Phoenicopteridae – Flamingos

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus ©Trevor Hardaker Website

Phoenicopteridae are a small family of wading birds made up of the flamingos. Flamingos or flamingoes are the only family in the order Phoenicopteriformes. There are four flamingo species in the Americas and two species in the Old World.

They are large waterbirds with long neck and legs, and unique down-curved bill adapted to filter-feeding. The bill, held upside down, is used to filter the water for small shrimps, molluscs and insects, with the tongue acting as a piston to draw water through the bill. Their pink colour comes from algae rich in carotenid pigments. They are thus adapted to life in a fairly specialised habitat, salt lakes. Their distribution is world-wide excepting Australasia and Antarctic.

Flamingos usually stand on one leg while the other is tucked beneath their body. The reason for this behaviour is not fully understood. Recent research indicates that standing on one leg may allow the birds to conserve more body heat, given that they spend a significant amount of time wading in cold water. However, the behaviour also takes place in warm water. As well as standing in the water, flamingos may stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up food from the bottom.

Flamingos are very social birds; they live in colonies whose population can number in the thousands. These large colonies are believed to serve three purposes for the flamingos: avoiding predators, maximising food intake, and using scarce suitable nesting sites more efficiently.

Before breeding, flamingo colonies split into breeding groups of about 15 to 50 birds. Both males and females in these groups perform synchronised ritual displays. The members of a group stand together and display to each other by stretching their necks upwards, then uttering calls while head-flagging, and then flapping their wings. The displays do not seem to be directed towards an individual but instead occur randomly.

There are generally considered to be just six species in this family, which are:

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis
Lesser Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor
Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus andinus
James’s Flamingo Phoenicopterus jamesi

Species Links
  • American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

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  • American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

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  • American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

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  • American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

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  • American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

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  • Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus andinus

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  • Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus andinus

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  • Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus andinus

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  • Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus andinus

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  • Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus andinus

    Species Account
    The Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) is one of the rarest flamingos in the world. It lives in the Andes mountains of South America.
  • Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis

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    IUCN species status and profile
  • Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis

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    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis

    Cornell Species Account
    Cornell species account
  • Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis

    HBW Species Account
    HBW species account
  • Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis

    IBC Species Account
    IBC species account
  • Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis

    Species Account
    The Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) is a large species of flamingo at 110–130 cm (43–51 in) closely related to Caribbean flamingo and greater flamingo, with which it was sometimes considered conspecific...
  • Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis

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  • Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

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  • Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

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  • Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

    Species Account
    The greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) is the most widespread species of the flamingo family. It is found in Africa, on the Indian subcontinent, in the Middle East and southern Europe.
  • James's or Puna Flamingo Phoenicopterus jamesi

    Species Account
    The James's flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi), also known as the puna flamingo, is a species of flamingo that populates the high altitudes of Andean plateaus of Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
  • James's or Puna Flamingo Phoenicopterus jamesi

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  • James's or Puna Flamingo Phoenicopterus jamesi

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  • James's or Puna Flamingo Phoenicopterus jamesi

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  • Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor

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  • Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor

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  • Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor

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    HBW species account
  • Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor

    IUCN Species Status
  • Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor

    Species Account
    The lesser flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) is a species of flamingo occurring in sub-Saharan Africa with another population in India. Birds are occasionally reported from further north, but these are generally considered vagrants.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 6

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