Greater Flamingo

Scientific name: Phoenicopterus ruber

Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus ruber
Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus ruber. Photo © David Tipling / Getty Images.

The greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is a lanky wading bird known for its distinct pink and crimson plumage, pink legs, and stout, down-turned bill. The bird's pink coloration is derived from carotenids in its diet (which consists of blue-green algae, crustaceans, mollusks and other invertebrates). The carotenoids are metabolized into several pigments which are then deposited throughout the bird's body.

Though predominantly pink and crimson, greater flamingos also have black on their flight feathers and on the tip of their bill.

Greater flamingos are gregarious birds, and form large colonies numbering sometimes in the thousands. Individual birds do not defend territories although they do sometimes exhibit aggressive behavior such as bill-fighting, chasing, threatening, and mate protection.

The bill of the greater flamingo is a distinguishing characteristic of the Phoenicopteridae Family to which all flamingo species belongs. The bill of a flamingo is thick and down-turned midway along its length. The lower bill is thicker than the upper bill.

When the bird opens its bill, the resulting gap is the same distance along the length of the bill. This enable more efficient filtration of water and capture of food. The inside of the bill is lined with rows of keratinous plates called lamellae. The lamellae in turn, are covered with tiny hairs that form an effective filtration system in a similar manner to the baleen filtration present in some whales.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum Chordata
  • Class Aves
  • Order: Phoenicopteriformes
  • Family: Phoenicopteridae
  • Genus: Phoenicopterus
  • Species: Phoenicopterus ruber

The greater flamingo is one of six species of flamingos that belong to three genera. There are two subspecies of greater flamingos:

Genus Phoeniconaias
`--Phoeniconaias minor (Lesser Flamingo)

Genus Phoenicoparrus
|--Phoenicoparrus andinus (Andean Flamingo)
`--Phoenicoparrus jamesi (Puna Flamingo or James' Flamingo)

Genus Phoenicopterus
|--Phoenicopterus chilensis (Chilean Flamingo)
`-–Phoenicopterus ruber (Greater Flamingo)
    |–-Phoenicopterus ruber roseus (Greater Flamingo)
    `–-Phoenicopterus ruber ruber (Caribbean Flamingo)

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Klappenbach, Laura. "Greater Flamingo." ThoughtCo, Feb. 9, 2017, Klappenbach, Laura. (2017, February 9). Greater Flamingo. Retrieved from Klappenbach, Laura. "Greater Flamingo." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 17, 2017).