Everybody must know what these birds look like – pink birds with long necks and pink legs. There are five species found throughout the world, some occurring high up in the Andes Mountains of South America, others in the Caribbean, Southern Europe to India and throughout most of Africa. We have two species in South Africa: the Greater and the Lesser Flamingo. We will not see them in the Eastern Free State since these birds occur over the whole of South Africa except Eastern Free State, Lesotho and

Valentine’s Day is the theme for Speckled Bean’s February issue. Pink would seem to be an appropriate colour for this, and that suggests Flamingos with their pink and white and red colouring as a suitable bird for this purpose. Everybody must know what these birds look like – pink birds with long necks and pink legs. There are five species found throughout the world, some occurring high up in the Andes Mountains of South America, others in the Caribbean, Southern Europe to India and throughout most of Africa. We have two species in South Africa: the Greater and the Lesser Flamingo. We will not see them in the Eastern Free State since these birds occur over the whole of South Africa except Eastern Free State, Lesotho and Drakensberg. They like the saline or brak waters of pans in Western Free State and Buktfontein is a good place to see them and other water birds. They are gregarious and occur in large flocks of thousands of birds in pink masses along the shores of lakes and pans or even dams. It is indeed a wondrous sight to see these birds in their millions alongside the shores of lakes in Kenya which was once my privilege to have experienced. Incidentally, a group of flamingos is known as a ‘pat’ Ornithologists have not been able to agree on the classification of flamingos and so have left them in a family of their own. Greater and Lesser Flamingos live and feed together. The Lesser is pinker and smaller than the Greater. It has a dark red bill as opposed to the pink bill of the Greater. They both feed by wading into the water with bills upside down in the water to filter out small organisms as they sway their heads from side to side, holding their breath while feeding under water. The Lesser feeds entirely on algae and diadems, whereas the Greater eats ‘small aquatic invertebrates, detritus and microscopic algae’ {Roberts} They both stamp the mud to stir up food. “A flamingo’s pink or reddish colour comes from its diet, which is high in alpha and beta-carotene’ {The Wild Ones} Flamingos may swim while feeding but they do not seem to dive. They do fly, with neck stretched out and legs trailing behind.

References: Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. www.swbg-adventure camps.com

Author: Craig Walters

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