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Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo Range Map (C & S America, Caribbean, SW Europe, Asia & Africa)
Greater Flamingo Range Map (C & S America, Caribbean, SW Europe, Asia & Africa)
Latin Name Phoenicopterus roseus
Conservation Status Least Concern
Location C & S America, Caribbean, SW Europe, Asia & Africa
Colour Pinkish/White
Height 1.5 m (5 ft)
Wingspan 1.4 - 1.7 m (4.5 - 5.5 ft)
Weight Up to 4 Kgs (8.75 lbs)
Life Expectancy Up to 40 Yrs

Main Characteristics

Greater Flamingos are the largest member of the flamingo family and they are the most widespread. They stand at 1.5 m (5 ft) tall, they have a wingspan between 1.4 and 1.7 m (4.5 - 5.5 ft) and they weigh up to 4 Kgs (8.75 lbs).

They are pinkish white in colour but immature birds are grey before they get their full adult plumage. They have long, pink legs with relatively small webbed feet, and a very long neck.

Their large bill is downward curving and it is pink in colour with a black tip. They have narrow wings with their primary and secondary flight feathers being black in colour and their wing coverts being red.

Greater Flamingos are unmistakable in flight with their long, thin neck outstretched in front and their long legs outstretched behind them. Flocks form either long, trailing lines or irregular shapes whilst in flight.

Greater Flamingos have a loud, deep honking call that is similar to that of a goose. They call loudly during courtship but they have a quieter call while they are feeding.


Greater Flamingos are found in both freshwater and saltwater habitats of Central and South America, the Caribbean, south west Europe, Asia and Africa. They live on lakes, estuaries and lagoons and Greater Flamingos that live outside the tropics often migrate to warmer climates for the winter months.

They live in colonies but these range vastly in size. They can consist of thousands of birds, but in some areas such as the Galapagos Islands, they may only consist of a few dozen birds.


Greater Flamingos feed upon insects, worms, vegetation and algae. They mainly feed during the day and they sweep their bill upside down through shallow water picking up food as they go. They usually feed with their head fully immersed in water and they can remain that way for up to 20 seconds. They are filter feeders and their tongue pumps up and down, 5 - 6 times per second, pushing the water out of their beak.

Unlike smaller flamingos the Greater Flamingo rarely takes food from the surface of the water and because of its size it is able to wade out into deeper water to feed. Also they sometimes swim, upending like a duck to reach food.


Greater Flamingos breed in colonies of up to 200,000 monogamous pairs and after courtship rituals of synchronized dancing, preening, neck stretching and honking they mate during April and May.

They produce one chalky white egg that is laid on a mud mound in shallow water. The nest of each pair is situated approximately 1.5 m (4.9 ft) from neighbouring nests so the chick remains safe from other breeding pairs. Both parents incubate the egg which takes 27 - 31 days to hatch. They will defend their nest during the breeding season, otherwise they are non-territorial.

After the chick first hatches they are fed a substance called "crop milk" which comes from the parents' upper digestive tract. Either parent can feed the chick this way and other flamingos can act as foster feeders. When the chicks are old enough to walk they gather together in creches that are watched over by a few adult birds. By the time young flamingos reach 2 - 3 years of age they will have gained their full adult plumage.


Greater Flamingos have few natural predators however their eggs and chicks are preyed upon by other birds including the marabou stork.


There are no subspecies of the Greater Flamingo.

Interesting Facts

Greater Flamingos are closely related to the Caribbean Flamingo and the Chilean Flamingo.

Flamingo comes from the latin word for flame.

The flamingo's characteristic pink colouring is caused by the beta carotene in their diet.

Similar Birds

Caribbean Flamingo
Chilean Flamingo
Andean Flamingo
Lesser Flamingo
Puna Flamingo

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