Lesser and Greater Flamingos often co-habit, making it harder to tell them apart. But here are some helpful hints on how to spot the difference.
Personally, I have a problem with the term “lesser”. I mean would you like to be referred to as “lesser Dave”? “Oh, there goes greater Sue. No wait, it’s lesser Sue.” Those are the terms used to describe the most common and smallest flamingo species and its bigger counterpart.
You also might like: Hop on a birding tour with one of SA’s top guides
So, what are the differences between the Lesser Flamingo and its grander, Greater Flamingo cousin?
Let’s start with the bill, which is the easiest way to spot the difference. The Greater Flamingo has a lighter pink bill, as opposed to the Lesser Flamingo, which has a dark crimson bill. Both have a black tip.
2. Size Counts
As the name suggests, the Greater Flamingo is a larger bird (although can be mistaken for a Lesser Flamingo on size alone when young or female). The Lesser Flamingos reach a height of around 80 to 90 cm while the Greater Flamingo can reach 110 t0 150 cm, although males have been recorded as large as 187cm tall.
3. Pretty in Pink
As for the plumage, the Greater Flamingo is prettier and more dramatic (in my opinion), being pinkish-white with red wing coverts and having black primary and secondary flight feathers. While both species are pinkish-white, the Greater Flamingo is generally more contrasting and lighter in colour than the lesser flamingo.
Less is more in the world of flamingos, in that Lesser Flamingos are found in greater quantities, although they are still classified as “Near Threatened,” by the IUCN. The Greater Flamingo is still classified as being of “Least Concern.”
You also might like: The Fearless Honeybadger
5. Eye of the Beholder
When it comes to the colour of their eyes, the Greater Flamingos’ eyes are yellow, whilst the Lesser Flamingo has red eyes.
That should help next time you’re near a salt plan and wondering who’s who in the mudflat zoo.
Words Ann Gadd