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Miriam Rodriguez's Flamingo Research Paper
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Greater Flamingo


In particular, many people think of greater flamingos as just another type of species on earth. They are considered to be very beautiful looking since they are unique in their own way. What many of us do not know is that they are truly endangered. Just like humans, greater flamingos need a toxin-free environment, that way they can survive environmental stresses exerted on them.  This report will educate the reader on the habitat, physical description, structural, physiological, and behavioral adaptations, and species survival status.


The greater flamingo is scientifically known as Phoenicopterus ruber. This particular type of flamingo is known for being a lanky wading bird known for its distinct pink and crimson plumage, pink legs, and stout, down-turned bill. As people may know, each species has its own classification, which is known by the letters K,P,C,O,F,G and S. For this species its kingdom would be Animalia, the phylum is Chordata, the class is Aves, the order is Phoenicopteriformes, the family is Phoenicopteridae, the genus is Phoenicopterus, and lastly the specie is Phoenicopterus ruber (Klappenbash 2012, 1, 2).

Flamingos are usually near water and they are found in various regions of Africa. Greater flamingos are the most widespread among all Flamingos and are found in different regions of Africa, Asia and Europe. These beautiful birds live in large colonies such as Europe (Bhattachary 2012, 1, 9).  We may also see the greater flamingos at the zoo. When trying to identify the type of lakes that are a better adaption to the flamingos there are three they can choose from. The one greater flamingos are better adapted to in the habitat that falls under the third category which is fresh water with low ionic concentration (Matagia 2004, 2). Also these lakes are inhospitable environments for most plants and animals since the water is saline, extremely hot, and subjected to rapid changes due to rain (McGinley 2007, 1).

Although the greater flamingos have their own uniqueness they have a few things in common with other birds, starting with their color that is very attractive compared to other species. They grow between 43 inches and 60 inches (110 cm and 150 cm) in height. The males are larger than the females.Their body weight ranges from 2 kg to 4 kg (4.4 lbs to 8.8 lbs). The birds have pinkish-white plumage. The juveniles are mostly brown in color with pinkish underbellies. Their wingspan ranges between 55 inches and 65 inches. They also have some red feathers in their wings and have black primary and secondary flight-feathers (Bhattacharya 2012, 3,4,5). The greater flamingo is also known for having long necks and pink long legs. Although it is not very noticeable, the greater flamingos have yellow eyes which are very rare to find in other species (Bhattacharya 2012, 6, 7).

 As people may know, all species have their own different type of behavior. The movements of animals among patches may have different functions, and tolerance to gaps between habitat patches may vary between these functions ( Amat 2004, 7).  These data support the belief of field ornithologists for restricted interchange between the two populations determined by the geographical distance between the two populations and lack of any observations of movement between them, but with evidence of changes in each population's numbers, giving the concept of a permeable geographic barrier. Their can be a different type of behavior depending on where the greater flamingo adapts to since they can learn from other species around them  (Zaccara 2008, 1).

Species have different ways of adapting to their own environment depending on their gender. Usually greater flamingos eat fish or other insects that are usually found in the water. The results suggest that wetland connectivity during chick rearing does not seem to be determined by whether or not central-place foraging flamingos are able to reach wetlands located at the longest distance that they are able to fly during non-stop flights (>1000 km), but by whether they are able to sustain the energetic costs derived from frequent commuting ( Amat 2004, 3). As we can see in order for greater flamingos to move from one place to the other they usually fly. After the breeding season, the adults remained for several weeks in a specific wetland, moving to other sites located 280–2100 km away to overwinter (Amat 2004, 2). The way greater flamingos are able to defend themselves is by staying in large crowds.  One of their offensive structures is having a beak which they can use to defend themselves from other predators. Another thing that is useful to them is having long legs that they use to helps them move faster and have the ability to fly.

Regarding of where the greater flamingos are, they are always near the water. Due to this they are able to feed on mollusks, crustaceans, insects, crabs, worms and small fishes. Their diet also consists of various plant materials such as algae, grass, decaying leaves and shoots. When it comes to feeding themselves their long neck and legs come in handy since they can use them underwater to obtain the food (Bhattacharya 2012, 8, 9).

Many species start breading at a very old age but these in particular star at the age four. The greater flamingos that are adult are the ones that build the nest out of mud in order for the females to lay a single egg. All eggs are different but theirs are chalky white with red. Both of the parents take care of the egg while it hatchets. The process takes thirty days. Once the egg hatches their parents feed them what is called crop milk for the first 3-4 weeks of their life (Bhattacharya 2012, 11). During 1968 the breeding of the greater flamingos has varied between 500- 9,250. Some of these would bred twice or three times a year. Which meant about 15,700 nest were made for the 8,500 pairs of flamingos that were breeding. Not all of the times theirs eggs were a success due to rising water, competition of space for nest, human interference, and natural causes. Although, out of the following, the one that was the cause of failure most frequently was the rising of water (Brown 2008,1, 2). The greater flamingos life ranges between 40- 60 years. Although they can live up to 60 years (Bhattacharya 2012, 12).

Many species have their own way of defending themselves from other predators. The greater flamingos are not very aggressive species, although they exhibit how to to bill-fight, chasing, threading, and made protection. Usually they are in big groups in case they need to protect themselves from other they can work as a team. As a matter of fact they do not even defend their own territory. Greater flamingos are able to use their long necks, long legs, and their beak when it comes to food gathering. The bills they have are also very helpful since they are able to use it for filtration of water and capturing food. The bill is lined with rows of keratinous plates called lamellea (Klappenbash 2012, 3, 4). They are able to hibernate with their own wings.

These species in particular are endangered. The reason is due to the climate change where their range is at. Lakes change a lot with all the natural occurrences on a daily bases. The water for them is saline and even hot. When it rains the pH of the water is from 9 to 10 which could reach 41 Celsius. Since lakes are usually full of algae they could contain toxic chemicals in it. Water in lakes travels from one place to another through currents and inflow. During that time, they can obtain things that could be toxic for the greater flamingos. Over the years, lakes have been shrinking. If the water keeps evaporating then the lakes will continue to shrink and eventually they are going to become pans and saline grasslands (McGinley 2007, 1, 2 ,3 ,4). It has been investigated that lakes have cyanobacterial toxic content. This could be caused by cyanobacterial cells from mats since greater flamingos use this water to drink and wash their feathers on a a daily bases. They do this when the water is hot which means the salinity of it is lower than the main water of the lake. Also food can become a problem if the lake is over populated. They could fight over food and that can cause them to kill one another. Over the last thirteen years there has been a report of about 30,000 flamingos that have died. The greater flamingo population has been decreasing a lot over the years. If toxic chemicals continue to build up in lakes, the flamingos will eventually go extinct, especially since they do not breeding frequently during the year. Also, analysis have been made and what has been seen is that the cause of the death of flamingos is a variation of microcystins as well asanatoxin (Krienitz 2006, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Over the years research has been made by scientist regarding the greater flamingos and the cause of their death. They use flamingos to open them after they are dead in order to find what chemicals are inside them. Scientist have found cyanobacteria inside of them. The amount they consume takes would be about 2kg of their body weight. Not only is this toxic killing them but it also makes them gain weight. A percent of about 30 had been tested to be the daily feeding rate. This is the toxic that causes their death along with other natural contributions. Due to the water changing temperature very frequently, this can harm the flamingos. Scientist have studied that water can be as low as 40 Celsius. This can harm drastically the greater flamingos by causing symptoms of muscles, loss of coordination, gasping, and death by respiratory arrest (Krienitz 2006, 6, 7).  

To continue many people may know every specie has their own fun or interesting facts, although many of us may have never guessed that about the species.  In this case the greater flamingo has its own unique way of obtaining their color. Greater flamingos obtain their pinkish color by the pigment formula the algae they eat has. Greater flamingos are also very tall but would you have ever guessed that they can reach up to five feet in height? This is something that can actually be proven which is very interesting for a small species like them to grow that much. Their legs are what makes them so tall since the adult's legs are longer than their own body. People may have never paid attention to this but the greater flamingos eyes are bigger than their brain. It is interesting how they are able to keep balance and stand in just one leg. It is said that the greater flamingos could even sleep while standing in one leg. Perhaps because their legs are longer than their body they are able to maintain balance. Have you ever wondered how the greater flamingos sit down? They sit down by extending their legs backwards which is pretty unique also. Their legs are very useful since they can even swim and fly. Something that is also very interesting is the fact that both of the parents take part in the nest building. With other species it would usually be the male doing that type of work (Anonymous 2012, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).


To this end, we are able to acknowledge the uniqueness of the greater flamingos. There is not such another species on the earth. They are very special in their own way starting with the their physical appearance to the way they act. It is not such a  good thing that they are endangered due to the toxins in the environment they are used to. It seems like the population keeps decreasing more as the years pass by. Sadly,  we cannot really do much in order to protect them since it would be hard to keep all the toxin out of the water or to even have the greater flamingos adapt to a different environment when they need to be surrounded by water in order to survive.

1. Anonymous 2012. "Flamingo" Web.<>
 2. Amat 2004. "Ranging behavior of greater flamingos during the breeding and post-breeding periods" Web.
3.Bhattachary 2012. "Greater Flamingo" Web. <>
4.Brown 2008. "The breeding of the greater flamingo and great white pelican in East Africa" Web. <>
5. Klappenbash 2012. "Greater Flamingo- Phoenicopterus ruber" Web.
6. Krientiz 2006. "Contribution of hot spring cyanobacteria to the mysterious deaths of Lesser Flamingos at Lake Bogoria, Kenya" Web. <>
7.Matagia 2004. "Bioversity" Web. <>
8. McGinley 2007. " East African halophytics" Web.<>
9. Zaccara 2008. "Lesser Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor populations in eastern and southern Africa are not genetically isolated" Web.<>