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American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

Taxonomic History & Nomenclature

Species level taxonomy: "Phoenicopterus ruber (Sibley and Monroe, 1990, 1993) has been split into P. roseus and P. ruber following Knox et al. (2002), contra SACC (2005)" (

IOC World Bird List recognizes six species of flamingos, as of Nov 2016:

  • American Flamingo, Phenicopterus ruber
  • Greater Flamingo, Phenicopterus roseus
  • Chilean Flamingo, Pheonicopterus chilensis
  • Lesser Flamingo, Pheoniconaias minor
  • Andrean Flamingo, Phoenicoparrus andinus
  • James's Flamingo, Phoenicoparrus jamesi

Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus = "crimson" (phoinix), "winged" (pterus), Greek; ruber = "red"

Higher level taxonomy is still under debate, due to mosaic of character similarities to other orders of birds, although taxonomists agrees that the flamingos belong in their own Family.

Evolutionary History

Fossil Record

  • One of the oldest bird families: fossils of primitive forms date back 50 million years.
    • Juncitarsus: possible earliest ancestor in fossil record, Wyoming and Germany; shows characteristics of both shorebirds and flamingos; does not have modern flamingo-type beak.
  • Past distribution was more extensive than today.
    • Extinct species showing fully modern type of bill found in North America, Europe, and Australia.
  • Distantly related to grebes


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Phoenicopteriformes

Family: Phoenicopteridae

Genus: Phoenicopterus

Species: Phoenicopterus ruber — American Flamingo (formerly Caribbean Flamingo)

Describer (Date): Linnaeus (1758)

American Flamingo

Page Citations

del Hoyo et al., (1992)
Feduccia (1996)
Mindell et al. 1997)
Ogilvie & Ogilvie (1986)
Olsen & Feduccia (1980)
Van Tuinen et al. (2001)

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