- Common Name
- lesser flamingo
- Genus Species
- Phoenicopterus (crimson winged) minor (smaller)
- The lesser flamingo is a tall, large-bodied bird with a long neck and small head. Most flamingos, including this species, have pale pink plumage, legs, and bills. The lesser flamingo is one of the smallest and the brightest of the flamingos.
- Approximately 80 to 90 cm (31 to 36 in.) long; females tend to be smaller than males
- Approximately 1.5 to 2 kg (3 to 4.5 lbs.)
- This species has a highly specialized diet consisting almost entirely of microscopic blue-green algae and benthic diatoms found only in alkaline lakes, salt pans and saline lagoons and estuaries. To a lesser extent, the species will also take small aquatic invertebrates such as rotifers.
- 28 days
- Clutch Size
- Usually 1 large egg
- Fledging Duration
- 70 to 75 days
- Sexual Maturity
- Approximately 6 years
- Life Span
- In the wild, up to 50 years
- These birds are found primarily in eastern and southern Africa. However, small populations exist in western Africa, Madagascar, Yemen, Pakistan, and India.
- The species breeds on large undisturbed alkaline and saline lakes, salt pans or coastal lagoons, usually far out from the shore, after seasonal rains have provided the flooding necessary to isolate remote breeding sites from terrestrial predators and the soft muddy material for nest building.
- The global population has been estimated at 2,220,000 to 3,240,000 individuals. Regional estimates include 15,000-25,000 individuals in West Africa, 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 in East Africa, 55,000 to 65,000 in South Africa and Madagascar, and 650,000 in South Asia. The population appears to be decreasing but is not severely fragmented.
- IUCN: Near Threatened
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS: Lower Risk/Near Threatened
The name flamingo is originally derived from the Portuguese language and means "red goose," which is a reference to their flying formation and the noise they make.
Lesser flamingos are believed to be the most numerous and live in the largest flocks. Some flocks are known to contain up to one million lesser flamingos and several thousand greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber roseus).
The lesser flamingo is an obligate filter feeder and feeds during the night and early morning when the surface of the water is calm, primarily by swimming and filtering the algae near the surface with a specialized bill that contains up to 10,000 microscopic lamellae.
Flamingos are an ancient group of birds. Their fossil records dates back to the Miocene epoch, which is about 10 million years ago.
Flamingos are not born with their beautiful pink plumage. Their color comes from the carotenoid pigments they consume as part of their diet. Some scientists believe that a flamingo's success in breeding relies on its bright color.
These birds are unique because both the male and female provide their young with a type of nourishment called crop milk.
Ecology and Conservation
Flamingos have few natural predators because they live in remote, inhospitable places.
Their feeding strategy, feeding in alkaline or saline bodies of water, does not affect other species.
Proposed soda-ash mining and hydroelectric power development could negatively affect their main breeding site at Lake Natron in Tanzania. This could cause rapid overall population declines due to human disturbance and the introduction of an alien brine shrimp to clean the soda of algae.
Austin, O. L. Birds of the World. Golden Press, New York. 1961.
Harrison, C.J.O., and Perrins, C. Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World. Reader's Digest Association, Inc., New York. 1987.
Perrins, C. and A. Middleton. The Encyclopedia of Birds. Facts on File Publications, New York. 1985.
SeaWorld Education Department Publication. Flamingos: Sea World, Inc. 1994.
BirdLife International. 2018. Phoeniconaias minor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22697369A129912906. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22697369A129912906.en. Downloaded on 19 December 2018.