The lesser flamingo is the most numerous flamingo alive today. Sometimes known as the African flamingo, that description is not wholly accurate as they also live in at the Zinzuwadia and Purabcheria salt flats in northwestern India and the southern border of Pakistan. Lesser flamingos are the smallest species of flamingo belonging to the family of Phoenicopteridae.
Physical Appearance of the African Lesser Flamingo
Smaller than the other five species of flamingo, the African lesser flamingo weighs 1.2 to 2.7 kg (2.6 to 6.0 lb) with a height of 80 to 90 cm (31 to 35 in). Their wingspan ranges from 1.0-1.1 m long (35 – 41 in). From tail to tip of their beaks interestingly, the same measurements apply as their wingspan. Their webbed feet consist of three clawed, long toes: approx 11 cm in width and 9 cm in length.
The dark color of the beak extends like a dark purple mask over their golden eyes, unlike the other species of flamingo. The African flamingo has a long, thin, curved neck and thin, pink legs with bulbous knees. Their long necks allows them to feed and drink at the water, while standing. Often they retract their necks to an S-shape which allows their heads to rest on their plumage. The shape is adapted for a perfect sense of balance while they rest.
Secondary wing feathers are black, often noticeable in a saddle at their tail. Primary feathers range from pale pink to an almost fiery red. Their very bent beaks are adapted perfectly for their diet. 10,000 minute platelets filter planktonic organisms from the water with help from pressure of their tongues. They feed mainly on algae Spirulina, which grow only in very alkaline lakes, plus blue and green algae, crustaceans, and a variety of small insects. Due to their tiny food sources, lesser flamingos take about 20% of the day feeding.
Where do Lesser Flamingos Live?
Lesser flamingos live in colonies of thousands of birds, usually around coastal areas, saline and semi saline lakes lakes and wetlands on the African continent. Thousands of birds flock to major breeding sites at the great rift valley in East Africa, Natron in Tanzania, Naivasha and Bogoria in Kenya.
Other Breeding Locations of The Lesser Flamingo
- Etosha salt flats, Namibia
- Kamfers Dam, South Africa
- Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana – one of the largest salt flats in the world.
- Djoudj National Park, Senegal
- Aftout es Saheli, south-west Mauritania
- Zinzuwadia and Purabcheria salt pans
Lesser flamingos are the most numerous of the six species of flamingo. This is partly because they adapt very well to living in nature parks and zoos. Their calm and unthreatening temperaments makes them easy to manage. Nests of lesser flamingos are always built about 1-3 feet ( 0.3 m- 0.9 m) above the water line. This is to guard against any sharp rise in water level that may wash away the nest and chicks.
Fantastic Facts About the Lesser Flamingo
- Despite the noise of thousands of flamingos mother lesser flamingos can identify the calls of their own offspring.
- Lesser flamingos are great swimmers.
- Orange/red pigments hidden in algae turns their feathers pink.
Conservation Status & Threats to the Lesser Flamingo
The breeding and feeding lakes of the lesser flamingo are ‘disrupted’ in the Great Rift Valley according to the World Wildlife Fund by human activities. Mining, wastewater and pollution and agricultural practices are affecting the balance of the lake.
At Nakuri and Bogoria lakes, heavy metal poisoning has been suspected of threatening the wildlife. At Aftout es Saheli, south-west Mauritania, hydrological dynamic factors, predation, and disturbance and hunting by poachers has in the past prevented large colonies thriving.
Lesser Flamingo populations show decreasing numbers and are nowadays, considered “Near Threatened” by the IUCN Red List. More than 2.6 million lesser flamingos live in the wild.
One of the largest threats to lesser flamingos is predation in the wild. Golden jackals, side-striped jackals, pale foxes, striped hyenas, honey badgers, and baboons are among predators that hunt the flamingo, while, large birds such as vultures and marabou storks will eat their eggs.
Q & A
Which order do lesser flamingos belong?
Lesser flamingos belong to the order of Phoenicopteriformes
Which family do lesser flamingos belong to?
Lesser flamingos belong to the family of Phoenicopteridae
To what age do lesser flamingos live?
Lesser flamingos can live up to 50 years of age.
What are other causes of flamingo numbers decreasing?
Encroachment by human activities and increased predation causes flamingos to abandon eggs.
Do lesser flamingos fly?
When flying long distances, lesser flamingos fly in a V-shape.
How do I know a flamingo is a lesser flamingo?
When flying lesser flamingos wings show their black undersides. More of a dark purple hue covers their faces and beaks.
What color are lesser flamingos legs?
Lesser flamingos legs are dark pink.
What color are baby flamingos?
Baby flamingos are often grey.
How many eggs to lesser flamingos lay?
Lesser flamingos lay one egg each cycle.
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