Photo: Greater flamingos

Plastic versions notwithstanding, the vibrant pink greater flamingo is found throughout the world in warm, waterside regions.

Photograph by Michael Nichols

Map

Map: Greater flamingo range

Greater Flamingo Range

Audio

Fast Facts

Type:
Bird
Diet:
Omnivore
Size:
36 to 50 in (91 to 127 cm); Wingspan, 60 in (152 cm)
Weight:
8.75 lbs (4 kg)
Group name:
Colony
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Greater flamingo compared with adult man

These famous pink birds can be found in warm, watery regions on many continents. They favor environments like estuaries and saline or alkaline lakes. Considering their appearance, flamingos are surprisingly fluid swimmers, but really thrive on the extensive mud flats where they breed and feed.

Greater flamingos are likely to be the only tall, pink bird in any given locale. They also have long, lean, curved necks and black-tipped bills with a distinctive downward bend.

Their bent bills allow them to feed on small organisms—plankton, tiny fish, fly larvae, and the like. In muddy flats or shallow water, they use their long legs and webbed feet to stir up the bottom. They then bury their bills, or even their entire heads, and suck up both mud and water to access the tasty morsels within. A flamingo's beak has a filterlike structure to remove food from the water before the liquid is expelled.

Shrimplike crustaceans are responsible for the flamingo's pink color. The birds pale in captivity unless their diet is supplemented.

Greater flamingos live and feed in groups called flocks or colonies. They find safety in numbers, which helps to protect individual birds from predators while their heads are down in the mud. Greater flamingos also breed while gathered in groups. Once mating is complete, a pair takes turns incubating their single egg. Young flamingos are born gray and white and do not turn pink for two years. In years when wetlands and pools are dry and food scarce, flamingoes may not breed.

Bird Features

  • Illustration: Great horned owl

    What's That Bird?

    Identify your backyard visitors in a flash! Just answer four simple questions to search our database of 150 backyard birds common to Canada and the U.S.

  • Photo: A brown pelican

    Pelican

    Explore the pelican’s prodigious pouch. Find out how these famous fishers bring home the catch of the day.

  • Photo: Close-up of a duck

    Bird Pictures

    Get right up close to 12 colorful new bird galleries, featuring photos from My Shot members and classic art from the NG archives.

  • Photo: Close-up of a hummingbird

    Backyard Birds Quiz

    How much do you know about the feathered visitors to your backyard? Put your avian IQ to the test with this quiz.

Please select a test to run

Animals