Thousands of lesser flamingos have flocked to Tanzania’s Lake Natron to begin nesting. Early reports suggest that this could become the most significant breeding event since 2007, but the flamingos’ breeding success will depend on a combination of environmental factors.
Three-quarters of the world population of lesser flamingos (Hoenicopterus minor) live in East Africa and use Lake Natron as their nesting site.
Ms Ward, a PhD research student studying the relationship between East African lakes and lesser flamingo populations at the university’s Institute of Complex Systems Simulation (ICSS) and geography departments, explains: “Large breeding events involving over a million [lesser] flamingos are not unusual if conditions at Lake Natron are suitable and if the flamingos are in good health,”
East Africa’s lesser flamingos are nomadic and feed in a chain of alkaline soda lakes along the Rift Valley but Lake Natron is the only significant nesting site.
Islands on the huge, shallow soda lake are so inaccessible that researchers’ observations of breeding lesser flamingos and their numbers can often only be made from aircraft, or from sightings of young flamingos at other lakes after they have fledged.
While it is difficult to monitor numbers, initial reports estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of birds, meaning this could be the most significant breeding attempt since 2007. A 700,000-strong group of birds that has recently left Lake Bogoria, Kenya, is also thought to have headed to the Lake Natron breeding ground.
The success of flamingo breeding events is largely dependent on the availability of food and the right amount of rainfall on the lake. Some years, the flamingos only breed in very low numbers or not at all.
Low water levels caused by drought is thought to be why so few flamingos have bred at the site in recent years.
According to Ms. Ward,
“When the water level is just right, salt islands are exposed in the centre of Lake Natron where the flamingos can build their nests and raise their young with little disturbance from outside. When water levels are too low, “predators like hyena can reach the nests and cause large numbers of flamingos to desert their nests,”
I took the liberty of hunting a video of the flamingos’ mating dance so you can see one of nature’s most amazing spectacles 😀
I know it looks a bit silly, but it really does happen like this. Now you know. You’re welcome.