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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Whereas smaller flamingos and other wading birds are restricted to the shallows, the Caribbean flamingo's great size enables it to wade out into relatively deep water. It rarely takes food from the surface, but instead generally feeds with its whole head submerged underwater. With its bill held only slightly open, it filters out food particles by allowing water to pass across rows of tiny comb-like plates on the bill's edges (4). Utilising this specialized technique it is able to obtain huge quantities of the crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic insects, polychaete worms, and algae on which it depends. It is the presence of certain carotenoids in the algae and crustaceans that give the flamingo its distinctively coloured plumage (2) (4). The Caribbean flamingo is a highly social species, with colonies ranging in size from just a few dozen to hundreds of thousands of individual birds during the breeding season (2) (4). Group courtship displays are typical of this flamingo, with thousands of individuals raising their wings, turning their heads, or bowing their necks in spectacular synchrony. Engaging in these displays ensures that all members of the colony are ready to mate at the same time (4). Both sexes are involved in building the nest from bits of mud piled into a smooth cone, and spaced just beyond pecking distance of other pairs' nests. Usually just a single egg is laid, which is incubated by both parents over 27 to 31 days (2). Around six to eight days after hatching, the chicks leave the nests and gather in large crèches, overseen by a small number of adults, and eventually fledge at around 9 to 13 weeks (2) (4). Although the Caribbean flamingo is generally considered to be non-migratory, it is extremely nomadic, and will travel hundreds of kilometres in response to shifting resources (2). Large flocks form long, curving lines in flight, with each bird flying with its neck and legs distinctively outstretched (2) (4).
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Description

With its brilliant pinkish-red plumage, long slender legs, and remarkably thin, flexible neck, the Caribbean flamingo is one of the most world's most distinctive birds. Together with the greater flamingo, it shares the title for the longest limbs relative to body size of any bird. The legs are pink and, being a wading bird, the front three toes are webbed. The bill has a characteristic downward bend, and is pale-yellow at the base, pink to orange in the middle, and black at the tip (2) (4). Until 2002, the Caribbean flamingo was considered conspecific with the greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), found in Europe, Africa, and Asia (5) (6). While both species are of a similar size, the greater flamingo has much paler plumage than the Caribbean flamingo (2) (5).
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Distribution

Flamingos are found on all continents except Antarctica and Australia. Depending on the authority involved, there are up to six distinct species, each with its own range and geographic dispersion.

Specifically, the range of greater flamingos extends across the entire shoreline of Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, parts of Asia and India as well as southern United States, the Caribbean, and Yucatan Peninsula where there are warm coastal habitats.

The range of Caribbean flamingos, a subspecies of Phoenicopterus ruber, covers the northern shore of South America, most shoreline around the Caribbean Sea, as well as nearby islands in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. Flamingos have been seen in the southern United States, though they are not as prolific as in the more southern latitudes.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Non-breeding

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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Breeding range includes the Yucatan Peninsula, Cuba, Hispaniola (Wiley and Wiley 1979) and satellites, southern Bahamas, Netherlands Antilles, northeastern Colombia, and the Galapagos Islands. Apparently this species was formerly resident in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and possibly it is on the verge of recolonizing this area (Raffaele 1989). Former breeding areas also include the Florida Keys (probably), additional areas in the Bahamas, Haiti, and the north coast of South America from Colombia to the Guianas (AOU 1983). As a nonbreeder, this species ranges throughout the Caribbean region and south to South America from Colombia to northeastern Brazil. For example, Haiti is utilized by flamingos mostly for feeding and roosting during nonbreeding, winter dispersal from Great Inagua and perhaps Cuba (Ottenwalder et al. 1990).

Old World populations are now regarded as a distinct species (AOU 2008).

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Range

Locally from Caribbean to ne Brazil; Galapagos Islands.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Range

The Caribbean flamingo occurs on the north coast of South America, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and a number of Caribbean islands. In addition, there is a small, isolated population on the Galapagos Islands (2) (7).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Greater flamingos are one of the larger members of the Aves class with a wingspan measuring 1.5 m wide, standing 1.2 m tall, and weighing 2.1 to 4.1 kg. They are most well-known for their bright pink coloration and in fact, the word "flamingo" derives from old Spanish for "flaming" or "red feather." Individuals have long, graceful necks and legs which in proportion to body size are the longest of any bird. Flamingos will often rest their head on their body in order to avoid fatigue in the neck muscles.

The bill is uniquely adapted for filter-feeding, and its shape is not shared among any other family of birds. Their large bills consist of layers of horny plates used to filter out prey from the water. In contrast to other birds, flamingo's bills are essentially reversed. Flamingo's lower mandibles are larger than the upper, which is not rigidly attached to the skull. Thus when it eats, the upper mandible moves as opposed to the lower, which is completely reversed from all birds and mammals. This reversal is largely attributed to flamingos' method of feeding by submerging their heads upside-down.

Sexual dimorphism is present in that males are slightly larger than females, and females obtain their adult color slightly earlier than males. Otherwise both sexes are uniformly colored. Adults have primarily pink plumage with black flight feathers only visible in flight. They feature pale irises and a pale bill with pink and black on the tip. The legs are bright pink as well and end with pink, webbed feet. Because there is no difference in coloration between the sexes, the bright pink coloration is not likely to be any type of sexual signal, though some researchers suggest it may function equally for both sexes in selecting a mate as a sign of fitness due to overall nutrition status.

Young birds are covered with a downy-type feather when they first hatch. Both their legs and bill are dark gray in color, and only become pink as the bird matures. The feathers are also initially gray, but will gradually be replaced by the pink, adult plumage as the flamingo ages and incorporates carotenoid compounds from its diet into new growth. Maturity generally takes about three years, though some have been seen with juvenile plumage at up to five years of age.

Range mass: 2.1 to 4.1 kg.

Range length: 120 to 145 cm.

Range wingspan: 140 to 165 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; male larger

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Diagnostic Description

Description

Length: 136-172 cm <393>; 127-140 cm <391>. Plumage: generally white with pink wash; wing coverts and axillaries bright red; flight feathers black. Immature greyish without red in wings. Bare parts: iris red; lores and eye-ring pink; bill pink with black tip, grey in immature; feet and legs bright coral pink, grey in immature. Habitat: brackish and saline coastal and inland waters. <388><393><391>
  • Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban & K. Newman (1982). The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.
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Description

Length: 136-172 cm <393>; 127-140 cm <391>. Plumage: generally white with pink wash; wing coverts and axillaries bright red; flight feathers black. Immature greyish without red in wings. Bare parts: iris red; lores and eye-ring pink; bill pink with black tip, grey in immature; feet and legs bright coral pink, grey in immature. Habitat: brackish and saline coastal and inland waters. <388><393><391>
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Ecology

Habitat

Zambezian Halophytics Habitat

The Makgadikgadi spiny agama (Agama hispida makarikarika) is endemic to the Makgadikgadi Pans complex within the Botswana element of the Zambezian halophytics ecoregion. This agama typically inhabits the edges of the pans but it is difficult to spot, since it buries itself in the sand during the heat of the day.

One of the largest saltpans in the world, the Makgadikgadi Pan complex in Botswana stretches out over 12,000 square kilometres. The ecoregion is classified within the Flooded Grasslands and Savanna biome. Surrounded by the semi-arid Kalahari savannas, the pans experience a harsh climate, hot with little rain, and are normally a vast, glaring expanse of salt-saturated clay. These pans are sustained by freshwater from the Nata River, and more infrequently, from input from the Okavango Alluvial Fan by way of the Boteti River. Saline- and drought-tolerant plant species generally line the pan perimeters, with grasslands further removed from the pans.

For most of the year the pans are depauperate in bird numbers, except for ostriches and species such as the Chestnut-banded sand-plover and Kittlitz’s plover (Charadrius pallidus, C. pecuarius). The sole hospitable area to birds during these times is the Nata Delta, which has a permanent water source and a small resident population of waterbirds including grebes (Podiceps spp.), cormorants (Phalacrocorax spp.), ducks and plovers (Charadrius spp.) with a few flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber, Phoeniconaias minor) and pelicans (Pelecanus spp.). The grasslands surrounding the pans support a moderate bird fauna with species such as ostriches, secretary birds (Sagittarius serpentarius), kori bustards (Ardeotis kori), korhaans (Eupodotis spp.), sandgrouse (Pterocles spp.) and francolin (Francolinus spp.) being common. The Hyphaene palms to the west of the pans are nesting sites for, among others, the greater kestrel (Falco rupicoloides) and the palm-nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis). After good rains the pans are transformed into a vibrant paradise, attracting thousands of waterbirds, most of which come to breed on the pans. Wattled and southern crowned cranes (Grus carunculatus, Balearica regulorum), saddle-billed, marabou and open-billed storks (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, Anastomus lamelligerus), African fish eagles (Haliaeeetus vocifer), black-necked grebes (Podiceps nigricollis), Caspian terns (Hydroprogne caspia), eastern white and pink-backed pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus, P. rufescens), geese and waders such as avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta), black-winged stilts (Himantopus himantopus), plovers, sandpipers and teals (Anas spp.) congregate around the pans. The most spectacular arrival are the greater and lesser flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber and Phoeniconaias minor) that flock to the pans in their thousands.

Most mammalian taxa within the ecoregion inhabit the grasslands surrounding the pans. These include Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), Gemsbok (Oryx gazella), Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris), Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardus), Burchells zebra (Equus burchelli), Blue wildebeest (Connocheatus taurinus), black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), Brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea), Spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta), Lion (Panthera leo), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Painted hunting dog (Lycaon pictus) and even African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) along the Boteti River. The Nxai Pan has a sizeable Springbok population and is one of the few places where Springbok and Impala cohabit. These two antelope are normally separated by habitat preference, but the Acacia savanna surrounding Nxai Pan provides the impala with a suitable habitat while the grass covered pan mimics the desert conditions preferred by Springbok.

  • A. Campbell. 1990. The nature of Botswana: a guide to conservation and development. IUCN, Harare, Zimbabwe. ISBN: 2880329345
  • C.MIchael Hogan & World Wildlife Fund. 2015. Zambezian halophytics. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and Environment. Washington DC
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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Flamingos live in large colonies, oftentimes numbering into the thousands of individuals. They tend to occupy large mud flats where the loose mud can be easily formed into the mounds that they use as nests. These large mud flats are usually located near a food supply.

Hyper-saline estuaries are the preferred habitat. They are harsh environments where filter feeders benefit from reduced competition and predation while at the same time being able to take advantage of the abundant food sources. These habitats are often located near larger bodies of water such as coastal areas, sea inlets, rivers, and open lakes. Habitats are nearly always coastal, but they have been known to move inland to lagoons or volcanic lakes.

In colonies of such high density, occasional food shortages arise and flocks will perform short migrations in search of greater food resources. Flamingos show little to no site-tenacity and don't often return to previous flocking sites, or to their birth locations.

Average elevation: sea level m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; temporary pools; coastal

Other Habitat Features: riparian ; estuarine

  • 2008. "Phoenicopterus ruber" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/150689/0.
  • Gould, S. 1985. The Flamingo's Smile. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Rooth, J. 1965. The Flamingos on Bonaire: Habitat, Diet, and Reproduction of Phoenicopterus ruber ruber. Utrecht, Holland: Foundation for Scientific Research in Surinam and The Netherlands.
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Comments: This species is associated with coastal waters, mud flats, lagoons, and lakes (AOU 1998). In Yucatan, Mexico, it commonly feeds in man-made ponds associated with commercial salt operations (Espino-Barros and Baldassarre 1989). Flocks may concentrate where food is most abundant, disperse after depleting food resources (Arengo and Baldassarre 1995).

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Found in a wide variety of saline and freshwater habitat such as lagoons, estuaries, mud flats, and coastal or inland lakes (2) (4).
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

See Espino-Barros and Baldassarre (1989) for information on migration chronology in Yucatan, Mexico, where flamingos breed in the Rio Lagartos Estuary on the north coast and winter primarily about 280 km away on the Celestun Estuary on the west coast.

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Trophic Strategy

The feeding behaviors of flamingos are one of their most distinctive characteristics. The flamingo's long legs are used to stir up sediment at the bottom of shallow water. The flamingo's bill is equipped with rows of bony projections lining the edges of the interior of their beaks, which function as a sieve. The bird will take a mouthful of water and move its beak to pump water out, using this uniquely curved bill to filter out tiny organisms to eat. Since the flamingo dips its head down into the water to eat, it effectively feeds "upside down," and the beak reflects this in its morphology - both in the spoon-like shape of the bill and the articulation of the joint of the upper jaw. In contrast to mammals and other vertebrates, the upper jaw is able to move during feeding. To picture this evolutionary accomplishment, consider that since flamingos feed with their heads upside down, the bill appears right side up when the head is inverted, an adaptation where a flamingo's upper bill is like another bird's lower bill. The physical top half is the functional bottom half.

Flamingos are not selective in their diet. Anything that can be captured by their filtration feeding method appears to be consumed. Stomachs of wild flamingos have been examined, and flamingos appear to eat organic ooze (bacteria and microscopic organisms), worms, nematodes, molluscs, crustaceans, insects and larvae, and even vertebrates such as small fish. They will also consume vegetable matter. Though they can subsist on a wide variety of foods, small crustaceans are responsible for the bright pink pigment that flamingos are famous for. Carotenoid compounds from the crustaceans is incorporated into the plumage and skin around the legs, and animals become pale which do not receive this nutrient. For instance, individuals kept in zoos that are not fed a supplemented diet will not have the same coloration as wild birds. The sun will cause this coloration to fade over time, so it must be continually supplied to keep the bird's color.

Flamingos' tongues have evolved to be quite muscular in comparison to other birds as they are critical to the pumping mechanism required to pump food through filter system. The tongue was savored as a delicacy in ancient Rome.

Animal Foods: fish; insects; mollusks; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; other marine invertebrates; zooplankton

Plant Foods: algae; phytoplankton

Foraging Behavior: filter-feeding

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Comments: Filter feeder. In Yucatan, Mexico, dominant foods were gastropods, muskgrass bulbils, crustaceans, and chironomids (Arengo and Baldassarre 1995, Condor 97:325-334).

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Associations

Greater flamingos consume large amounts of aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans, and algae and likely has a large impact on those populations. Flamingos feed in shallow bodies of water, and often use their large feet to stir organisms from the bottom up into the water column. This activity likely contributes to sufficient oxygenation and mixing of organic material within these bodies of water and aids in avoiding anoxic conditions. Greater flamingo eggs and young fall prey to local predators, thus supporting these populations.

Flamingos are also susceptible to pathogens, most notably tuberculosis and avian flu. Large colonies are prime conditions for spread of disease if introduced.

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Flamingos have very few predators. This is probably largely due to their choice of habitat. Hypersaline estuaries are not favorable for other species, and oftentimes the colonial sites are on islands or other areas only easily accessible by flight. However, various species have been noted to prey on flamingos or their eggs. This short list includes turkey vultures, foxes, badgers, and wild boars. Yellow-legged gulls will prey on eggs and flightless young. Humans will also hunt flamingos for meat or for their eggs.

Known Predators:

  • Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura)
  • Foxes (Vulpes)
  • Badgers
  • Wild boars (Sus scrofa)
  • Yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis)

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20

Comments: Four major breeding colonies: Great Inagua, Bahamas; Archipelago de Camaguey, Cuba; Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico; Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles; plus a few additional sites with smaller nesting populations (Ogilvie and Ogilvie 1986).

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Global Abundance

100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Global population size is uncertain but apparently exceeds 200,000.

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General Ecology

Forms large flocks (of up to several thousand in nonbreeding season).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

As a social species living in large groups, intraspecific communication can be essential. For instance, parents returning to feed their young after foraging must find their own mate and offspring. In a group with potentially tens of thousands of members, communication serves a vital role in maintaining colony cohesion and interactions among other members.

Flamingos will communicate with other members mainly by vocalizations. While in flight, they will call with loud honking noises, which has been compared to the familiar sound of geese. While on land, the vocalizations are softer in volume. As part of imprinting, chicks begin making vocalizations while still in the egg. Parents learn to recognize their offspring's unique voice before it even hatches, and will recognize their offspring afterward based on such calls.

Adults also rely on physical positions. Visual cues can be used for establishing dominance within the flock. For instance, the choice of which side the head rests on can determine aggressiveness with others. Body language is also communicated by the extent to which feathers are ruffled, similar to the way a cat may raise the hair along its back when threatened - a bird which makes itself appear larger is more threatening to a potential opponent. In such aggressive meetings, birds will also adopt a ritual which involves maneuvering the head and neck in a threatening fashion and producing a clicking sound with the beak by snapping it open and shut quickly. If this warning is ignored, birds may snap their bills at each other in "bill fencing" until one backs down.

Greater flamingos also engage in physical courtship displays, in which males attract females through specific movements and postures. Females will communicate interest by mimicking these movements back to the male.

It is unclear if flamingos utilize any type of chemical or pheromone signaling mechanism. Adult flamingos will often delay mating even after reaching sexual maturity. Whether this unusual behavior is a response to pheromone signaling is not known.

Like all birds, greater flamingos perceive their environments through auditory, tactile, visual and chemical stimuli.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Cyclicity

Comments: In coastal salinas of Venezuela, most birds fed in large flocks in early morning, roosted at mid-day, and resumed feeding in late afternoon-early evening (Bildstein et al. 1991).

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Life Expectancy

Chicks generally have a higher mortality rate than adults. At birth, they are unable to fend for themselves and are fully dependent upon their parents. However, if they are able to survive into adulthood, flamingos live an average lifespan of 25 years in the wild with a maximum of 44 years. In captivity, flamingos live an average of 30 years. The oldest flamingo in the world is over 75 years old and resides at the Adelaide Zoo in Australia.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
44 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
75 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
25 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: captivity:
30 (high) years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 44 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen reportedly lived to the age of 44 (http://www.demogr.mpg.de/longevityrecords).
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Reproduction

Males and females are generally monogamous, remaining together during incubation and nurturing of the young. Mates will often remain together for many years, only choosing a new mate after the death of another.

Mating in P. ruber is a complex affair. Their highly gregarious nature leads to distinct behaviors for selecting a mate and rearing the young afterward. The entire adult colony prepares for mating. When a colony has found a suitable location, adults will gather near the drinking area. Though birds over one year of age can breed, only fully colored adults will take part in the breeding ritual. The birds will gather and begin displays of their size and coloration. They will elongate their necks, extend their wings, and touch nearby individuals with their beaks and wings. Though it is difficult to determine due to the similar appearance between males and females, it appears that groups of males congregate while displaying. Regardless, the entire flock performs similar displays, oftentimes for months before the breeding itself begins.

This breeding display has various positions which the flamingos adopt, and have been named by researchers. The head is first held extended in the "head flagging," and waved rapidly back and forth while calling loudly. This is followed by a "wing salute," where the dark flight feathers are displayed. The bird will then perform a "twist preen," dipping the head beneath a wing. The wings are again displayed in an "inverted wing salute," followed by stretching a wing and a leg on one side of the body backwards while dipping the head downwards. The entire dance takes only seconds, and is repeated constantly throughout the pre-pairing phase. This usually takes place in shallow water.

A female will usually move farther from the main group when she has found a suitable mate and the male will follow her. Both will continue making various display positions. Females will signal their readiness by keeping their head down near the water level. Males will add a head bobbing display, inverting their neck backward and resting their head on their back. When the female is ready for copulation, she will move to deeper water, and spread her wings to signal the male.

Mating System: monogamous

There is no set breeding season for flamingos, with young being born at any time of year. However, the colonies as a whole will usually breed concurrently over the warmer seasons following the rains, with most breeding in late spring or early summer. This timing is due more to availability of food supplies than any limitations on seasonal fertility. The main factors which are preliminary to mating appear to be an abundant food supply, suitable mudflats for nesting and creating the creche, and availability of fresh water.

When the mating is complete, both birds will build a nest from the mud. The nest is a small mound approximately twelve inches high, circular, and with a depressed center for the egg to be laid. When available, bits of vegetation, twigs, or feathers are incorporated into the nest. The male will usually begin building, with both partners eventually working on the nest until the egg is laid.

The eggs are large and milky white, about the size of a large orange or grapefruit. A pair of flamingos will usually lay a single egg once per breeding cycle. In the rare cases where two eggs are laid, usually only one will hatch. The egg is incubated by both parents, who take turns as the partner forages away from the nest. Incubation lasts 28 to 32 days, after which the chicks hatch weighing 85 to 102 grams. Hatchlings are semiprecocial with downy feathers and eyes open, but are initially unable to feed themselves. Greater flamingos' specialized beaks do not begin to develop until the young are 2 weeks old. Newly hatched chicks will remain in the nest for the first five to eight days, at which time they gather with other chicks in groups called "creches." Chicks are reared by both parents until ready to fly at 65 to 90 days old. Parents are able to call and locate their young within the creche and continue to provide care until the young fledges.

Breeding interval: Greater flamingos breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Greater flamingos breed after the rainy season, usually in spring or summer.

Range eggs per season: 1 to 2.

Average eggs per season: 1.

Range time to hatching: 28 to 32 days.

Range fledging age: 65 to 90 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 to 5 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 5 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Both male and female parents provide significant resources for their young. Both participate in building the nest and incubation. A few days before hatching, the chick will begin to produce vocalizations. Imprinting to the parents initially starts through this vocalization while still in the egg. Once newly hatched, a chick recognizes its parents and the parents recognize the chick. Parents provide food for the young hatchling until the chick is ready to forage for itself. This nourishment is called "crop milk," a nutritious secretion from the oral crop of the parents. The milk is similar to human milk, both in composition and because it is stimulated by the same hormone, prolactin. The crop milk of flamingos, however, is red in color due to the pigments present in the diet. This pigment will eventually be incorporated into the chick's feathers, the first step towards the characteristic coloration of flamingos.

All adults can produce this crop milk, but no parent will feed any chick other than its own. If a chick fails to imprint on its parents, no other birds will provide for it and death will result. Consequently, imprinting is of vital importance. The chick is able to recognize its own parents' calls from up to one hundred meters away. When called, only the intended chick will respond, even with other chicks present within hearing range.

When the chick initially leaves the nest, one of the parents will watch over it as it explores its new environment, keeping other birds away until the young are fully integrated into the creche. The chick leaves the nest to join the creche at 5 to 8 days old, yet it still requires parental care until it fledges at 65 to 90 days of age.

Parental Investment: precocial ; male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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In Yucatan, Mexico, incubation, nesting building, and other reproductive activities were most frequent in May and June (Espino-Barros and Baldassarre 1989).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Phoenicopterus ruber

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CGATGACTATTCTCAACCAACCACAAAGATATCGGCACCCTATACCTGATTTTCGGCGCATGAGCTGGAATAGTTGGTACAGCCCTA---AGCCTACTCATTCGCGCAGAACTAGGACAACCTGGAACCCTCCTAGGAGAC---GACCAAATCTACAACGTAATCGTTACTGCCCATGCCTTCGTAATAATTTTCTTCATAGTTATACCAATCATAATCGGAGGCTTCGGAAACTGACTGGTTCCTCTCATA---ATTGGTGCTCCTGACATAGCATTTCCCCGCATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTACCCCCATCCTTCTTACTCCTCCTAGCTTCCTCCACAGTAGAAGCTGGAGCAGGCACAGGATGAACTGTATACCCACCACTAGCTGGCAACATAGCCCATGCCGGAGCCTCAGTAGATCTA---GCCATCTTCTCCCTCCACCTAGCAGGTGTATCATCTATCCTTGGAGCAATCAACTTTATCACTACTGCTATCAACATAAAACCACACGCCCTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCCCTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTCATCACCGCTGTCCTGTTACTGCTCTCACTTCCAGTCCTTGCTGCC---GGCATTACCATACTGCTAACAGACCGAAACCTAAACACCACATTCTTCGATCCAGCTGGAGGAGGCGACCCAGTCCTATACCAACACCTATTCTGATTCTTCGGTCACCCAGAAGTCTACATCCTAATCCTACCAGGCTTCGGAATTATCTCACATGTAGTAACATACTATGCAGGCAAAAAA---GAACCATTCGGTTACATAGGAATAGTATGGGCCATATTATCCATCGGATTCCTAGGCTTCATCGTATGAGCCCACCACATGTTCACTGTAGGAATGGACGTAGATACCCGAGCGTACTTCACATCCGCCACCATAATCATCGCCATCCCAACAGGCATTAAAGTCTTTAGCTGACTA---GCCACCCTACATGGAGGA---ACTATCAAATGAGACCCTCCAATACTATGAGCCCTGGGCTTTATTTTCCTCTTTACCATTGGAGGCCTCACAGGAATCGTCCTAGCAAACTCCTCACTAGACATCGCCTTACACGACACATACTATGTAGTTGCTCACTTCCACTATGTC---CTCTCAATAGGAGCAGTCTTTGCCATTCTAGCAGGATTCACCCACTGATTCCCACTATTCACAGGATACACCCTACACCCCACATGAGCCAAGGCTCACTTTGGAGTCATGTTTACAGGCGTAAACCTAACCTTCTTCCCACAACACTTCCTAGGCCTAGCCGGCATGCCACGA---CGATACTCGGACTACCCAGATGCCTACACC---CTATGAAACACCGTGTCCTCCATCGGGTCATTAATCTCAATAACTGCTGTAATCATACTAATATTCATCATTTGAGAAGCCTTCGCATCAAAACGGAAAGTC---CTCCAACCAGAACTGCCTGCCACCAAC
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Phoenicopterus ruber

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
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