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Learn All About the Lesser Flamingo

There’s no bird more fabulously flamboyant than a flamingo, but with a name like lesser, what’s a bird to do to show off its fantastic feathers and flirtatious features? Discover all there is to love about the lesser flamingo!

Lesser Flamingo, Lake Nakuru National Park – Photo by Angell Williams

Lesser Flamingo Fun Facts

  • The lesser flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) is one of the world’s six flamingo species. All of these distinctive birds belong to the Phoenicopteridae bird family.
  • The lesser flamingo is so named because it is the smallest member of the flamingo family, measuring just 30-35 inches (75-90 cm) tall and weighing 3.25-4.5 pounds (1.5-2 kg).
  • These flamingos eat primarily algae, and can feed easier in calm waters at dawn, dusk, and even at night when daytime winds don’t disturb the water’s surface. Each bird will eat roughly 2.2 ounces (60g) of algae per day.
  • Lesser flamingos gather in some of the largest bird flocks in the world, with colonies of 1,000,000+ birds often found on alkaline lakes in east Africa’s Great Rift Valley.
  • These flamingos are highly nomadic and will move around to find the best feeding areas based on water levels and water quality. Sudden rains, sewage runoff, pollution from mines and quarries, and other factors can trigger their movements.
  • Though lesser flamingos are believed to be the most numerous flamingo species in the world, these birds are still considered “near threatened” because of the sensitivity of their habitats and the limited number of breeding sites they can successfully use.
  • It takes roughly 3-5 years for a lesser flamingo to reach sexual maturity, but in the wild they can live 30-50 years. Only about 40 percent of chicks will live to maturity. The oldest known wild lesser flamingo lived 80 years.
  • Lesser flamingos don’t breed every year. One bird may only breed once every 5-8 years, and a mated pair only raises a single chick. On rare occasions where two eggs may be laid, the second chick does not usually survive.
Lesser Flamingo Flock – Photo by Steve Garvie

Adding the Lesser Flamingo to Your Life List

Seeing enormous flocks of lesser flamingos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and is best done with the assistance of an experienced guide or tour arrangements to ensure good views and top locations. Because lesser flamingos are specialist feeders, they are only found on very alkaline lakes, but at those locations, they can gather in great numbers. The largest, most predictable flocks are typically on Lakes Bogoria and Nakuru in Kenya, as well as Lake Natron in Tanzania, and Lake Magadi in Kenya. The area around Kamfers Dam in South Africa is also good for seeing lesser flamingos. These birds can be found in smaller concentrations elsewhere sub-Saharan Africa in appropriate habitats, as well as in coastal regions of western Africa and coastal northwestern India.

For birders unable to travel to Africa or India to see these birds in the wild, lesser flamingos are found in captivity throughout the world. They’re popular residents at zoos, aviaries, and marine parks such as SeaWorld, and those facilities offer excellent viewing opportunities and help with conservation efforts.

Learn More About Lesser Flamingos

There’s always more to discover about all birds, including lesser flamingos. Try these amazing, reliable resources for more facts and information…

Lesser Flamingos in Flight – Photo by Mark Anderson

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