Basic Information

Scientific Name Phoenicopterus roseus
Featured bird groups Seabirds Water birds
Phylum Chordata

The Greater Flamingo is one of the largest flamingos and occurs in the Old World. This long-legged and long-necked waterbird lives in saline or alkaline lakes, typically in densely packed congregations. This species is the most widespread and the palest of the six flamingos included in this family. The adult has soft pink to whitish-pink plumage overall, sometimes very white. However, upper and underwing coverts are coral-red. The flight feathers are black, and contrast strongly against the pale plumage. The head is similar in colour to the body plumage. Like other flamingos, the Greater Flamingo has well adapted bent bill, with numerous lamellae covering the edges and the inner parts of mandibles. The laterally flattened bill is pink, with black tip and cutting edges. The eyes are yellow, with narrow, pink eyering. The very long legs and the webbed feet are pink. Both sexes are similar, but the male is slightly larger with longer legs than the female. The juvenile is grey-brown with paler underparts. The bill is pale bluish-grey with black tip. The eyes are dark. Legs and feet are grey. The chick has straight bill and grey down.

Habitat

The Greater Flamingo frequents large, shallow, highly alkaline or saline inland lakes, saline lagoons and estuaries. In W Africa, it is found in sandbanks and mudflats. This species breeds on mudflats, sandbanks, open beaches and sandy or rocky islands in large waterbodies, sometimes on sandy islands of intertidal areas, especially in Mauritania. It rarely frequents freshwater areas, except for drinking and bathing.

Behaviour

The Greater Flamingo feeds on aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans, molluscs, annelids and insects (larvae and pupae). It also consumes plant matter such as seeds of marsh grasses, algae, diatoms and decaying leaves. It may occasionally take adult insects, crabs and small fish. It may ingest mud to extract organic matter such as micro-organisms. The Greater Flamingo often bathes in shallow fresh water and preens to remove the salt from its feathers. When resting, it usually stands on one leg, with the neck along the back and the head on its rump, but this position is variable.  The Greater Flamingo is partially migratory and dispersive. The populations of the northern parts of the range are fairly regular migrants. They migrate by night and these birds may travel about 500-600 kilometres per night. In more temperate climate, post breeding dispersions occur, sometimes closely related to weather conditions. The Greater Flamingo is a good flier, but it needs to run while beating its wings in order to take-off. The flight is graceful and agile, with wingbeats interspersed with short glides. Before the landing, the bird performs a longer glide and runs a few paces when touching the ground.

Voice

The Greater Flamingo’s typical call is a repeated, loud, goose-like honking “ka-ha” in flight. When feeding, it produces a softer, continuous babbling “kuk-kuk, ke-kuk, kuk-kuk…”  We can also hear short nasal grunts. Chicks are very vocal from the start.

Related Aves