Greater Flamingo retained in Category D
The British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) has recently conducted a review of the status of Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber in Britain. The review concludes that this species should be retained in Category D.
BOURC consider that sightings in Britain of this species relate to escaped birds, either from collections or from a feral breeding population on the Dutch-German border.
There are extensive ringing programmes in France, Spain and the eastern Mediterranean. Colour-ringed individuals from all three areas are reported regularly throughout the Mediterranean. However, records of ringed birds north of these breeding areas are very rare and there are no sightings of ringed birds from European countries bordering the north-east Atlantic (although Spanish-ringed birds have occasionally wandered to the north of Spain).
Ringing data suggest that juvenile birds are more likely to disperse than adults, and only one British record relates to a juvenile.
The latest UK Zoo Federation Inventory lists 300 Greater Flamingos in UK zoos. The true figure, however, will be higher as this inventory does not include smaller zoos and private collections. The same Inventory lists 440 Caribbean and 750 Chilean Flamingos. At least three zoos in Britain report successful breeding of Greater Flamingo. Data from European collections involve almost 6000 captive flamingos including 1400 Greater Flamingos. Many collections prefer not to pinion their birds and a number of collections hold full-winged birds in open pools. Many British sightings are of known escapes from zoos.
The colony of flamingos on the Dutch-German border involves up to 40 individuals that have bred since 1982. Approximately 30% are Greater Flamingos, 70% are Chilean and hybridisation between the two species has been recorded. Birds disperse from this population towards the North Sea coast in late summer and could be a source of British sightings.