Flamingo Identification

There are six species of Flamingo called the American Flamingo (Caribbean Flamingo), Andean Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo, Greater Flamingo, James's Flamingo (Puna Flamingo), and Lesser Flamingo.

The Chilean Flamingo is the only species to have grey legs with pink leg joints. The Lesser Flamingo is the smallest Flamingo and has a dark red beak and dark yellow-orange eyes surrounded by a reddish-brown ring and dark bare skin between the eye and beak. The Andean Flamingo and James's Flamingo both have yellow beaks with black tips but the James's Flamingo has bright red skin between the eye and the beak and the Andean Flamingo has a distinctive black triangle patch on its plumage. The Greater Flamingo is the largest species and has a long curved neck and restrictive black tip on the beak. The American Flamingo is also large but generally does not have such a pale plumage as the Greater Flamingo.

Why are Flamingos Pink and what do they eat?
Flamingos are actually born with grey feathers but later they gain a pink plumage which is due to their natural diet of shrimp and algae which contain pigments called carotenoids. Captive Flamingos are fed with a special diet otherwise beta-carotene or canthaxanthin additives may be added to their food to maintain their pink feathers.

Click to enlarge American Flamingo
(Phoenicopterus Ruber)
Photo: Dave Key
Click to enlarge Andean Flamingo
(Phoenicopterus Andinus)
Photo: Dave Key
Click to enlarge Chilean Flamingo
(Phoenicopterus Chilensis)
Photo: Dave Key
Click to enlarge Greater Flamingo
(Phoenicopterus Roseus)
Photo: Dave Key
Click to enlarge James's Flamingo
(Phoenicoparrus Jamesi)
Photo: Dave Key
Click to enlarge Lesser Flamingo
(Phoenicopterus Minor)
Photo: Dave Key

American Flamingo: The large American Flamingo has a deep pink plumage, primary and secondary flight feathers are black and wing coverts are red, a pink and white beak with a restrictive black tip, and pink legs and webbed feet. The eyes are orange-yellow colour. Both sexes are alike but the male is slightly larger.
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Andean Flamingo: The Andean Flamingo has a pale pink plumage with darker pink upperparts, neck, breast, wing coverts, and black primary flight feathers. They are distinguished from other species of Flamingo by having a pale yellow beak with extensive black tip, and are the only species to have yellow legs and webbed feet. The eyes are dark red-brown. Both sexes are alike but the male is slightly larger.
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Chilean Flamingo: The large Chilean Flamingo has a pink plumage with black primary, and black secondary flight feathers, with red wing coverts. They can be distinguished from other species of Flamingo because of their long greyish legs with pink leg-joints and pink webbed feet. Also, more than half of their large pink beak is black. The eyes are a pale yellow colour. Both sexes are alike but the male is slightly larger.
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Greater Flamingo: The Greater Flamingo is the largest species of Flamingo. The plumage is pinkish white, primary and secondary flight feathers are black and wing coverts are red, the beak is pink with a restrictive black tip, pink skin from the eye to the beak, and the legs and webbed feet are pink. The eyes are yellow coloured. Both sexes are alike but the male is slightly larger.
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James's Flamingo: The James's Flamingo has a very pale pink plumage with bright carmine streaks around the neck and back, and also black primary flight feathers. They are distinguished from other species of Flamingo by having bright red skin around the eyes, bright yellow beak with a black tip, and red legs. Both sexes are alike but the male is slightly larger. The Andean Flamingo is similar but is larger, has yellow legs, the paler yellow beak has a more extensive black tip, and its wings have more black in them.
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Lesser Flamingo: The Lesser Flamingo is the smallest species of Flamingo. It has a pinkish-white plumage, long neck, dark red beak with black tip, deep yellow-orange eyes surrounded by a reddish-brown ring and dark bare skin, black primary and secondary flight feathers, red coverts, and long pink legs and webbed feet. They also have a hind toe known as a hallux. Both sexes are alike but the male is slightly larger.
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Notes: Flamingos can often be seen standing on one leg in the water which may be a way for them to conserve body heat. They also stamp their feet to stir up food from the muddy waters. Flamingos feed by putting their large beak upside down in the water and use their tongue and beak to suck in and filter food from the mud and water. They feed on Algae, diatoms, crustaceans, shrimp, and insects, and their characteristic pink colouring is caused by the amount of beta carotene in their diet. A flamingo will lay a single chalky-white egg on a mud mound.

The Andean Flamingo and the James's Flamingo are closely related and are often placed in the genus Phoenicoparrus instead of Phoenicopterus. Both of these species have yellow on their beaks.