Original Articles

East African flyway and key site network of the Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor) documented through satellite tracking


Abstract

In October 2002, four adult Lesser Flamingos were tagged at Lake Bogoria, Kenya: two with solar-powered platform transmitter terminals (PTTs) and two with battery-powered PTTs, one of which stopped transmitting after 38d. In July 2003, an additional four birds were tagged with solar-powered PTTs. During the first two years (November 2003–October 2004), flight patterns of the tagged birds were independent. Interlake flight distances ranged from 16–441km (mean: 111.5km, n = 243), 68.3% being less than 100km and 96% less than 300km. There was no significant difference among the birds in the median length of their interlake flights. The number of days spent at each stopover ranged from 0 (less than 1d) to 153d (mean: 14.4d, n = 250). There was a significant difference among the birds in the number of days spent at each stopover. This difference was due to one very active bird that made 133 interlake flights during the period, visiting 12 different sites, spending a mean 5.2d at each site and travelling 12 600km. There was no significant difference among the other six birds. The seven birds' flights were confined to a 940km north-south range within the Great Rift Valley between Lake Logipi in northern Kenya and Bahi Swamp in central Tanzania. Their key site network consisted of eight alkaline lakes (Logipi, Bogoria, Elmenteita, Nakuru, Natron, Empakai Crater Lake, Manyara and Eyasi), and Lake Bahi, a seasonal lake in central Tanzania. The conservation status of these nine sites varies from well-protected to completely unprotected. None of the birds appears to have bred during either the 2002–2003 or the 2003–2004 breeding seasons (October–January), although other Lesser Flamingos bred at Lake Natron during both seasons, Lake Natron being the only East African site where the Lesser Flamingo has bred successfully during the past 45 years.

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