If you are a birder reading this, you will probably like flamingos because they are pink. If you are a flamingo reading this, you will probably like flamingos because they are black.

It may come as a surprise, but the colour black – not pink, not red or any other fancy colour – is central to the courtship rituals of the Greater Flamingo. There are two basic elements employed in it, and both are based on the two black parts each flamingo proudly calls its own: the black tip to the bill and the black flight feathers.

Flamingos find love in groups, and their courtship ritual always requires relatively large gatherings. The black tip of their bill sees action in the first phase of the courtship dance, when the flamingos form a dense – indeed very dense – circular group, synchronously walk in circles, stretch their necks and bills high into the air and frantically turn their heads from side to side, waving their black bill tips in front of each other’s eyes.

flamingo black bill

The black tip to a flamingo’s bill means business – reproductive business

In some cases, but far from always, the dense group will eventually loosen up a bit to allow each bird more space, and the head-turning ceremony will then end in one bird after the other quickly stretching out its wings to expose the black flight feathers, remaining in this position for a few seconds. This wing-stretching doesn’t happen in synchronicity but will usually be initiated by one bird with others following suit, one after the other. It is one of the Camargue’s many memorable spectacles to watch a thin pink line of flamingos far out in one of the shallow lagoons suddenly turn to black, and then back again to pink, like a quick pulse. Few things in the avian world can be more unexpected than the sudden emergence of black on pastel coloured birds. Below is a series of photographs that show such a courtship ritual, a line of pink turning to a line of black, and back to pink again within a few seconds. The group to the left is still caught in the head-shaking phase.
Yes, in 2013 you probably had expected an embedded video, but I am old enough by now to not be ashamed of my 20th century roots. I have no video, just this series of photographs, but feel free to print them out, bind them and use them as your own personal flamingo flip-book. No batteries required.

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pinkweeklogoIt is Pink Bird Weekend on 10,000 Birds! Whether we are discussing birds shaded roseate, fuchsia, rose, coral, salmon, blush, or just plain pink, we have them all covered on Pink Bird Weekend. Why would we bother with such an esoteric topic? To put it simply, pink birds are awesome! Think about it, have you ever seen a pink bird and not wanted to see it again? Of course not! Make sure to check back all Pink Bird Weekend long as we delve into every possible pulchritudinous pink bird we can think of…

Written by Jochen
Jochen Roeder was born in Germany and raised to be a birder. He also spent a number of years abroad, just so he could see more birds. One of his most astounding achievements is the comprehension that Yellow-crowned Night-herons do not exist, as he failed to see any despite birding in North America for more than two years. He currently lives near Heidelberg, one of the most boring places for a birder to live, a fact about which he likes to whinge a lot. When he is not birding or trying to convince his teenage son that patiently scanning some fields for migrants is more fun than staring at a smartphone, he enjoys contemplating the reasoning behind the common names of birds. He first became famous in the bird blog world on Bell Tower Birding.