IUCN threat status:

Near Threatened (NT)

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Biology

The lesser flamingo feeds in the pose characteristic of flamingos, with the long neck bent over and the bill upside down in the water. The tongue is pumped in and out to suck in the salty, alkaline water and mud. Filters in the bill catch microscopic algae floating in the water. Perhaps fortunately, flamingos have a poor sense of taste and no sense of smell (7). Courtship in this species is visually spectacular, and can take place throughout the year, both on and away from the breeding grounds. Groups of birds, numbering from a few to several hundred, gather to march back and forth, all going in the same direction. They stand tall with their necks stretched upwards and flap their wings out to flash the colours of their feathers (4). During the breeding season, following this impressive display, flamingos pair up and build a mud nest up to 30 centimetres high to protect it from flooding and to keep it cool. A single chalk coloured egg is laid and then incubated by both parents in 24 hour shifts for about 28 days (4) (7). After hatching, the grey chick eats its own shell and is then fed a liquid soup by its parents for the next few months (4). Amongst thousands of flamingo pairs in the huge nesting colony, each chick must learn to recognise the 'murr-err, murr-err' call of its parents (4). It is at risk from predation by marabou storks, lappet-faced vultures, white-headed vultures and Egyptian vultures, but even during adulthood, predation by lions, leopards, cheetahs and jackals is common, which drives the aggregative behaviour of this bird (7). At six days old, the chick will join a créche of thousands of other chicks, where it will learn to run at one week, grow feathers at four weeks, and learn to fly at 12 weeks. Before, during, or after the breeding season the adults undergo a temporary moult and become flightless for around three weeks, but this will not occur whilst the chicks require food since adults may fly many kilometers to find food (4) (3). Flamingo movements take place mostly at night. The birds fly in large, V-shaped formations between water-bodies when food stocks have become depleted. Flocks may also fly between lakes during the day, even when food is abundant (3). Movement may also be triggered by thunderstorms. They fly at around 60 kilometres per hour, and can travel up to 1,540 kilometers, although will normally fly as far as the next lake (4) (3).

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Source: ARKive

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