At the Animal Kingdom last weekend I encountered the Lesser Flamingo; the red-eyed, black beaked cousins of the colorful birds that have come to symbolize the state of Florida. While the American (Caribbean) Flamingo can be seen in theme parks and roadside attractions throughout the state, this was my first experience with the Lesser Flamingos who are native to Africa. There are six varieties of flamingos, three are native to Africa and three are native to South and Central America. The Lesser Flamingo habitat ranges from southwestern Africa to India and as far north as Spain.
The more familiar American or Caribbean Flamingo at Silver Springs
The color of flamingos vary from a light pink to a dark reddish salmon color due to their diet which is high in Beta Carotene. The Lessers we saw at the Disney park were more pale in coloration than their Caribbean counterparts we saw at Silver Springs a month earlier, but their eerie red eyes and odd behaviors made them just as striking. Although I don't remember seeing this variety before, flamingo-world.com says Lessers are the most common of all flamingos and the type that you are most likely to see in captivity. Despite their impressive numbers the population of the Lesser Flamingo is decreasing as floods, droughts and pollution are taking a toll on the ability these incredible birds have to survive in the wild.