The greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) is the most widespread and largest species of the flamingo family. It is found in Africa, on the Indian subcontinent, in the Middle East, and in southern Europe.
This is the largest species of flamingo, 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). It is closely related to the American flamingo and Chilean flamingo, with which it has sometimes been considered conspecific.
Like all flamingos, this species lays a single chalky-white egg on a mud mound. Most of the 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 grey fluffy 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 their spreading uropygial secretions over their feathers and thereby enhance their color. This cosmetic use of uropygial secretions has been described as applying "make-up".
The bird 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.
It is found in parts of Africa, southern Asia (Bangladesh and coastal regions of Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka), the Middle East (Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain) and southern Europe (including Spain, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Italy, and the Camargue region of France). The most northern breeding spot is the Zwillbrocker Venn in western Germany, close to the border with the Netherlands. They have been recorded breeding in the United Arab Emirates at three different locations in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. In Gujarat, a state of India, flamingos can be observed at the Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary, Flamingo City, and in the Thol Bird Sanctuary. They remain here during entire winter season.
Relationship with humans
The first recorded zoo hatch was in 1959 at Zoo Basel. In Zoo Basel's breeding program, over 400 birds have been hatched with between 20 and 27 per year since 2000. The oldest known greater flamingo was a bird at the Adelaide Zoo in Australia that died aged at least 83 years. The bird's exact age is not known; he was already a mature adult when he arrived in Adelaide in 1933. He was euthanized in January 2014 due to complications of old age.
Adult flamingos have few natural predators. 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.
In flight above Walvis Bay
Greater flamingo subadult, Maharashtra, India
Greater flamingo egg - taken at Cincinnati Zoo
Eggs, collection Museum Wiesbaden
Size comparison with great white pelican
Greater flamingos at Faunistic Park Le Cornelle, Italy
Portrait of a specimen at Martin Mere, UK
A subadult feeding in Walvis Bay
Greater Flamingo starting without a run-up (South Africa)
- BirdLife International (2012). "Phoenicopterus roseus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Greater flamingo" (PDF).
- Amat, J.A.; Rendón, M.A.; Garrido-Fernández, J.; Garrido, A.; Rendón-Martos, M. & Pérez-Gálvez, A. (2011). "Greater flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus use uropygial secretions as make-up". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 65 (4): 665–673. doi:10.1007/s00265-010-1068-z.
- "Flamingo Feeding". Stanford University. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
- Khan, Shahid; et al. (2017). "Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus): Important wintering sites and breeding records in the United Arab Emirates". Zoology in the Middle East. 63: 194–201 – via Taylor & Francis online.
- Koshti A.J. and Bony L.S (2016). "Ethology of greater flamingo in captivity", Undergradute thesis submitted to St.Xavier's College, Ahmedabad, India.
- "Zolli feiert 50 Jahre Flamingozucht und Flamingosforschung" [50 years of flamingo breeding] (in German). Basler Zeitung. 13 August 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- "Greater, the 83-year-old Adelaide Zoo flamingo, dies". The Australian. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- "Video: The Flamingo Returns". The Australian. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- Wills, Daniel (October 31, 2008). "Bashed flamingo back on its feet at Adelaide Zoo". The Australian. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- Fedorowytsch, Tom (31 January 2014). "Flamingo believed to be world's oldest dies at Adelaide Zoo aged 83". ABC Radio Australia. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- Leguat 1891, p. 210 Vol. 2
- Rothschild 1907, p. 151 and Plate 31
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