Lesser Flamingo

Name: Lesser Flamingo
Scientific name: Phoeniconaias minor
Range: East and Southern Africa.
Habitat: Salty lakes and lagoons in southern Africa
Status: Near threatened 
Diet in the wild: algae, especially the blue-green alga Spirulina, small insects and crustaceans.
Location in the zoo: Flamingo Bay, near the entrance of the zoo.


Physical description: 

  • Height: about 40".
  • Stilt-like legs. Lesser flamingos are unusual among flamingos in having a hallux, a toe that projects from the back of the foot.
  • Color: pale to medium pink, pink rings around the eyes, and a pink splash on a dark bill. Black feathers on the edge of the wing.
  • Long neck, with 19 neck vertebrae!

Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations:

The bill of the flamingo plays the key role in catching its food.  The bill is held upside down in the water, while the bird sucks in water, minute organisms are filtered out by a comb-like projection of the tongue.   Water and food that is too large is filtered out of the bill by way of the slits in the bill. They feed mostly in the upper layers of the water, and can do so even while swimming.

Lesser flamingos are gregarious birds, forming large flocks. Nevertheless, they form monogamous pairs. Males and females are similar, although males may be slightly larger. Lesser flamingos can live for as long as 50 years in captivity. However, some wild populations have been suffering massive die-offs, possibly because of environmental toxins.

A single egg is laid in a mud nest about a foot high, and is incubated by both parents. The chicks are white, and juveniles are gray. The parents produce a kind of milk in the crop -- upper part of the stomach -- which they feed to the young flamingos.

The color of the feathers changes over the next few years. The pink color of adult feathers comes from pigments extracted from their food. How can green algae make pink feathers? Algae contain carotenoid pigments similar to those that make trees turn color in the fall.

Source Materials and Related Links:

Page author:{short description of image}Tiffany Randle

Send E-mail to t_randle@hotmail.com
or to mac@whozoo.org


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