Flamingos are wading birds well-known for their long neck, stilt-like legs, and pink or reddish feathers. Flamingos are one of the most interesting birds. They are also known as pink birds.
The colour of their feather is a result of the pigments present in their diet, which are responsible for red and pink colours of their feathers. All flamingos are found in tropical and subtropical areas.
These birds live in shallow lakes, mangrove swamps, and sandy islands of Africa, Asia, America, and Europe. Flamingos have extremely large legs with backwards-bending knees that you don’t usually see on birds.
Flamingos are filter feeders, which means they take in food along with water. Flamingos are omnivorous, and their favourite food is shrimp. Flamingos are quite comfortable standing on one leg and can even sleep in that position.
The adult flamingos are 3.3-4.6 feet tall and weigh between 4-8 pounds. The length of their wingspan ranges from 3.3-5 feet. Flamingos live for 20 to 30 years, however, in captivity they live relatively long, which is up to 50 years.
It is a social bird and lives in a group of various sizes. They are not endangered, however illegal poaching and habitat loss are the prominent threat to them. Flamingo is a national bird of The Bahamas.
Interesting Facts about Flamingos
1. Their Diet Makes them Pink
Flamingo diet largely consists of crustaceans and algae, which are rich in carotenoids. Carotenoids are the pigments responsible for the pink or reddish colouration of the feathers. The more of this chemical they consume, the stronger the colour of their feathers. Flamingo chicks are born grey when hatched. Each flamingos’ shade of pink varies by species. If they stop consuming the food containing carotenoids, they lose their colour and can turn white.
2. ix Different Species
There are six species of flamingo around the world, and some of them also have subspecies. Those species are greater flamingo, lesser flamingo, Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo, James’ (or puna) flamingo, and American (or Caribbean) flamingo. Only trained eyes can distinguish these six species. They live in different habitats from mountains to flatlands to warm and cold climates. All flamingos belong to the bird family Phoenicopteridae.
3. Found All Around the World
Flamingos are found around the world from the Caribbean and South America to Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Chilean, Andean, and puna flamingos are found in South America; greater and lesser flamingos live in Africa and are also found in the Middle East; the American flamingo is native to Mexico, the Caribbean, and the northernmost tip of South America. Flamingos are commonly found in mangrove swamps, tidal flats, and sandy islands. They usually prefer places that lack vegetation.
4. Can Stand on One Leg
Flamingos have a strange habit of standing on one leg. Flamingo’s stand on one leg in water because it reduces the amount of body heat lost by the cold water. They can even sleep while standing on one leg. A study suggested that this behaviour does not cause muscle strain in their legs, which means they can do it without physical effort.
5. Insanely Long Legs
Unlike other birds, flamingos have very long legs. An adult flamingo’s legs can be 30-50 inches long, which is longer than its entire body. The legs bend backwards, which is not common among birds. The point where the legs bend is the ankle, not the knee. The actual knee is very close to the body and is not visible through the bird’s plumage. Those long legs can support their whole body at the same time without the use of any extra muscles to stay upright.
6. Swim Less and Fly More
Flamingos are strong but rare swimmers and powerful fliers. They can fly at a speed of 50-60 km/h. They can fly hundreds of miles a day. Before taking off into the air, flamingos need to build up some speed. So they take a short run-up, even when they’re in the water. In-flight, flamingos are quite distinctive, with their long necks stretched out in front and the equally long legs trailing behind They usually fly together in large flocks.
7. Eat Upside Down
Flamingos hold their bent bills upside down while feeding to filter out their food from water and mud. Their curved bill is designed to filter food from the water. They use their feet to stir up the mud so that they can locate their food and curve their long neck down to catch the food with the beak. Flamingos usually feed on algae, shrimps, insects, mollusks, and other omnivorous diets.
8. Social Life
Flamingos are not solitary, rather they are extremely social and live in large groups known as colonies. Colonies can range from around fifty to the thousands. They eat at the same time and sleep at the same time. They also mate around the same time. They use a variety of sounds to communicate with each other. Before flamingos pick a mate, there is a ritual that the colony does a special dance together.
9. Flamingos Produce Milk
It sounds crazy but flamingos can produce milk though they don’t have mammary glands. Both males and females produce milk. They produce milk in the upper digestive tract and regurgitate it to feed their young. Parent flamingos feed their chicks’ crop milk for 2 weeks after hatching. The crop milk is not rich in protein and fats like mammalian milk but provides great nutrition for growing chicks.
10. Flamingos Chicks are Grey or White
Flamingo chicks are born with grey and white feathers. They do not turn pink until they reach the age of three. Their young feathers are much less structured and fluffier than adult plumage. Their beaks are straight and begin to curve as they grow and mature.
11. Flamingos are Monogamous
Flamingos are monogamous birds like penguins which means they lay a single egg in a year. If that egg is lost, stolen, damaged, or does not hatch, they do not typically lay a replacement. It can often take several years for the flamingo population to grow if something bad happens to the colony like a natural disaster or ransacked by predators.
12. Plastic Lawn Flamingos are an American Cultural Icon
Plastic flamingos are the American cultural icon. It was designed in 1957 by artist Don Featherstone. Some people still enjoy them today. Pink plastic flamingos are one of the most famous lawn ornaments in the United States and are still in production today. There are more plastic flamingos in the USA than the real ones.