West Coast National Park – Greater Flamingo- 19

The greater flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus, is the most widespread and significant species of the flamingo family. It is found in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and southern Europe.

Adult greater flamingos have few natural predators. Eggs and chicks may be eaten by raptors, crows, gulls, and the marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer); an estimated half of the predation of greater flamingo eggs and chicks is from the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis)

The primary threats to flamingo populations are bacteria, toxins, and pollution in water supplies, which is usually run-off from manufacturing companies, and encroachment on their habitat.


The greater flamingo is the largest living species, averaging 110–150 cm (43–59 in) tall and weighing 2–4 kg (4.4–8.8 lb). The largest male flamingos have been recorded at up to 187 cm (74 in) tall and 4.5 kg (9.9 lb).

Most plumage is pinkish-white, but the wing coverts are red, and the primary and secondary flight feathers are black. The bill is pink with a restricted black tip, and the legs are entirely pink. The call is a goose-like honking.

Chicks are covered in fluffy gray down. Subadult flamingos are paler with dark legs. Adults feeding chicks also become paler but retain the bright pink legs. The coloration comes from the carotenoid pigments in the organisms that live in their feeding grounds. Secretions of the uropygial gland also contain carotenoids.

During the breeding season, greater flamingos increase the frequency of spreading uropygial secretions over their feathers, enhancing their color. This cosmetic use of uropygial secretions has been described as applying “make-up.”


The greater flamingo resides in mudflats and shallow coastal lagoons with salt water. Using its feet, the bird stirs up the mud, then sucks water through its bill and filters out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms, and mollusks. The greater flamingo feeds with its head down, and its upper jaw is movable and not rigidly fixed to its skull.

Like all flamingos, this species lays a chalky-white egg on a mud mound.

Greater Flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus, Seeberg Bird Hide, West Coast National Park, South Africa

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