The lesser flamingo is the most numerous of the six flamingo species. Flamingos are very social birds, living in large flocks. Breeding season is dependent on food supply and rainfall and the whole flock breeds at the same time. Breeding pairs are monogamous. During courtship, flamingos interested in each other will often call out in unison, as well as participating in group rituals such as marching and “flagging” – a rapid movement of the head from side to side. The pair builds a mound of dirt and clay onto which their eggs are laid. Both parents work together to incubate and care for their young.
Flamingos spend most of their time on the ground, only flying when they need to travel to new feeding or breeding grounds.
Distribution: Predominantly shores of alkaline and saline lakes, coastal lagoons and wetlands in southern Africa, though there are other small populations in central Africa, west Africa and west India.
Diet in the Wild: Blue-green algae, diatoms, small aquatic invertebrates
Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Flamingo fare, trout chow, grain, krill, Rovimix, salt and vitamins
IUCN Red List Status: Near threatened, population decreasing
Threats: Water pollution, proposed mining projects, collisions with electric wires
Lesser flamingos are filter feeders. They have a specialized beak for catching algae which contains thousands of small grooves called lamellae.
The flamingo gets its pink coloration from pigments in its diet called carotenoids. Without these pigments, the flamingo’s plumage would be gray.