Phoenicopterus rubber, also known as the greater flamingo, is the tallest of all flamingos. Standing at about 36 to 57 inches (91 to 145 cm) tall, with the males being larger than the females, and a wingspan of roughly 60 inches these are good-sized birds. Despite their height, greater flamingos are not very heavy, weighing in at around 4.6 to 9 lbs (2.1 to 3.4 kg). They may not look it, but these creatures are both good fliers and swimmers making it easy for them to adapt to whatever environment they may reside.
Greater flamingos can be found in colonies in many places around the world. From Europe, to Africa, to Asia and even the Americas, it is clear that these birds are wide spread. They can mostly be found in places like estuaries and both alkaline and saline lakes. Those that breed far in the north of Europe and Asia will migrate south in the fall and fly back come spring time. The majority however, will just move in flocks as the water level changes during the rainy and dry seasons. More water means more food after all.
A greater flamingo’s diet is made up entirely of small creatures such as plankton, fly larvae, tiny fish, snails, brine shrimp, seeds, algae, and even diatoms. When in shallow water or muddy flats, they get to their food by first stirring up the bottom using their webbed feet. They will then stick their bills or even their entire head into the mud and suck up water and mud alike. They then remove the water and mud while keeping their prey using their beak which has a filterlike structure. In fact it is the shrimplike crustaceans that give the flamingos there pink color. Without them, they are merely white with some pinkish-red coloring on their wings.
Mating season for the greater flamingo can be difficult. If food and water is scarce they will either move to another mating spot or not mate at all. When everything is right however, they mate in pairs and the female will usually lay one egg. Some build nests while others simply lay them on the ground. Both parents take turns sitting on the egg and keeping it warm. After about a month the baby chick (a gray and white color) hatches. It is fed a red liquid that the parents make in their throats. After four weeks, the baby is given regurgitated food for another six to eight weeks at which time it can fly and fend for itself. If the mating spot is very good, the parents may raise another chick right after the first one.
It is these unusual breeding habits that makes keeping track of the greater flamingo’s world population a challenge. While their numbers are down in the Caribbean, they are in fact growing in southwestern Europe. As of now however, the greater flamingo is not threatened and hopefully it stays that way. After all, these pink birds are unique and deserve to be respected.
“Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus rubber)” 15 October 2010
“Greater Flamingo” 15 October 2010
“Flamingos: Phoenicopteiformes-Greater Flamingo (phoenicopterus Ruber): Species Account”