Although it’s the tallest bird on the Zoo’s Tropics Trail, the lesser flamingo is the smallest species of flamingo.
What They Eat
The bill of a flamingo acts like a sieve, filtering microorganisms and tiny bits of algae from the water.
Where They Live
Known to travel far and wide, most lesser flamingos live in Africa, South of the Sahara Desert. A much smaller population of Lesser Flamingos is found in India.
What They Do
Thousands upon thousands of flamingos gather to breed in only three African locations. These enormous flocks often contain greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) , too.
How They’re Doing
In spite of their wide geographic distribution, lesser flamingo numbers are declining and the species is listed as near threatened. They are especially at risk because of their few breeding sites, which are vulnerable to pollution and human disruption.
Lesser flamingos get their pink coloration from the pigments in the algae they eat. The diet they receive in zoos is specially made for flamingos and contains the same nutrients.
Chicks are grey when they hatch. Adults feed them a nutritious secretion known as crop milk (which is not true milk).
Flamingos feed with their heads upside-down in the water, either skimming the surface or fully submerging their heads. A filter-like structure within the flamingo’s bill helps to trap tiny particles of algae.
Flocks of lesser flamingos travel at night, typically flying in a V-shaped formation.
A mated pair of flamingos lays just one egg at a time, but after hatching, the chick joins many others in what is known as a crèche. Multiple chicks are supervised by just a few adults at a time.
Predators of the lesser flamingo include cheetahs, jackals and lions.
Lesser flamingo habitats are unique, in that they are either alkaline or salty and contain microorganisms found nowhere else. Water pollution, like that caused by pesticides or heavy metals, puts these habitats at risk. There are only three breeding sites where flamingos gather in Africa. Human interference at any single one of these sites carries major consequences for the population. A proposed soda-ash operation at the flamingo breeding site on Lake Natron is currently on hold.