Where Is the World's Biggest Flamingo Population?

flamingo population
Photo by KirillDorofeev/Shutterstock.com

Flamingos can be found on multiple continents, in several counties, and in different biomes across the globe. But where is the biggest flamingo population?

The great heights of the Andes, the lagoons of East Africa, and the rivers of India are just a selection of the places flamingos call home. They’re not all living in one place. Flamingos are well spread out around the world.

Where Is the World's Biggest Flamingo Population?

It doesn’t seem as though there is a clear-cut answer to this question, but we can put some numbers together to come up with an educated guess.

All flamingos live in tropical and subtropical areas, and those exist in a wide range of places on earth. The bird can be found in every continent in the world, except Australia and Antarctica, illustrating its wide-spread population. There are six species of flamingo - American, James’ (Puna), Chilean, greater, lesser, and Andean - and they each have differing population numbers and home bases.

Some, like the James’ flamingos, are most restricted in where they live, which keeps their population growth limited. Others, like the lesser flamingo, can be found in many more areas, allowing for their population to boom, at least relatively.

Lesser flamingos are the smallest species of the bird in stature, but they’re the biggest in numbers. It was estimated that about 3.24 million of them resided on earth in 2020, with lesser flamingos mostly living in Africa, specifically the eastern and southern portions of the continent, as well as in Africa’s west, India, and Pakistan.

With the lesser flamingo population dwarfing all other species of the fowl (the next-most populated species is the greater flamingo at 680,000), it’s a pretty good guess that wherever lesser flamingos really love to live is where you can find the biggest population of the beautiful bird.

Where Do Lesser Flamingos Call Home?

Lesser flamingos in the Namib Desert
Lesser flamingos in the Namib Desert - Photo by Pyty/Shutterstock.com

As explained, lesser flamingos like to live in the Indian subcontinent and Africa. More specifically, eastern and southern Africa host large numbers of this flamingo species.

Even more specifically, the East African Rift Valley seems to be a massively popular place for lesser flamingos to congregate, with their largest flocks preferring that region. The central section of the East African Rift Valley is particularly the epicenter for lesser flamingo activity.

Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia make up this area, and a handful of lakes in those countries are often teeming with lesser flamingo life. Kenya’s Lake Bogoria, Tanzania’s Lake Natron, and Ethiopia’s Lake Rudolf are just a few of the bodies of water these flamingos are known to flock to in the hundreds of thousands.

To get even more specific, Lake Natron is home to more than 75 percent of lesser flamingo breeding activities. This offers us a pretty good guess as to where the biggest flamingo population in the world can be found, at least during the breeding season, with more than 2 million of them coming to the lake to do the deed.

Lake Natron

Lake Natron is incredibly dangerous for most of the world’s life, but not flamingos.

The alkaline water in the lake has a pH as high as 10.5, which is roughly on par with an ammonia solution. That means it has the power to burn the eyes and skin off of an animal that isn’t ready for that much base.

That’s not to say nothing lives there, but you won’t see as many fish swimming in the water and birds floating atop the surface as you might in other lakes around the globe. But you will find flamingos there, and plenty of them, too.

Flamingos can drink boiling water and are otherwise built to survive in extreme conditions. The bird is often viewed as a dainty and fragile creature by people who don’t know, but the truth is that flamingos are anything but.

Lake Natron offers flamingos a place to feed, a place to hang out, and a place to breed that is otherwise uninhabitable by most other living things. That means no real threat of predators, a wonderful thing for a flamboyance of flamingos to bask in.

Flamboyance at Lake Natron
Flamboyance at Lake Natron - Photo by DanitaDelimont/Shutterstock.com

So, if you want to see the biggest flamingo population in the world, you’ll probably want to take a trip to Tanzania to see Lake Natron. But be forewarned: just because the lake is well-suited for the fabulous fowl doesn’t mean it’s the best place for human beings to be milling about.

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