SPECIES

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

Photos from this Account

Adult
Juvenile
Adult
Adult
Adult
Adult (with Lesser Flamingo)
Greater Flamingo in flight.

Adults in flight show pink to crimson wing coverts with black primaries and secondaries. Note also the very long outstretched neck and long trailing pink legs.

Greater Flamingo in lateral view.

Head, neck, and breast are pale pinkish; back, scapulars, rectrices, and lower underparts are whiter, sometimes tinged pinkish. Tertials are variably salmon pinkish to carmine. Bill and legs are bright pink (brighter just prior to breeding), the bill has an extensive and distinct black tip, and the iris is bright yellow.

Greater Flamingo is larger than Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor).
Greater Flamingos undergoing Prejuvenile Molt

Nestlings assemble in creches near nest sites to undergo the Prejuvenile Molt. The second natal down is dark gray, present on the heads and necks of these fledglings.

Juvenile Greater Flamingo

Juvenile is largely grayish with shaft streaks to ornamental scapulars and dark upperwing coverts with pale fringes. Bill is grayish, bluish, or yellowish with an ill-defined dark tip, legs are gray, and iris is dark.

Juvenile Greater Flamingo

Plumage is largely gray although juvenile humerals, some upperwing coverts, rump, and tail can be mostly white with dark markings. Juvenile upperwing primary coverts are white with broad and distinct brown tips. Juvenile primaries and secondaries are browner than in later plumages, with more tapered tips to the outer primaries.

Formative Greater Flamingo

Formative Plumage is like Juvenile Plumage except for scattered white or pale pinkish formative feathers, often most obvious among the scapulars. The juvenile upperwing feathers become more worn. Bill remains gray, the black tip becoming more pronounced, The iris is beginning to lighten.

Formative Greater Flamingo

Head, back, and upperwing lesser coverts get replaced with white or pale pink formative feathers. Juvenile primary coverts have broad brown tips. Outer primaries are brownish and tapered at the tips.

Formative Greater Flamingos

Juvenile upperwing coverts become quite worn by the first spring. Juvenile primaries and secondaries are brown, the outer primaries narrow and relatively abraded at the tips. Juvenile underwing median and greater coverts are brown fringed narrowely or broadly with white. Juvenile underwing lesser coverts and axillars are pale pinkish.

Probable Second (left) and Third (right) Basic Greater Flamingos

Predifinitive plumages in Greater Flamingo are highly variable. These birds show plumage consistent with Second Basic (left) and Third Basic (right) body feathering but by this time overlap may exist between age groups and the bird to the right could also be in Fourth Basic plumage. Note the bill, leg, and iris colors, typical of second-year (left) and third-year (right) birds, the black tips to the bills becoming more distinct than in Juveniles and the irises lightening from brown toward bright yellow.

Second Basic Greater Flamingos, with Third Basic bird (top, second from right) and Definitive Basic bird (top left)

In Second Basic Plumage, underwing greater and primary coverts are brown, variably marked with white or pinkish; some to all greater coverts may be retained juvenile feathers, as with the bird at bottom right. Upperwing primary coverts are whitish with variable dark but not with broad dark tips as in juveniles and formative birds. Bills and legs are variably grayish or beginning to turn pink or red, notably so by Third Basic Plumage (top, second from right).

Third Basic Greater Flamingo

Underwing greater coverts are replaced and are dark with pinkish markings (some juvenile coverts may occasionally be retained). Underwing lesser coverts and axillars become darker pink than in Juveniles. Upperwing primary coverts are pinkish with small black tips or fringes. Primaries and secondaries are replaced and blackish. Bill and legs become pinker and the black tip to the bill more distinct.

Definitive Basic Greater Flamingo

Head, neck, and breast are pale pinkish; back, scapulars, rectrices, and lower underparts are whiter, sometimes tinged pinkish. Tertials are variably salmon pinkish to carmine. Bill and legs are bright pink (brighter just prior to breeding), the bill has an extensive and distinct black tip, and the iris is bright yellow.

Definitive Basic Greater Flamingos

Underwing lesser coverts and axillars can be bright carmine reddish. Underwing greater and primary coverts are uniformly glossy blackish, without pale fringes. Primaries and outer secondaries are relatively fresh, glossy black, and broad at the tips.

Definitive Basic Greater Flamingo

The extent of pinkish or reddish to the wing coverts is variable in Definitive Basic Plumage, likely as related to variation in topical carotenoid application. Upperwing primary coverts are uniformly pink, without dark tips or fringes, and bare part colors have matured, confirming Definitive Basic Plumage. Note also the glossy black and relatively square-tipped definitive basic outer primaries.

Juvenile lateral view showing head detail.
Adult showing head detail.
Greater Flamingo winters in Western Sahara.
Birds in their breeding habitat; Gujarat, India.
Birds in their breeding habitat; Aqmola oblysy, Kazakhstan.
Crèches; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Birds in their breeding habitat; Toscana, Italy.
Birds in their breeding habitat; Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur, France.
Birds in their breeding habitat; Cataluña, Spain.
Birds in their breeding habitat; Rift Valley, Kenya.
Birds in their breeding habitat; Rift Valley, Kenya.
Greater Flamingo winters in inland marshes in Algeria; Khenchela, Algeria.
Greater Flamingo winters in coastal marshes in Morocco; Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia el Hamra, Morocco.
Camargue hosts one of the most important breeding colonies in the western Mediterranean.
Greater Flamingo breeds in Etosha Pan and they leave the area when the wetland dries up; Oshikoto, Namibia.
Nests with eggs; February, Gujarat, India.
Breeding colony; Gujarat, India.
Breeding colony; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Nests with eggs.
Adults incubating.
Adults on nests.
Adults with small chicks at colony.
Crèches.
Nest densities of 1.3 nests/m2 have been recorded in Great Rann of Kutch (India).

Macaulay Library Photos for Greater Flamingo

Top-rated photos submitted to the Macaulay Library via eBird. Note: Our content editors have not confirmed the species identification for these photos.

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