Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus Scientific name definitions

Alfredo Salvador, Miguel Á. Rendón, Juan A. Amat, and Manuel Rendón-Martos
Version: 2.0 — Published August 12, 2022


Field Identification

Body length is 120–125 cm; wingspan 140–187 cm. Greater Flamingo has a very long neck and legs and a bent bill with a black tip. Adults in Definitive Basic Plumage are pale pinkish. The wings are long and narrow, with mottled salmon to crimson upperwing and underwing coverts (partially dependent on carotenoid ingestion) and black primaries and secondaries . The bill is pinkish with a distinct black tip, the legs are reddish, and the iris is yellow. Juvenile Plumage is mostly white and grayish; juveniles have a dull yellowish, pale grayish, or bluish tinged bill with a reduced and less distinct dark tip, grayish legs, and a brown iris. First-year birds (in Formative Plumage) are like juveniles but with scattered pale pink feathers. Second-year birds (in Second Basic Plumage) and some third-year birds (in Third Basic Plumage) can be aged by intermediate plumage characteristics, retained juvenile underwing coverts, and/or duller bills and irises (1; see also Plumages and Bare Parts). Sexes are alike in all plumages but, on average, males are larger than females (see Measurements).

Similar Species

Through parts of its range, Greater Flamingo can be confused with Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) and Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis). Greater Flamingo is larger than Lesser Flamingo; the bill of Greater Flamingo has two colors: pink with a black tip, whereas in Lesser Flamingo there are three colors: dark gray, red, and a black tip. The eyes of Lesser Flamingo are surrounded by a reddish-brown ring and dark bare skin, whereas in Greater Flamingo, there is neither a dark ring nor dark bare skin. Juvenile plumage of Lesser Flamingo is grayish brown and darker than that of Greater Flamingo, whereas adult Lesser Flamingo average brighter pink than Greater Flamingo (2, 3, 4, 1). The Chilean Flamingo, which has been introduced into parts of the range of Greater Flamingo in Europe, but which is otherwise completely allopatric, is also smaller, the bill is whitish with extensive black tip (including the bill angle on both upper and lower mandibles), adults average paler pink plumage, and the legs and feet are grayish to grayish yellow with pink joints and webs (1).

Recommended Citation

Salvador, A., M. Á. Rendón, J. A. Amat, and M. Rendón-Martos (2022). Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.grefla3.02