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

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


A highly social species, Greater Flamingo uses several vocalizations. An important vocalization is the Contact Call, which allows the parents to individually identify their chicks in crèches. The Contact Call is also used in courtship or when flying in flocks. Other vocalizations are Flight Calls, Threat Calls, and Warning Calls. The chicks use a number of calls to communicate with their parents.



Small chicks beg for food with a rhythmically repeated, high kwik, while larger ones utter rougher calls (32). The begging calls of chicks may stimulate the secretion of crop milk by adults (180, 181). In addition, the chicks emit a high-pitched wirruck-wirruck, similar to the call of Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons), and a large chick uttered urrr-urrr-urrr when being fed (33). Chicks in crèches uttered tji-urr, tjiurr, tjiuur (14). Parent flamingos feed their chicks with a secretion, and the feedings may last more than 20 min (see Breeding: Parental Care). While the fluid flows from adult to chick, a harsh, low-pitched sound is produced, which may be heard up to 200 m from the birds (MAR, MR-M, JAA, unpublished data).

Vocal Array

Contact Call. An important vocalization is the Contact Call, which allows the parents to individually identify their chicks in crèches. The Contact Call is also used in courtship or when flying in flocks. The Contact Call has been described as a nasal double honk ka-ha, similar to that of the Graylag Goose (Anser anser) but faster (33). It was suggested that the adult Greater Flamingo does not recognize its own chick and feeds anyone demanding food (13). On the contrary, in Elmenteita Lake (Kenya), Brown (33) observed an adult that approached a crèche of 800 chicks while calling, and no chick responded, except one distant, isolated one that ran calling toward the adult and then was fed. When they are several weeks old, the chicks are able to identify their parents (182). Examination of amplitude functions and amplitude spectra of 29 Contact Calls from five captive individuals showed that the combination of several frequencies and temporal parameters can allow individual discrimination (183). The Contact Call is uttered when adults approach chicks or their mates and serves to coordinate activities (181). This call also serves, when repeated many times, to synchronize egg-laying among group members (181). When performing Head-Flagging (see Behavior), flamingos begin to utter the Contact Call, and other group members join in the display. During Wing-Salute, the Contact Call is given and Head-Flagging is ceased, while individuals then utter a series of rather weak, short, low-pitched “grunting” notes (184). The Contact Call is also uttered in flight or when individuals are agitated (37).

Flight Call. Greater Flamingos breeding at Fuente de Piedra Lake (Spain) forage in sites distant from the lake during the chick provisioning period (see Breeding: Parental Care). Before leaving the lake at sunset to move to the feeding areas, the flamingos assemble in departure groups (185). For this, the birds begin to walk from the crèche site in the direction of departure, and a few minutes after some birds emit the Flight Call kiaa (the call of flight departure), and the whole party flies away (117).

Threat Call. A deep grunting murrt-murrt-murrt is uttered during threat or incubation (33).

Warning Call. As a warning to others, birds will give a pmaaa or kngaaa call (33).

Other Calls. During interactions with other individuals during feeding, it repeatedly gives a ke-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk or wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh call (4). Other contact calls, uttered in flocks, include those described as kawuck and aahonk aahonk (27). During pair formation, individuals utter repeated soft calls while their necks are fully stretched (4).

Geographic Variation

Information needed.


Information needed.

Daily Pattern of Vocalizing

Information needed.

Places of Vocalizing

See Vocal Array.

Sex Differences

Voices of larger males are deeper and more brassy than those of females (33).

Repertoire and Delivery of Songs

See Vocal Array.

Social Context and Presumed Functions of Vocalizations

See Vocal Array.

Nonvocal Sounds

Information needed.

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