Phoeniconaias – Lesser Flamingo

This bird holds a Guinness book of world records to its name: largest flamingo colony

The lesser flamingo is renowned for being the smallest species within the flamingo family, but it is no less striking than its larger cousins. This species is distinguished by its deep pink to crimson color and smaller size, with males typically slightly larger than females.

Lesser flamingos have specialized breeding habits. They prefer to breed in large colonies on soda lakes—lagoons and lakes with high levels of alkalinity—which are often inhospitable to many other forms of life. These environments, rich in the algae and diatoms that form the bulk of the lesser flamingo’s diet, provide the carotenoids necessary for their vibrant plumage. The high alkalinity of these lakes also offers some protection from predators, which are less able to navigate the acidic waters.

Non-breeding individuals often disperse to various habitats, including coastal mudflats, saltworks, and even sewage treatment plants, where they can find the high salinity conditions that support the growth of their preferred microorganisms. These birds are adapted to filter-feed on the microalgae that flourish in saline environments, using their uniquely structured beaks and tongues.

The lesser flamingo is a wanderer by nature. Its range spans sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Indian subcontinent, touching regions in Spain, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, and Yemen. The species’ ability to fly long distances allows it to exploit ephemeral wetland habitats that may suddenly become suitable for feeding or breeding.

The courtship display of the lesser flamingo is an elaborate and coordinated spectacle. It occurs throughout the year, with the display timing varying among populations based on local conditions. During these displays, flamingos gather in groups of varying sizes and perform a synchronized march, moving back and forth while performing a range of ritualized movements. These include head-flagging, wing salutes, and coordinated vocalizations. Such displays serve to establish pair bonds and synchronize breeding within the colony.