This is the largest species of flamingo, averaging 110–150 cm tall and weighing 2–4 kg. The largest male flamingos have been recorded at up to 187 cm tall and 4.5 kg. It is closely related to the American flamingo and Chilean flamingo, with which it has sometimes been considered conspecific. Like all flamingos, this species lays a single chalky-white egg on a mud mound.
Most of the plumage is pinkish white, but the wing coverts are red and the primary and secondary flight feathers are black. The bill is pink with a restricted black tip, and the legs are entirely pink. The call is a goose-like honking. Sub-adult flamingos are whitish grey and only attain the pink coloration several years into their adult life. The coloration comes from the carotenoid pigments in the organisms that live in their feeding grounds. Secretions of the uropygial gland also contain carotenoids.
During the breeding season, greater flamingos increase the frequency of their spreading uropygial secretions over their feathers and thereby enhance their colour. This cosmetic use of uropygial secretions has been described as applying "make-up". The bird resides in mudflats and shallow coastal lagoons with salt water. Using its feet, the bird stirs up the mud, then sucks water through its bill and filters out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms and mollusks. The greater flamingo feeds with its head down and its upper jaw is movable and not rigidly fixed to its skull.
Here they are seen in the San Diego zoo, and they really put on a spectacular display when we were there.
This post is part of the Saturday Critters meme,
and also part of the My Sunday Best meme,
and also part of the Camera Critters meme,
and also part of the My Sunday Photo meme,
and also part of the Photo Sunday meme.