Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)

Greater Flamingo

[order] Phoenicopteriformes | [family] Phoenicopteridae | [latin] Phoenicopterus ruber | [UK] Greater Flamingo | [FR] Flamant rose | [DE] Flamingo | [ES] Flamenco comun | [IT] Fenicottero | [NL] Flamingo


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Greater flamingos are the largest species of flamingo. Most greater flamingo adults are white with a little pink in color, but those living in the Caribbean area are rosy red (the color depends on the food they eat). Their flight feathers are black and their bills are pink with a black tip. They are between 1.2 to 1.5 meters long from bill tip to tail. The males are larger than the females.

Listen to the sound of Greater Flamingo

[audio: Flamingo.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 126 cm wingspan max.: 156 cm
size min.: 90 cm size max.: 120 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 31 days
fledging min.: 65 days fledging max.: 90 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Greater flamingos live mostly near the seacoasts and on islands in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Europe. There are some big inland populations in eastern Africa and Pakistan. Greater flamingos sometimes visit the Florida Keys and other places in southeastern United States. In suriname no breeding has been recorded, although sone stray eggs were found. These birds are confined to the coastal plains, mostly observed in small flocks.


Greater flamingos usually breed on islands or along the shores of large lakes, but they can feed in a large variety of shallow lakes and lagoons, either inland or coastal. The bodies of water are usually salty, but some greater flamingos also feed in fresh water or in rice fields.


The greater flamingos that breed the farthest north in Europe and Asia migrate south in fall and fly north again in spring. But most of these birds do not migrate. Instead, they move around in huge flocks as the water levels change during rainy and dry seasons.
If the conditions are not just right at a breeding lake, the flamingos may not breed at all. Or they might all go off and find a new place to breed. If a breeding site is exceptionally good, the birds may raise two chicks in the same year, one right after the other.

When a pair of greater flamingos builds a mud nest, both help with the job. If they nest on a rocky island, however, the female lays her one egg on the ground. The parents take turns sitting on the egg for about a month. When the chick hatches, they feed it a nourishing red liquid that they make in their throats. The chicks bark like puppies when they want to be fed. Parents know their young by their voices and will feed no other chicks, even when the young are gathered in groups. The parents feed them the red liquid meals for four weeks, and then they start to feed them food that they regurgitate (cough up) from their stomachs. By the age of ten to twelve weeks, the young birds can fly off and feed themselves.

Feeding habits

Greater flamingos sweep their heads upside down in shallow water and pump the water in and out of their bills with their tongues. Small water organisms get sucked into their mouths between the comblike bristles in their bills. Their food includes insects, brine shrimp, snails, seeds, algae, and diatoms.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 330,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 850,000-880,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but populations appear to be stable (Raffaele et al. 1998) so the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Greater Flamingo status Least Concern


Partially migratory and dispersive. North populations perform fairly regular migrations, hardly ever involving whole population. Complex pattern in West Mediterranean, but quite well known. Some records of movement between discrete populations. Migration apparently by night, with birds covering about 500-600 km per night between staging sites. In warmer climates dispersive, after breeding or in response to adverse climatic conditions. Daily movements during breeding between Bonaire Venezuela and suriname(?), and in search of food. The small Galapagos population is sedentary.

Distribution map

Greater Flamingo range map


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