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Fun facts about the Flamingo

Flamingos in Lake Nakuru

The Marabou stork was definitely out of place. No one could miss this gigantic strange-looking bird with its crop hanging down the neck. This only added to the beauty of this natural reserve, Lake Nakuru.

Lake Nakuru national park is located in the Rift Valley and  is a small, shallow, alkaline-saline lake located in a closed basin without outlets. This creates a very Alkaline environment in this basin and its waters. The alkaline water and warm environment provides perfect growing grounds for the blue-green algae that flamingos feed on.

Lake Nakuru is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Kenya due to its spectacular wildlife sight, a paradise to all especially ornithologists. It was declared a national park in 1961 and it now covers an area of 200 km². It is a home to several species of wildlife in addition to the millions of flamingos and hundreds of bird species.

Flamingos

Flamingoes are the main attraction of this lake and their brilliant pink extend as far as the eye can see.

Standing at 40 inches, they have long legs that enable them to wader and feed in the warm muddy waters of the lake.

Their main diet is the blue green-algae (Spirulina plantensis) that grow in the alkaline waters with pH concentration of between 10.4-10.5. With the deep-keeled bill they filter the top waters for the algae and other fine particles. Their pinkish or reddish color comes from the rich sources of carotenoid pigments in the algae and small crustaceans that they eat. Their long legs and neck are especially noticeable as they are longer than in any other bird to relation to the body size.

However, even though flamingos can withstand pH levels as high as 10.5, they do need to wash in clean water in order to rinse the soda off. The soda can dry and form clumps on their feathers and hold them from flying. Same case goes for drinking water.

Lake Nakuru is a haven for both greater and lesser flamingos. Both are gregarious forming big crowds all over the lake. Only the keen eye will notice the small differences in plumage color and bill, but your guide will definitely show you what to look for.

During courtship, a group of up to 10 individuals hold their heads and neck high and call to one another. Then they move the head side to side. Over the next several minutes, the rhythm increases and other members join in the frenzy which can reach up to 50 individuals. It is one of the magnificent displays that no one needs to be a birder to enjoy. They then march forward for a few meters and back, open their wings and bow in salute. This show will be repeated about 6 times. At the end of it, pairs will stand side by side in a ‘kiss’ position, their beaks touching.

A flamingo’s nest is a mound of mud about one foot high (12 inches). The mound’s purpose is to protect the egg from being washed away by the gentle currents of the lake especially in windy and hot days

The female lays a single egg and both partners take turn to incubate for the next 28-30 days.

After incubation period, the new gray chicks are welcomed to this world and stays in the nest for the first 10 to 12 days. The chick has pink bill and legs but within a few days, up to a week they turn black. All the parents know their offspring by voice and feeds them with a blood-red secretion formed by glands in the upper digestive tract.

After the chicks leave nests, they stay together in crèches. They are however able to fly and swim from an early age. It is interesting to note that flamingos have few enemies as the conditions that they in are usually inhospitable for the predators and large birds of prey. In Lake Nakuru however I have had a few occasions that hyenas have been able to prey on them.

During flight they follow each other closely, using a variety of formations that help them take advantage of the wind patterns and maintain their bonds of togetherness.

Lake Nakuru is great for a family weekend outing or simply a stop over enroute to other destinations, especially because of its central location.

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