Satellite tracking Lesser Flamingo movements in the Rift Valley, East Africa: pilot study report
AbstractThe Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) is thought to be highly nomadic. In East Africa, the number of individuals on a given lake has been shown to double or halve in a period of just two weeks. In general, interlake movements are believed to take place mostly at night. However, movement timing and patterns for individual birds are unknown. Between 12 and 23 October 2002, we affixed two solar-powered and two battery-powered satellite transmitters (PTTs) to four large (>2kg) adult male Lesser Flamingos at Lake Bogoria, Kenya. During the first three months, the four birds exhibited markedly different movement patterns. One moved 687km, making seven visits to four different lakes (mean stay: 11.4d). Another made five visits to only three different lakes (mean stay: 18.5 days), travelling only 263km. On two occasions, it remained on one lake for long periods (34 days and 70 days). A third moved among lakes in Kenya and Tanzania 44 times, visiting nine different lakes, spending an average of only 2.3 days at each and travelling a total of 4 792km in the process. The fourth is believed to have been predated on Lake Bogoria at the end of the first month. During the last six months of the study, the most active bird settled down and the behaviour of the three remaining birds was much more similar. They each spent long periods of time (e.g. 45–137d) at just one or two sites. During the study period, one bird made several short (21–81km) interlake flights during daylight hours. Flight speed was estimated to be approximately 68km h–1 during the only flight when speed could be calculated. Both solar-powered PTTs functioned well; light reaching the solar panels was not impaired by feathers or dried mineral crystals, both initial concerns. The solar-powered PTT with a pre-set ‘on/off' duty cycle performed much better than the other with no pre-set duty cycle, indicating that small solar-powered units need substantial ‘off' time to recharge their batteries, even in areas with 12h of sunlight daily. The key site network for Lesser Flamingos in East Africa consists of seven alkaline lakes in Kenya and Tanzania (Logipi, Bogoria, Nakuru, Elmenteita, Natron, Manyara and Eyasi) and an ephemeral fresh water wetland in central Tanzania (Bahi Swamp). The conservation status of these eight sites varies from well-protected (lakes Bogoria, Nakuru and Manyara) to completely unprotected (Logipi, Natron, Eyasi and Bahi Swamp), with Elmenteita being partially protected.
Ostrich 2004, 75(1&2): 57–65