Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus roseus
Arabic Name: Fanteer فنتير
IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern
You definitely won’t be able to miss this big bird, the Greater flamingo! It is the largest of all species of flamingos. They wade in shallow, salty waters, living and feeding in large groups with their heads upside-down thanks to their curved beaks, known as “bills”, which is also the reason why they are one of the few terrestrial animals to be “filter feeders”. Their bills help them in filter feeding, which means the flamingos scoop up a mouthful of water and prey, and separate or filter out the unwanted items such as mud and saltwater.
Flamingos actually embody the phrase “you are what you eat”. Did you know that their pink color is associated with its diet? Up to two years old, flamingos are grey in colour, but gradually turn pink because of the pigments in the organisms they eat, such as blue-green and red algae and brine shrimps.
They communicate by making loud, honking calls and the parent flamingo can distinguish its chick from its ‘call’ or sound. They lay one egg only during breeding season. In the UAE, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is the only place in the Gulf where they breed regularly. They can also be seen on a regular basis in the Eastern Mangrove National Park in Abu Dhabi and in the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary.
These migratory birds are sadly under threat from habitat loss (wetlands) and low reproductive success if breeding colonies are disturbed by, for example tourists, all-terrain vehicles, low flying aircraft. Climate change might also have negative impacts on flamingo populations by decreasing or modifying their food resources: higher air temperatures would increase evaporation rates in wetlands, decreasing the water level, increasing salinity, which in turn affect food resources. Change in food availability might decrease breeding success, but also compromise adult survival.
How can you help protect the Greater flamingos?