Lake Nakuru Flamingos are the top attraction in Lake Nakuru National Park which is one of the top destinations for tourists on safari to Kenya. The pink birds are almost the first thing that you see when you get to the National Park and can be seen throughout the year. No one has a record of when the pink birds were first seen along Lake Nakuru and it is believed that they have always been there. There are about 6 different species of flamingos that are found all over the world with two of these found in Africa and these are the Lesser Flamingo and the greater flamingo. About eight years ago, Lake Nakuru’s water levels were on the rise and this led to the migration of many of the birds to other salty or alkaline Lakes because Nakuru was losing its alkalinity. They are however currently back and tourists can see them at any time of the year.
The lesser flamingo
The Lesser Flamingo is the smallest among the flamingo family and it has the largest number of birds among the flamingo birds. They reach maturity at the age of 2 years and can reach about 3 feet tall with a weight of 4 pounds. Note that the male lesser flamingos are slightly taller than the female and they are always black tips on their feathers which can only be seen when the birds open up the feathers. Their pink and white colouring is usually caused by the food that the birds feed on.
The lesser flamingos usually feed on small insects, green and blue algae and other small organisms that live within the Lake. They are known to spend about 20% of their time feeding and this keeps them busy throughout each day if you are to look closely at their beaks, they also have a black colouring at the tip of the beak.
The greater flamingo
The Greater flamingos are the largest bird species among the flamingo birds and the main difference between the lesser flamingo and the greater flamingo is the colouring. The greater flamingos are darker in colour as compared to the lesser flamingos and are fatter.
They both reproduce using eggs that they protect by hovering slightly above the nest so that it is not washed away when there are floods, they can live up to 50 years and are mainly affected by the ever-increasing population of humans that poach the birds and collect their eggs, predators and vultures or eagles that keep on eating their eggs. This has greatly reduced the number of lesser flamingos in the country.
Flamingos are wading birds with webbed feet that are good at swimming but are rarely seen swimming because they normally stick to the shallow and muddy waters where they get the food that they feed on. They are scientifically known as the Phoenicopterus which is loosely translated as ‘blood red feathered’. They can easily be spotted due to their unique pink colouring, black-tipped beaks, black spots at the end of their feathers, long stilt legs and their s-shaped necks.
Reproduction of the pink flamingos
The male flamingos are attracted to the female depending on how bright the pink colour is the brighter the pink, the more the attraction. It has also been said that all flamingos that have a dull pink are considered to be malnourished and the ones that have a bright pink are the healthy ones. After mating, the female lays eggs which are incubated by both the male and female flamingos. They are hatched after 30 days. The young ones are fed on crop milk that helps them develop faster and they are considered to be mature and healthy at 12 weeks.
Factors affecting the Nakuru flamingos
The flamingos are graceful birds that have been threatened by different things that have led to their reduction in the number and these include the following:
A change in weather and climate affects the presence of the flamingos around Lake Nakuru. Few flamingos are seen at the Lake during the wet season because of the high water levels Lake but immediately after the rainy season, the birds flock to the Lake.
The alkalinity of the Lake also affects the number of flamingos around the Lake. For example, around 2014, the water levels of the Lake increased and this made it nearly impossible for the flamingos to get to the algae that they normally feed on and the alkalinity of the water also reduced. This forced large flocks of flamingos to migrate to other areas because Lake Nakuru had lost its alkalinity. Currently, the birds are back and even though they are not as many as they used to be, they are still many and can be seen throughout the year.
Best time to go see the flamingos
The dry season right before the rains set in has fewer flamingos and this is because there are fewer blue algae that the birds feed on and this leads to the migration of the flamingos to other alkaline water bodies where food is in plenty. The less food found on the Lake does not mean that all the birds migrate because a few of them stay around the Lake making it easy to easy them throughout the year.
Immediately after the rainy season, the birds can easily be seen along Lake Nakuru and in large numbers making it the best time for flamingo watching in Nakuru. You should however note that these birds can be seen all year round. We however believe the best time to go for flamingo watching in Nakuru is during January, February, July, August and September.
Other birds that you can find at the Lake Nakuru National Park include European Roller, Maccoa Duck, Pallid Harrier, crowned Eagle, black-tailed Godwit, Great snipe, Egyptian goose, Coqui Francolin, Eastern imperial eagle, grey-headed woodpecker, Abyssinian thrush, Black-winged Lapwing, Arrow marked babblers, Northern vulture, slender-billed Greenbuls, Rupell’s robin-chat, sooty falcon, brimstone canary, red-capped lark, Grey-crested helmet-shrike, Kenya Rufous sparrow, eastern imperial eagle, Bateleur, white-headed vulture, shining sunbird, Northern puff back, Montane white-eye and the Lesser kestrel among others.