Greater flamingo

Greater Flamingo   Phoenicopterus roseus


  • Phoenicopterus : Greek word phoinix –crimson; pteros –winged   {Red winged}
  • Roseus: Latin word for rosy, rose-coloured

Vernacular Names:  Sind: Lakka, Lakke jani, Hindi: Bog/Raaj hans, Sans: Bruhat balak, Bagg, Valiya rajahamsam, Bi: Charaj baggo, Ben: Kanmunthi, Kanthuti, Guj: Balo, Hunj, Moto hanj, Kutch: Hanj pakkhi, Mar: Motha Rohit, Gnipankh, Pandav, Ta: Poonarai, Kizhi mooku naarai, Te: Pu konga, Samudrapu chiluka, Raja hamsa, Mal: Valiya poonara, Sinh: Siyak karaya

Distribution in India: Resident and winter visitor in parts of North, West and South India. Breeds in Gujarat

Description: Size of 125-145 cm. 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. 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. Secretions of the uropygial gland also contain carotenoids. During the breeding season, greater flamingos increase the frequency of their spreading uropygial secretions over their feathers and thereby enhance their color. This cosmetic use of uropygial secretions has been described as applying “make-up.

Habitat: It is found in saline lagoons and salt pans are typically used for feeding and nesting. It also inhabits large, shallow, highly alkaline or saline inland lakes, as well as sandbanks and mudflats.

Food Habits: It eats aquatic invertebrates like crustaceans, molluscs, annelids, insects, including larvae; plant matter consists largely of seeds, algae, diatoms and decaying leaves. Occasionally takes adult insects like Water beetles and ants, crabs and small fish. It sometimes ingests mud, in order to extract organic matter, especially bacteria. It normally feeds with head, and often most of neck, completely under water, while walking along steadily; only occasionally filters on surface. It also treads ground to loosen surface and bring out prey.

Breeding Habits: They breed in March-May in India. Breeding is in large, dense colonies from 20,000 to 200,000 pairs. The nest is normally a truncated mud cone with a shallow bowl on top. On rocky, mud less islands the nest is small pile of stones and debris. It lays a clutch of 1 egg . The incubation period is 27–31 days; The fledging period is 65–90 days. They do a provisioning of chicks with ‘flamingo milk’. Both the male and the female feed their chicks with a kind of crop milk, produced in glands lining the whole of the upper digestive tract (not just the crop). Production is stimulated by the hormone prolactin. The milk contains fat, protein, and red and white blood cells. For the first six days after the chicks hatch, the adults and chicks stay in the nesting sites. At around seven to twelve days old, the chicks begin to move out of their nests and explore their surroundings. When they are two weeks old, the chicks congregate in groups, called “microcrèches”, and their parents leave them alone. After a while, the microcrèches merge into “crèches” containing thousands of chicks. Chicks that do not stay in their crèches are vulnerable to predators.