This is the largest species of flamingo, averaging 110–150 cm (43–59 in) tall and weighing 2–4 kg (4.4–8.8 lb). The largest male flamingos have been recorded at up to 187 cm (74 in) tall and 4.5 kg (9.9 lb). It is closely related to the American flamingo and Chilean flamingo, with which it has sometimes been considered conspecific.
Like all flamingos, this species lays a single chalky-white egg on a mud mound. Most of the plumage is pinkish-white, but the wing coverts are red and the primary and secondary flight feathers are black. The bill is pink with a restricted black tip, and the legs are entirely pink. The call is a goose-like honking. Sub-adult flamingos are whitish-grey and only attain the pink coloration several years into their adult life. The coloration comes from the carotenoid pigments in the organisms that live in their feeding grounds.
The bird resides in mudflats and shallow coastal lagoons with salt water. Using its feet, the bird stirs up the mud, then sucks water through its bill and filters out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms and mollusks. The greater flamingo feeds with its head down and its upper jaw is movable and not rigidly fixed to its skull.
It is found in parts of Africa, southern Asia (Bangladesh and coastal regions of Pakistan and India), the Middle East (Turkey, Israel, Lebanon) and southern Europe (including Spain, Albania, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Italy and the Camargue region of France).
The average lifespan in captivity, according to Zoo Basel, is over 60 years.
Relationship with humans Edit
The first recorded zoo hatch was in 1959 at Zoo Basel. In Zoo Basel's breeding program over 400 birds have been hatched with an average of between 20 and 27 per year since 2000. The oldest known greater flamingo was a bird at the Adelaide Zoo in Australia who died aged at least 83 years old. The bird's exact age is not known; he was already a mature adult when he arrived in Adelaide in 1933. He was euthanized in January 2014 due to complications of old age.
In the Rann of Kutch salt marsh of India and Pakistan, greater flamingos are occasionally electrocuted when they sit on electric cables near their breeding areas. Roman emperors considered flamingo tongues a delicacy.