Flamingo, Greater (Phoenicopterus ruber

Flamingo, Lesser (Phoenicopterus minor)

Flamingo, James (Phoenicopterus jamesi)

Flamingo, Andean (Phoenicopterus andinus)

Flamingo, Caribbean (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber)

Flamingo, Chilean (Phoenicopterus chilensis)


Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family:    Phoenicopteridae
Size:    Height: 31 to 60 inches (80 to 150 cm)
Weight: 4 to 8 pounds (1.8 to 3.6 kg)
Diet: Seeds, algae, crustaceans and molluscs
Distribution: Africa, South America, Florida, Galapagos and southwestern Europe
Young:  1 chick, once a year
Animal Predators:  Lions, leopards, cheetahs, jackals, pythons, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, minks, marabou storks and dogs
IUCN Status: Vulnerable/Lower Risk, Near Threatened (see Conservation below for more details)
Terms: Young: Chick  Group: Herd
Lifespan: Unknown in the wild, up to 50 years in captivity



       Fossilized flamingo footprints estimated to be seven million years old were found in the Andes.

       Floridaís Hialeah racetrack has a flock of approximately 900 Caribbean flamingos.

       Caribbean, Chilean and greater flamingos are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act of 1918.

       Busch Gardens Tampa has the largest flock of Caribbean flamingos of any zoological park in the world.


There are five species of flamingos, all of which can live together harmoniously. All five species have long legs and necks. The greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is the largest and is divided into two subspecies, while the lesser (Phoeniconaias minor) is the smallest and more brightly coloured. The Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) has grey legs with pink bands, and the Jamesí flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi), instead of having red flight feathers, has black. The Jamesí flamingo was believed to be extinct in 1924, but was rediscovered in 1957, cohabiting with the Chilean flamingo. The Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) is the only flamingo with yellow legs and feet and a red spot on the nose. All flamingos have webbed feet and often stand on only one of their feet. They fly with their head and neck stretched out in front and their legs held out behind. 



Flamingos are found in shallow lagoons or salt lakes in tropical and subtropical areas. Chilean flamingos are found in central Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and the Falkland Islands. The lesser flamingo lives in Africa, India and southern Spain. The Jamesí flamingo is found in southern Peru, north-eastern Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. Andean flamingos are found in southern Peru, north-central Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. The greater flamingo has the largest distribution, with populations in northwest India, Galapagos Islands, the Middle East, the western Mediterranean, Africa, and some are even found in Europe. The Caribbean flamingo is found in Yucatan, West Indies, Bahamas, Galapagos Islands, Florida, and the northern tip of South America.


Feeding Habits

Flamingos are active both day and night, and find food by using their legs to stir up mud as they stand in water. Using the special filters inside their beaks, they then sift through the mud and eat seeds, algae, crustaceans and molluscs. 



When a flamingo is interested in another bird it will call out to it. The female will let the male know she is interested in mating by walking away from the herd. The male follows and when she stops, she lets him know she is ready to mate by spreading her wings and lowering her head. He then will leap on her back and put his feet on her wings. When mating has taken place the male will jump over her head to the ground. Some flamingos form lifelong bonds, while other flamingos have multiple partners. Approximately six weeks before the egg is laid, the parents begin to build a nest of mud, straw, feathers and tiny stones. The nest may be as large as one foot (30 cm) high. Both the female and male take turns incubating the egg for about one month. Breaking out of the shell is a traumatic event for both the parents and the chick, who calls out often during hatching while the parents look distressed and call back. They gently groom and nibble at the chick as it emerges from the shell. Young flamingos are grey in colour with red, straight beaks, and are fed a formula by both parents, similar to mammalís milk. The milk is red in colour and is a secretion of the adultís upper digestive tract. The chick is able to swim immediately and in four to seven days, is strong enough to stand and walk. In a little over a week, the youngsterís red bill will turn black like those of the adults and within three months, the bill will develop a hook, enabling the youngster to feed itself. Chicks gather together to play while their parents keep a protective eye on them. 



Flamingos are very social birds that live in large colonies consisting of thousands. They spend 15 to 30 percent of the day preening, distributing oil throughout their feathers. They are good swimmers.



Chilean, lesser and Jamesí flamingos are listed as Lower Risk, Near Threatened on the IUCNís red list. The Andean flamingo is listed as Vulnerable. Flamingo populations are negatively affected by road construction, which makes their habitat more accessible to people and predators; changes in water level, which can destroy their nests; mining and tourist disturbances. 











Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited

Greater Flamingo Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US