Flamingos are a type of wading bird that live in areas of large shallow lakes, lagoons, mangrove swamps, tidal flats, and sandy islands.
Flamingos are famous for their bright pink feathers, stilt-like legs, and S-shaped neck.
Flamingos tend to live a long life in the wild though with an average of 20 to 30 years. In captivity some of them have lived up to 40 years.
There are 6 species of flamingo: greater flamingo, lesser flamingo, Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo, James’ (or puna) flamingo and American (or Caribbean) flamingo.
The most widespread flamingo is the greater flamingo found in areas of Africa, Southern Europe and South, Southwest Asia. The lesser flamingo is the most numerous and lives in the Great Rift Valley of Africa through to Northwest India.
The 4 species in the New World include the Chilean flamingo, found in temperate South American areas, the Andean Flamingo and James’s flamingo found in the high Andes mountains in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina and the American flamingo is found in the West Indies, Yucatan, and along the Galapagos Islands.
Male flamingos are slightly larger than females, weighing more and having longer wingspans; however, visual sex determination of flamingos is unreliable.
The wingspan of flamingos ranges from 1 to 1.6 meters (3.3 to 5 feet).
The largest species is the greater flamingo averaging 120 to 145 centimeters (3.9 to 4.7 feet) tall and weight from 2.1 to 4.1 kilograms (4.6 to 9 pounds)
The smallest species is the lesser flamingo averaging 80 to 90 centimeters (2.6 to 2.9 feet) tall and Weight from 1.5 to 2 kilograms (3.3 to 4.4 pounds)
Feather color varies with species, ranging from pale pink to crimson or vermilion.
Flamingos are social birds that live in groups of varying sizes, from a few pairs to sometimes thousands or tens of thousands.
In East Africa, more than 1.5 million flamingos have been known to gather together – forming the largest flock known.
Flamingos communicate with a broad range of visual displays.They also use vocalizations and these displays to communicate between individuals or alert the group of possible danger.
To take off, a flamingo runs several steps, begins flapping its wings, and lifts off into the air. When landing the procedure is reversed: the bird touches down and then runs several paces.
A flamingo flies with its head and neck stretched out in front and its legs trailing behind. Flight speed of a flock of flamingos can reach 50 to 60 kilometer per hour (31 to 37 miles per hour). Flamingos have been known to fly 500 to 600 kilometers (311-373 miiles) each night between habitats.
The majority of lakes where flamingos live have extremely high salt concentrations. The only source of fresh water for some of these birds comes from boiling geysers. Flamingos are capable of drinking water at temperatures that approach the boiling point.
They excrete salt through salt glands in the nostrils.
A flamingo’s pink or reddish feather, leg, and facial coloration come from a diet high in alpha and beta carotenoid pigments, including canthaxanthin. The richest sources of carotenoids are found in the algae and various invertebrates that make up the bulk of a flamingo’s diet.
Scientists aren’t sure why do flamingos stand on one leg.There is less heat lost through the leg if it is tucked next to the bird’s body; however, this behavior is also seen in hot climates. Another explanation is more mundane: it’s probably a comfortable position for standing.
Pair bonding is very strong, and flamingos may be monogamous. However, flamingos have been observed to mate with more than one partner.
Although flamingos only nest once a year, flamingo colonies are known to breed at any time of the year.
A flamingo nest is not fancy, just a mound of mud, maybe 30 to 60 centimeters (12 to 24 inches) high.
At the top of the mound, in a shallow hole, the female lays one egg.
The parents take turns sitting on the egg to keep it warm. After about 30 days, the egg hatches.
When young flamingos are hatched they have white plummage.
After hatching, the chick stays on the nest mound for 5 to 12 days. During this time, the chick is fed a type of “milk” called crop milk that comes from the parents’ upper digestive tract. Both males and females can feed the chick this way, and even flamingos that are not the parents can act as foster-feeders.
Chicks begin to grow their flight feathers after 11 weeks. At the same time, the bill begins to hook, allowing the chick to feed itself.
Chicks lose their juvenile gray or white color gradually over a 2 or 3 year period, at which time their pink feathers begin to show.
Flamingos have relatively few predators in the wild but this is dependent on the area in which the flamingo inhabits. Human hunters, wild dogs and crocodiles are the main predators of the flamingo, along with eagles that prey upon the flamingo eggs and vulnerable flamingo chicks.
The word “flamingo” comes from the Spanish word “flamenco” which came from the earlier Latin word “flamma” meaning flame or fire.