Flamingos fly across a lake of multicoloured swirls in the Great Rift valley in this shot by US photographer Phillip Chang
17 June 2020
Phillip Chang/Solent News/Shutterstock
A FLOCK of flamingos flies across this otherworldly background in the Great Rift valley.
Phillip Chang, an amateur photographer from the US, took this shot from a helicopter about 150 metres above Lake Magadi in Kenya. The lake is alkaline because of sodium carbonate emerging from hot springs in its bed.
The coloured swirls are due to mineral disturbance. “It was the rainy season, so the water was deeper than normal,” says Chang. “The colours were created by the quartz or siliceous chert and debris floating on top of the water.”
Flamingos develop their signature pink plumage thanks to carotenoid pigments in the algae and invertebrates they feed on. Rosier feathers are a sign of good health and attract mates.
A recent study by Laura Soole at University Centre Sparsholt, UK, and Paul Rose at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, a wildlife sanctuary in Gloucestershire, UK, found that flamingos’ colour can also give an indication of their aggression (Ethology, doi.org/dzbj).
The pinker flamingos at the sanctuary tend to be more likely to initiate fights over food than their paler counterparts. The pair say that, in the wild, this behaviour may help flamingos compete with the hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of other birds found on the shores of alkaline lakes in sub-Saharan Africa.
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