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Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is classified as Near Threatened because populations appear to be undergoing a moderately rapid decline; almost qualifies for listing under criteria A2c+3c+4c. Proposed large-scale soda ash extraction at Lake Natron, the most important breeding colony, although currently on hold, would be disastrous for this species and, were this to happen, the species may qualify for uplisting to a higher threat category.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
The placement of this taxon in the genus Phoeniconaias follows Dickinson (2003) contra Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993) because the distinctive interior bill morphology indicates differentiation at generic level from Phoenicopterus.

Phoenicopterus minor Collar et al. (1994), Phoenicopterus minor Dowsett and Forbes-Watson (1993), Phoenicopterus minor Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Phoenicopterus minor Cramp and Simmons (1977-1994), Phoenicopterus minor AERC TAC (2003), Phoenicopterus minor BirdLife International (2006), Phoenicopterus minor BirdLife International (2004), Phoenicopterus minor BirdLife International (2000)

Distribution and population
Phoeniconaias minor breeds mainly in the Rift Valley lakes of East Africa in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. Three smaller breeding congregations occur in West Africa, in southern Africa, and in Asia, in India and Pakistan. When not breeding, it occurs in virtually every sub-Saharan country and from the Arabian peninsula to Pakistan. The global population has been estimated as c.2,220,000-3,240,000, including c.650,000 in Asia (Rose and Scott 1997). The largest population, estimated to be 1.5-2.5 million birds, occurs on the alkaline-saline lakes of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa (Delany and Scott 2006). Smaller populations occur in the Rann of Kachchh in north-western India, estimated to be approximately 390,000 birds, in southern Africa, estimated to be 55,000-65,000 birds, and in West Africa, estimated to be 15,000-25,000 birds (Delany and Scott 2006). Declines have been suggested for much of Africa (Rose and Scott 1997; Simmons 1996), but are difficult to clarify owing to large-scale movements within the continent. It is adapted to respond to local environmental changes in sites by moving elsewhere, and thus depends on a network of suitable areas (L. Bennun in litt. 1999).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 15,000-25,000 individuals in West Africa, 1,500,000-2,500,000 in East Africa, 55,000-65,000 in South Africa and Madagascar, and 650,000 in south Asia.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing owing to habitat degradation and disturbance, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Delany and Scott 2006), thus a moderately rapid decline is suspected overall.

Behaviour This species is itinerant and makes extensive movements in response to adverse environmental conditions (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Borello et al. 1998, L. Bennun in litt. 1999, McCulloch et al. 2003, Childress et al. 2007). The Asian and southern African populations are partially migratory, with many making regular movements from their breeding sites inland to coastal wetlands when not breeding (McCulloch et al. 2003, Jadhav and Parasharya 2004). The species breeds in huge colonies of many thousands of pairs often mixed with Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The timing of breeding is irregular and varies geographically depending on the timing of the rains, with individual adults often not breeding annually (Brown et al. 1982). The species is an obligate filter feeder and feeds during the night and early morning when the surface of the water is calm, primarily by swimming and filtering the algae near the surface with a specialised bill that contains up to 10,000 microscopic lamellae (del Hoyo et al. 1992). When necessary, the species forms large dense feeding flocks that create calm water for feeding near the centre of the flock (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Habitat The species breeds on large undisturbed alkaline and saline lakes, salt pans or coastal lagoons, usually far out from the shore after seasonal rains have provided the flooding necessary to isolate remote breeding sites from terrestrial predators and the soft muddy material for nest building (Brown and Root 1971, del Hoyo et al. 1992, McCulloch and Irvine 2004). Diet It has a highly specialised diet consisting almost entirely of microscopic blue-green algae (Spirulina spp., Oscillatoria spp. and Lyngbya spp.) and benthic diatoms (Navicula spp., Bacillariophyceae) found only in alkaline lakes, salt pans and saline lagoons and estuaries (del Hoyo et al. 1992). To a lesser extent, the species will also take small aquatic invertebrates such as rotifers (Brachiomus spp) (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is built from mud substrates (Brown and Root 1971, Brown et al. 1982). Management information The species will breed successfully on artificial breeding islands in ideal conditions (Anderson 2008).

Only three main breeding sites exist in Africa, all facing threats and requiring protection (R. E. Simmons in litt. 1998). Proposed soda-ash mining and hydroelectric power schemes affecting the main breeding site, Lake Natron in Tanzania, although currently put on hold, could cause rapid overall population declines owing to disturbance and the introduction of an alien brine shrimp to clean the soda of algae (the species's food) (L. Bennun in litt. 1999). In 2008, these proposals were still on hold but had not been withdrawn (Anderson 2008). Other threats include land-claim, water pollution, and disturbance, and there are fears that the population at Lake Bogoria is suffering from malnutrition (R. E. Simmons in litt. 1998, S. J. Tyler in litt. 1999, D. Harper in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. CMS Appendix II. It breeds at an artificially created site at Kamfers Dam, South Africa (M. Anderson in litt. 2008). In September 2006, 35 experts from the species's range states attended a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, to start the process of drafting an International Action Plan for the species under the auspices of CMS and AEWA (Anon. 2008).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Regularly monitor the population at Lake Natron and other key sites. Ensure complete and permanent protection of all breeding congregations, particularly those at Lake Natron.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Anderson, M. D. 2008. A vision in pink: Lesser Flamingo breeding success. Africa - Birds & Birding 13(2): 42-49.

Anderson, M. D. 2008. Lesser Flamingo's most important breeding site remains under threat. Africa - Birds & Birding 13(4): 19.

Anon. 2008. Action Planning Workshop for the Lesser Flamingo in Nairobi, Kenya. AEWA Newsletter: 12.

Borello, W. D.; Mundy, J. M.; Liversedge, T. N. 1998. Movements of Greater and Lesser Flamingo in southern Africa. Torgos 28: 201-218.

Brown, L. H.; Root, A. 1971. The breeding behaviour of the Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor. Ibis 113: 147-172.

Brown, L.H., Urban, E.K. and Newman, K. 1982. The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.

Childress, B.; Hughes, B.; Harper, D.; van den Bossche, W. 2007. East African flyway and key site network of the Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor) documented through satellite tracking. Ostrich 78(2): 463-468.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Dodman, T. 2002. Waterbird population estimates in Africa.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Jadhav, A.; Parasharya, B.M. 2004. Counts of flamingos at some sites in Gujarat State, India. Waterbirds 27: 141-146.

McCulloch, G.; Aebischer, A.; Irvine, K. 2003. Satellite tracking of flamingos in southern Africa: the importance of small wetlands for management and conservation. Oryx 37: 480-483.

McCulloch, G.; Irvine, K. 2004. Breeding of Greater and Lesser Flamingos at Sua Pan, Botswana, 1998-2001. Ostrich 75: 236-242.

Rose, P. M.; Scott, D. A. 1997. Waterfowl population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Simmons, R. E. 1996. Population declines, viable breeding areas, and management options for flamingos in southern Africa. Conservation Biology 10: 504-514.

Trolliet, B.; Fouquet, M. 2001. La population ouest-africaine du Flamant nain Phoeniconaias minor: effectifs, répartition et isolement. Malimbus 23: 87-92.

Trolliet, B.; Fouquet, M.; Keia, N. 2007. Statut du Flamant nain (Phoeniconaias minor) en Afrique de l'Ouest. Ostrich 78(2): 512.

Wetlands International. 2002. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Lesser Flamingo International Working Group

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Evans, M., Mahood, S., Malpas, L., O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Robertson, P., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J

Anderson, M.D., Bennun, L., Childress, B., Hawkins, F., Simmons, R. & Tyler, S.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Phoeniconaias minor. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

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To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Lesser flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos)
Species name author (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1798)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 331,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change