The greater flamingo is one of the world’s most recognizable birds. Their body is covered mostly with pink feathers though some may be a whitish pink. Under the wings are black flight feathers.
Greater flamingoes have long pink legs. In the middle of the leg is a joint which appears to be the knee but is actually the ankle. At the end of these the feet feature webbing between each of the three front facing toes. The back facing toe is either small or missing.
Their large pink bill is curved downwards and ends with a black tip.
They have yellow eyes surrounded by a narrow pink ring.
The greater flamingo is the largest flamingo species. They stand 1.5m (5ft) tall and weigh up to 4kg (8.25lbs).
Greater flamingoes are omnivores. They have a varied diet made up of insects, worms, algae, seeds, decaying leaves and vegetation. In some parts of their range they eat rice.
Their food provides the bright coloration. This comes from the shrimplike crustaceans in their diet.
They feed in the water using their bill. Their bill acts like a sieve and is placed upside down in the water to feed. The inside of the bill has rows of plates with tiny hairs which filter the food out of the water.
Average 20-30 years
Record 83 years
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Greater flamingoes have a wide range across Africa, Europe and Asia.
A full list of countries they can be found in is, Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Comoros, Congo, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Réunion, Romania, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tanzania, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Western Sahara, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
They make their home in wetlands spending their time in the shallow bodies of water such as saline lagoons, estuaries and lakes.
With the expansion of human habitations they can be found in sewage treatment plants and rice fields.
Breeding occurs at the same time within a colony and typically coincides with spring. Due to their large range the timing of breeding will vary by location.
In some areas they will have years where their water sources are dry and food is so scarce that they choose not to breed.
Greater flamingoes typically change their mate each year. They will display prior to the breeding season with larger displays of their preening and wing stretching behaviors.
In most of their range the nest if formed from mud and is a shallow depression. In areas where there is no mud they will form the nest from debris such as stones.
Following a successful mating the pair will produce a single egg though on rare occasions two may be laid. Pairs take it in turns to incubate the egg and the other will feed when it is not their turn. If the parents find that the area in which they have chosen to nest lacks food they will abandon the egg and find a new nest site. This incubation will take 27-31 days.
The chick is fed crop milk which is regurgitated by the parents. For the first few days of the chicks life the parents will brood it. After this it is moved to a crèche with other chicks from the flock.
The age at fledging varies greatly between 65 and 90 days.
Sexual maturity is reached between 5 and 6 years old.
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Greater flamingoes form a group which can be called a colony or flock. These groups can number in to the thousands.
A flock of flamingoes will be on the move for much of the year travelling between areas which have enough resources to sustain the large numbers of birds.
On occasion they will form a mixed flock with other flamingo species such as the lesser flamingo.
Groups of flamingoes will communicate through vocalizations and visual methods. Their vocalizations include a noisy cackle and a low murmur. They are incredibly vocal.
Greater flamingoes are able to fly and are noticeable in the air with their long neck extended and their legs stretched out behind them. They take off by running and beating their wings.
They are able to swim.
When resting they will stand in their well known pose, on one leg with the head tucked against the body.
Predators and Threats
Adult flamingoes are too large to face regular predation. Eggs and chicks face predation from other birds such as gulls and the marabou stork.
Both adult birds and eggs are hunted in parts of their range.
Human activities and tourism near nest sites leads to an increase in nest abandonment. They also suffer from lead poisoning and collisions with power lines.
Low water levels near their nesting sites can also lead to a decrease in reproductive output.
The oldest flamingo in the world lived at Adelaide Zoo in Australia. She was at least 83 years old when she passed away.
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Andrea Schaffer from Sydney, Australia / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
Christian Ferrer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
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