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Lesser Flamingo

Scientific name: Phoeniconaias minor
IUCN designation: Near Threatened

Image of two Lesser Flamingos in shallow water

The Lesser Flamingo is the smallest of six flamingo species across the world and is the AMASS project’s focal species from Europe-Asia-Africa1.

The Lesser Flamingo is easily identifiable, being pink in color and having a height and wingspan of 1 m (3.3 ft)1. The saturation of its pink plumage depends on levels of beta-carotene that it consumes from its diet of cyanobacteria2. Its primary and secondary feathers are black and its wing coverts are red. The Lesser Flamingo has orange-yellow eyes which are surrounded by a maroon or a purple eye-ring. It has a deep-keeled bill that curves downwards. Its bill is primarily dark red and has a black tip1. Juvenile Lesser Flamingos are grey in colour. As they age, the grey, natal down is gradually replaced by a coarser brown down1.

There are five breeding populations of Lesser Flamingo in the world. The main breeding population occurs in the Rift Valley Lakes of East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania). One Rift Valley lake, Lake Natron, hosts 75% of the world’s breeding population. The other breeding populations occur in West Africa (Senegal and Mauritania), Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia) and South Asia (India and Pakistan)3.

The Rift Valley Lesser Flamingo population is nomadic, migrating to different alkaline lakes in response to changes in environmental conditions of its wetland habitats4.

The partially migratory Southern African and Asian populations frequently make movements between their inland breeding sites and coastal non-seasonal breeding areas3.

The survival of the Lesser Flamingo is entirely dependent on environmental conditions and the ecological integrity of the alkaline lakes, thereby making the Lesser Flamingo extremely susceptible to industrial pollution and anthropogenic activities, such as the soda ash extraction industry3 and water diversion of dams.

To learn more, visit our Lesser Flamingo StoryMap or the links below!

  1. University of Michigan: Animal Diversity Web – Phoeniconaias minor
  2. Britannica – Why Are Flamingos Pink?
  3. IUCN Red List – Lesser Flamingo
  4. Kaggwa et al. 2013 – A detailed time series assessment of the diet of Lesser Flamingos: further explanation for their itinerant behaviour

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