Phoenicopterus roseus (ruber)
The Greater Flamingo is the largest species of flamingo, standing up to 1.8m tall with a weight up to 4.5kg (more usually 1.6m and 2.7kg, respectively). It is distributed from India and western Asia, into southern Europe and through much of Africa and Madagascar, the widest occurrence of any kind of flamingo. The IUCN lists the Greater Flamingo as being of least concern. It is found at suitable habitat throughout South Africa but is classified as near-threatened locally due to pollution, water extraction and disturbance at breeding and feeding sites, fences spanning water bodies, and collisions with power lines.
Greater Flamingoes are social birds often forming enormous flocks, especially when breeding, and inhabit coastal mudflats, dams, sewage works, river mouths and even small temporary pans that form after rainfall, also occasionally feeding along sandy beaches. They may move over exceptional distances in response to rainfall, mostly migrating during the night at flying speeds of 50-60km/h. Greater Flamingoes feed on tiny aquatic invertebrates, like brine shrimp or fly larvae, that they filter from the water. South Africa doesn’t have any regularly used Greater Flamingo breeding sites – they breed exclusively at large, seasonally flooded and shallow salt pans like Etosha in Namibia and Makgadikgadi in Botswana.
The Greater Flamingo was long considered to be one species with the American Flamingo (P. ruber) but this view is no longer accepted in the scientific community.