Phoeniconaias minor


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Phoeniconaias minor
Species Authority: (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1798)
Common Name(s):
English Lesser Flamingo
French Petit flamant, Flamant nain
Spanish Flamenco Enano
Phoenicopterus minor BirdLife International (2000)
Phoenicopterus minor BirdLife International (2004)
Phoenicopterus minor BirdLife International (2006)
Phoenicopterus minor AERC TAC (2003)
Phoenicopterus minor Cramp and Simmons (1977-1994)
Phoenicopterus minor Dowsett and Forbes-Watson (1993)
Phoenicopterus minor Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993)
Phoenicopterus minor minor Collar et al. (1994)
Taxonomic Notes: 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.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Anderson, M.D., Bennun, L., Childress, B., Hawkins, F., Simmons, R. & Tyler, S.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Evans, M., Mahood, S., Malpas, L., O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Robertson, P., Taylor, J.
This species is classified as Near Threatened because populations appear to be undergoing a moderately rapid decline. 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.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: 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).

Angola (Angola); Botswana; Burundi; Cameroon; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; India; Kenya; Lesotho; Madagascar; Malawi; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Pakistan; Senegal; Sierra Leone; South Africa; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Afghanistan; Chad; Comoros; Egypt; Ghana; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Mauritius; Morocco; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Réunion; Rwanda; Sao Tomé and Principe; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; Spain; Sri Lanka; Swaziland; United Arab Emirates
Present - origin uncertain:
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: 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.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: 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).

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): 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 [top]

Conservation Actions: 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.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Phoeniconaias minor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 01 September 2015.
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