Flamingo, Greater

Greater Flamingo

Flamingo, Greater

Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus roseus ruber

Status: Least Concern

Habitat: Tropical forests of Central America

Diet: These filter feeders use specialized beaks to strain a variety of small arthropods from waterways

Height: 5 feet

Weight: 8–9 pounds

Wingspan: 5.5 feet

The knobby “backward knees” on the flamingo’s legs actually correspond to an ankle. A long foot bone extends down to the four toes, the front three of which are webbed.

The greater flamingo is the largest and most widespread of all flamingo species.

In zoos, flamingos are fed a special diet containing canthaxanthin in order to maintain their distinctive color.

Flamingos are extremely gregarious birds with some flocks consisting of 200,000 paired birds. They breed in huge colonies, sometimes on islands in shallow water to minimize disturbance. Each monogamous pair builds a cylindrical mud nest into which the female lays a single egg that both parents incubate alternately, and which hatches in about four weeks. The chick is fed “crop milk” produced by both parents. The crop is basically an expandable muscular pouch near throat—an extension of the esophagus. It is used to store excess food for later digestion, and in some bird species, the crop secretes a nutritious liquid that parents can regurgitate to feed their offspring. After about one month the chick begins to eat solid food. Since the adult coloration depends on diet, the chicks remain gray until they transition to solid food. It takes about two years for them to reach their full adult coloration.

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