Flamingos show individuality

May 16, 2003

Researchers have found that flamingos are far more individual than anyone had imagined.

The movements and habits of four individuals from the most endangered variety, the "lesser flamingo", Phoeniconaias minor, have been tracked.

They were equipped with tiny backpack satellite transmitters by Leicester University biologists.

The pilot study has confounded popular theories about the lesser flamingo's behaviour and favourite habitats. One of the birds, Imara, has not stayed in the same place around the feeding lakes of East Africa for more than three days.

David Harper, a senior ecology lecturer at Leicester, who is helping to coordinate the project, said: "This degree of mobility was unheard of. It must be either to do with the personality of the bird or the group behaviour of flocks."

Another bird, Bahati, has stayed put at the same wetlands in Tanzania for several months. The surprising thing about this is that the wetlands are fresh water, rather than the soda lakes where lesser flamingos usually eat and breed.

The species has been classified as endangered because it was thought to be dependent on the soda lake environment.

Details: www.wwt.org.uk/flamingo_dev/lesser.asp

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