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American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) Fact Sheet: Summary

American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) Fact Sheet

American flamingo

American Flamingo (Pheonicopterus ruber)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Phoenicopteriformes

Family: Phoenicopteridae

Genus: Phoenicopterus

Species: P. ruber

Body Weight:
Males: 2.8 kg (6.2 lbs);
Females: 2.2 kg (4.8 lbs).

Wing Span:
Males 401-425 mm (15.8-16.7 in);
Females: 370-408 mm (14.6-16.1 in).

Plumage: Bright orange/pink; rump, head, neck, wing coverts slightly darker; black flight feathers.

Beak: Sharply downcurved; lower bill thicker; numerous keratinous plates serve as filter feeding mechanism.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: N. Caribbean (Cuba, Hispaniola, Bahamas); S. Caribbean Yukatan, N. coast of South America from Colombia to French Guiana, Venezuelan islands, Bonaire); Yucatan peninsula, Galapagos islands.

Habitat: saline lagoons; muddy, shallow lakes.

IUCN Status: Least Concern (2018 assessment) (BirdLife International 2018)

CITES Appendix: Appendix II (UNEP 2019)

Population in Wild: approximately 260,000-330,000

Migration: Generally non-migratory. Those that do, migrate between summer breeding grounds and winter feeding grounds.

Activity Cycle: Feeding, preening, resting, courtship; feeding is highest right before mating season.

Social Groups: Huge colonies; must be in large groups to breed.

Diet: Filter invertebrates, algae, and plant material out of shallow water and mud.

Predators: Racoons, marguay, jaguar, humans, birds of prey.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity: 3-6 years

Courtship: Group breeding displays lead to synchronous breeding; monogamous pairing for several seasons.

Clutch Size: 1 egg

Nest: Cone-shaped mound of mud with scooped-out top; shallow moat excavated around nest.

Hatchlings: Leave nest after 5-8 days; form creches (large numbers of chicks cared for by a small number or adults).

Fledglings: 9-13 weeks

Typical Life Expectancy:
Wild populations: unknown
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 26 years

Feature Facts

  • Oldest cave painting of flamingo dated at 5000 BC, from Spain.
  • Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol of flamingo denotes the color red.
  • Historically confused with the legendary Phoenix. The tongue was considered a delicacy in Roman times.
  • Prefers saline to fresh water, inhabiting mud flats, saline lagoons and shallow lakes.
  • Vocalizations are their most important function, keeping the flock together
  • Highly social, forming large colonies with tens of hundreds of thousands of individuals
  • Habitat loss due to road construction and coastal development (houses, docks, industrial, etc.)
  • Lead poisoning due to the ingestion of lead shot

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

  • 1932: San Diego Zoo obtains first American Flamingos
  • 1957: First chick hatches at the San Diego Zoo
  • April 2003: newly renovated Flamingo Lagoon opens; flamingos start building nest within 3 days.

About This Fact Sheet

© 2003-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Taxonomy update 2016. IUCN status updated 2019.

How to cite: American Flamingo (Pheonicopterus ruber) Fact Sheet. c2003-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. americanflamingo.
(Note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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