Next time you cross the Pallikaranai Marsh, make sure you watch the Flamingo!

Jun 19, 2015 No Comments by

Common name: Greater Flamingo

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

Scientific name: Phoenicopterus roseus

Population Trend: Increasing

Flamingos have a long neck, are white and have a heavy pink bill. They are often seen standing on one leg, while the other is tucked beneath the body. Some researchers (Walker, M., 2009) attribute this behavior to keeping the body warm.  Standing on one leg allows the species to conserve body heat as they spend a large quantity of time in cold waters; although such behavior is also seen when they are in warm waters. The younger flamingos have a greyish red plumage while adults vary from light pink to bright red as a result of their food supply. Well-fed flamingos are brighter.

Flamingos are social birds; they live in colonies of thousands which helps them avoid predators, maximize food intake and use scarce nesting sites efficiently (Pickett and Stevens, 1994).During breeding season, flamingo colonies split into breeding groups consisting of 15 to 50 individuals. Both male and female perform synchronized ritual displays (Ogilvie, M and Ogilvie, C; 1986). Individuals from the group stand together and display their neck upwards while uttering calls, flagging their heads and flapping their wings (Studer-Thiersch, A.; 1975). Such a display motivates synchronous nesting and helps in pairing up individuals who do not have mates (Ogilvie, M and Ogilvie, C; 1986).

This species, especially the juveniles and lesser extent adults are inclined towards irregular nomadic and partially migratory movements across the range of the species due to changes in the water level (Snow and Perrins 1998, Hockey et al. 2005) or food availability (Brown et al. 1982). Individuals from the Palearctic population partially migrate (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998) to warmer regions during winder. Asian populations move towards coastal wetlands and inland lakes during non-breeding periods (Balachandran 2007).

Flamingos are bottom feeders (Snow and Perrins 1998) that forage during the night and day (Brown et al. 1982). They filter particles through their bills (Snow and Perrins 1998). Their diet consists of crustaceans, molluscs, annelid worms, aquatic insects, tiny fish, water beetles; seeds of marsh grasses, algae, etc. They are observed roosting at night in big flocks (Brown et al. 1982). Flamingos are seen to inhabit shallow (Snow and Perrins 1998) and eutrophic waters (Hockey et al. 2005) for example, saline lagoons, saltpans and alkaline lakes (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992) Flamingos nest and roost on sandbanks (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992), mudflats (del Hoyo et al. 1992), islands (Brown et al. 1982) and/or open shores (Flint et al. 1984).

Flamingos have lower reproductive success rates if they are exposed at breeding colonies (Ogilvie and Ogilvie 1986, Yosef 2000). They are at risk if water-levels near their nest sites are lower as it increases the risk of predation (Miltiadou 2005), lesser water availability also leads to more salinity (Nasirwa 2000).  Anthropogenic activities such as soda ash mining (Nasirwa 2000, Hockey et al. 2005), industrial waste pollution (Nasirwa 2000) also threaten the species.


  1. Balachandran, S. 2007. Current status of Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus at major coastal wetlands along the east coast of India with special emphasis on population decline.Flamingo.
  2. BirdLife International 2012. Phoenicopterus roseus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.1. <>
  3. Brown, L. H.; Root, A. 1971. The breeding behaviour of the Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor.Ibis 113: 147-172.
  4. Brown, L.H., Urban, E.K. and Newman, K. 1982.The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.
  5. Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006.Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
  6. del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992.Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
  7. Flint, V.E., Boehme, R.L., Kostin, Y.V. and Kuznetsov, A.A. 1984.A field guide to birds of the USSR. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  8. Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. and Ryan, P.G. 2005.Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.
  9. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: (Accessed: 19 June 2012).
  10. Miltiadou, M. 2005. Wintering populations, breeding attempts and lead poisoning of the Great FlamingoPhoenicopterus roseus on the salt lakes of Cyprus. Flamingo 13: 31-35.
  11. Nasirwa, O. 2000. Conservation status of flamingos in Kenya.Waterbirds 23: 47-51.
  12. Ogilvie, M.; Ogilvie, C. 1986.Flamingos. Alan Sutton, Gloucester.
  13. Pickett, C.; Stevens, E. F. (1994). “Managing the Social Environments of Flamingos for Reproductive Success”. Zoo Biology 13 (5): 501–507. doi:10.1002/zoo.1430130512
  14. Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998.The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  15. Studer-Thiersch, A. (2000). “What 19 Years of Observation on Captive Great Flamingos Suggests about Adaptations to Breeding under Irregular Conditions.” Waterbirds: The International Journal of Waterbird Biology 23 (Special Publication I: Conservation Biology of Flamingos): 150–159
  16. Walker, Matt (13 August 2009). “Why flamingoes stand on one leg”. BBC News. Retrieved 9 December 2009.


Image Courtesy: The Hindu



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