no more than six feet deep

and so toxic with soda salt that

almost nothing can live in its water.

But each year,

For only a few weeks,

rain comes to Natron...

...and a grand act

of creation takes place,

one of Africa's last great mysteries.

And with the rain come the flamingos.

Somehow, they know the time

has come to return to Natron.

They have abandoned a dozen other

lakes along the Rift Valley

and flown hundreds, even

thousands, of miles to be here.

Each bird has its own story,

its own secret life.

And each story is one that

began here at Natron,

with the rain.

The rain triggers the growth

of algae in the water.

When the flamingos eat

the algae, they transform.

Their feathers, eyes and legs

flush with crimson.

It is their color they find

most attractive about each other.

After all, this is why

they have come to Natron,

to find a mate.

Slowly, almost politely, they begin.

Every movement, part of a courtship.

A choreography.

A growing dervish of desire.

One by one,

the flamingos find each other.

A pairing to last the season.

A pairing that begins

with a moment.

There is a myth told by the Masai

that the flamingos are made

from the water's salt.

That they are the children

Of the lake.

But the truth is no less extraordinary,

and something that

only happens here at Natron.

A secret island emerges

from the middle of the lake.

As the rainy season ends

and the furnace sun

resumes its rule,

Water evaporates so quickly

that a residue of salt

forms on the surface.

Each day, the sun bears down

and the salt thickens into sheets,

like plates of salt ice that

shift and grind in the wind.

The sheets drift,

blending into a series

of small islands as they go.

The wind pushes the islands

towards the center of the lake.

After several weeks

of intense evaporation,

the water in the center of the

lake is only a few inches deep.

The floating salt islands run

aground on the emerging mud

and soon accumulate

into a single island of salt,

ten miles wide.

Here, remnant water congeals

into sulfurous pools,

and the temperature regularly

rises above 130 degrees.

No land animal could travel

Or survive here.

But to the flamingos,

this strange, new world

is a gift.

There are two million lesser

flamingos in East Africa,

and every one of them is born here

on Natron's secret salt island.

The expectant parents build their nests

from the salty lake mud.

Even though the salt island is vast,

as social birds, the flamingos prefer

to group closely together

and define the boundaries

of their chosen nest sites.

The nests are almost a foot high,

Drier and a few degrees cooler

than the floor of the salt island.

The salt bakes, bleaches

and hardens into a cradle.

After the nest, comes the egg.

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