Flamingo is a type of bird that belongs
to the family Ciconiiformes. The family Ciconiiformes includes birds
with long necks and legs such as storks and herons. Flamingos have
similar traits with some of the members in the family Ciconiiformes.
For example, flamingo has a pelvis and ribs like that of the storks.
The egg white composition of the flamingos is similar with herons. The
behaviors of the Flamingos’ babies are similar with the geese. Like
geese, flamingoes have webbed toes which are joined by the skin. There
are five species of flamingo including P. ruber, P. chilensis (Chilean
flamingo), P. minor (Lesser flamingo), P. jamesi (James flamingo) and
P. andinus (Andean flamingo). There are two subspecies of Phoenicoterus
ruber including P. r. ruber (Caribbean flamingo) and P. r. roseus
flamingo). Fossil discoveries have shown that flamingo had existed
about 30 million years ago. In 1976, researchers found out that the
flamingoes are derived from a ancient shorebirds.
Habitat and Distribution
Flamingos are widely distributed in
tropical regions. Chilean flamingo lives in the central region in Peru
including Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Flamingos that were left
behind by the group can be found on Falkland Islands. Lesser flamingos
are originated from Africa. They can be found in the eastern,
and western regions of Africa, India and Spain. The James flamingo is
rarely seen and can be found in Peru. However, the James flamingos also
occupy other regions in the South America such as Chile, and Bolivia.
Andean flamingos are distributed to Peru, and Argentina. Caribbean
flamingos are restricted to the certain regions in the South America
such as Yucatan, Bahamas and Galapagos Islands. The greater flamingos
have the largest population compare with other species. Greater flamingo
can normally be seen in India, Middle East and Africa. There are also
a small numbers of flamingos that live in Europe.
Flamingo likes to live in lakes with
salty or alkaline waters such as mangrove swamps, and sandy islands.
They are also often spotted near the sea. Chilean flamingos are seldom
found in lakes that has fishes. Chilean flamingos don’t feed on fish
but on invertebrates. The introduction of fish in the lake may disturb
the habitat of the flamingos including Chilean, Greater and Caribbean
Flamingos don’t migrate to a warmer
climate like other birds. Despite that, the changes in climate and water
level cause the flamingo to move to different locations. For example,
flamingos that live in high altitude lakes must relocate to a warmer
region when winter is approaching. If the water level increases, the
flamingos will fly in group and search for another sites with a more
suitable living condition. During the dry season, the flamingoes will
move to another location. During the breeding season, flamingos that
migrate will return to the original breeding place. During the day,
the flamingos will fly at a high altitude to prevent being captured
by the eagles. Most flamingos will begin the migration during September.
However, some flamingos who are tired or unable to travel will be left
behind and spend the winter in that place.
Each species of flamingo has different
height and weight. The Greater flamingo has a height of 110 – 130
cm and a weight of up to 3.5 kg. The lesser flamingo can reach up to
the height of 80 cm and weight of 2.5 kg. Male flamingos are taller
and heavier than the female flamingos. Male flamingos will grow into
the adult size after 1.5 – 2 years. The lesser flamingos’ wingspan
can measure 95 – 100cm while the greater flamingos’ wingspan can
measure 140 – 165 cm. The wingspan of the Caribbean flaming can reach
up to 150cm.
The color of the plumage of flamingo
varies from species to species. Caribbean flamingos’ plumage has the
brightest color of all other species. The plumage color of Caribbean
flamingo is crimson or vermilion. Chilean flamingo has a pale pink
The coloration of the feathers comes
from the carotenoid pigment which is present in the diet of the
The feather colors of the male and female flamingos are similar. Newborn
chicks have a gray or white plumage. After a few months, the chick will
grow up into a juvenile bird with grayish feather. The juvenile bird
will take approximately 1 – 2 years to turn into full adult coloration.
Parents who are nursing the chicks may lose the natural color of their
plumage. The coloration of the flamingos’ feet ranges from yellow
to pink red. The only flamingo species with yellow feet is the Andean
The eyes of the flamingos are located
on each side of the hand. Baby flamingos have gray eyes. Flamingos that
have grown into adult have yellow eyes. The coloration of the flamingos’
bill can range from many colors including black, pink, or cream. The
coloration of the bill differs from various flamingo species. On
flamingos have twelve to sixteen tail feathers. Flamingos molt at
intervals. The molting of the flamingos is concerned with the breeding
cycle. Feathers that are molted away will lose their original color.
Flamingos have a good hearing
The vocalizations play an important role in gathering the flocks. Each
parent uses a unique vocalization to call their chick. The unique
is only recognized by the chicks.
The good eyesight helps the flamingos
to synchronize the collective displays of the birds. Some researchers
claim that flamingos cannot see well in the dark. Despite that,
have better eyesight than human. Flamingos use color perception to view
things. They can recognize the faces of the zoo keepers who look after
The flamingo’s tongue has a tactile
organ which is used to examine the food. Flamingos have poor taste and
Adaptations for Their Environment
Flamingos have long and webbed feet
which help them to wade in the deep part of the lake. If the water is
too deep, the flamingo will swim at the surface to find food. The webbed
feet allow the flamingo to have the ability to swim. Flamingos cannot
dive into water. They are often seen feeding in groups in the lake.
Flamingo use their lungs to take in
the oxygen. While feeding underneath the water, they will hold their
breath temporarily to prevent the water from entering into the lungs.
When the flamingo is weary, she will
sit down with the feet tucked in. While sitting down on the ground,
the flamingo will face towards the wind. By doing this, the wind and
rain cannot penetrate their plumage.
For thermoregulation purpose, flamingo
will frequently stand on one leg so that the heat can be conserved in
the body. The flamingo is often observed standing one foot in both warm
and cold climate.
Before they can take flight, they will
run a few steps. As they run, they slowly increase the speed. Finally,
they will flap their wings and fly up to the sky. When the flamingo
land on the ground, he will have to touch the ground and runs a few
steps. When flamingo fly, the neck is stretched forward and the legs
are trailing behind. The speed of the flamingo’s flight can
range from 50 – 60 kph. Flamingo can travel approximately 500 –
600 km per night.
Most of the lake habitat of the
has salty water. Flamingos obtain their drinking water from the nearby
geysers. They are capable of drinking boiling water without hurting
Flamingo likes to socialize with other
birds of their own species. They are often seen in groups of ten
In the zoo, the flamingos are seen in a smaller group of 2 – 340 birds
due to captivity condition. Flamingo performs several behavior displays
to socialize with each other including head-flag, wing-salute, and
When performing the head-flag, the flamingo will stretch the neck and
head up. Wing salute involves stretching the wings into a wide span
and showing off the striking colors.
Flamingos that are breeding will feed
once during the day or night. Birds that are not breeding will search
for food during the night. During the day, the flamingos will perform
recreation activities such as taking a bath in the lake. Unlike other
birds, flamingos spend a small part of their time cleaning their bill.
While cleaning the bill, the oil grand near the tail will emit oil which
will be distributed throughout all the feathers.
Diet and Eating Habits
Flamingos rely on a few food sources
for survival. Some of the common food in the flamingos’ diet includes
red algae, small fishes, crustaceans and etc. The pinkish color in the
flamingo skin is derived from the alpha and beta carotenoid pigments
in the food. The food source with the highest concentration of
is algae, and insects. The flamingo’s bill is purposely formed to
filter the food. The flamingo’s bill shape varies from various species.
For example, Lesser, James and Andean flamingo are equipped with deep
keeled bills. Flamingos with deep keeled bills are primarily feed on
blue-green algae, red algae and diatoms. The shallow-keeled bills of
the Great, Caribbean and Chilean flamingos are designed specifically
for catching and eating larvae, crustaceans and small fishes.
When feeding, the flamingos will lower
their head so that they are facing the water and the bills hang upside
down. The flamingos will then turn their heads from side to side to
collect food. After they have collected the food in the bill, the
lamellae on the tongue will filter the food from the mud.
Baby flamingos will become sexually
matured after 6 years. Flamingo can breed at anytime of the year. They
can breed up to two times per year. The nest building will depends on
the quantity of rainfall and the food availability. Lesser flamingos
will only mate after the algae had bloomed.
Hatching and Care of Young
Unlike other birds, the flamingo only
lay one egg. They egg measures 78 by 48mm. It has a weight of 115g.
Like the chicken egg, the flamingo’s eggs have oblong shape. The egg
is white in color. However, it turns blue immediately after the mother
laid it. Though it is normal for flamingos to lay two eggs, it is rarely
that both eggs will hatch. If one of the eggs cannot be hatched, the
mother will continue to hatch the other eggs.
As soon as the egg is laid, the mother
and father flamingo will take turns sitting on the nest mound. The
period will last for twenty six to thirty one days. During the
process, the parent bird will use its bill to lift and turn the egg.
There is no standard hatching season.
The chicks can be hatch at anytime. When it is time for the egg to
the chick will take 24 – 36 hours to break the shell and crawl out.
As the chick crawl out of the shell, she will make tiny vocalizations
to the mother. The chick break the shell of the egg by using a growth
on the beak called egg tooth. When the egg is hatching, the parent will
stand on one stand and appear worried. When the egg shell becomes
the parent will sit on it so that it will eventually be broken. New
chicks have grey downs and swollen legs. The swelling on the leg will
be reduced after 2 days. The red color on the bill and legs will become
black after a week had passed.
Flamingo uses a wide range of
including honking, grunting and growling. The vocalizations help to
keep the flock together. The specific vocalization calls is associated
with certain behavior. Each vocalization denotes a different meaning
to the flamingo.
Longetivity and Causes of Death
Scientists have not yet discovered
the lifespan of the flamingos. In a zoo at Philadelphia, one flamingo
managed to live for forty four years old. Flamingo has several
Most of the predators are other bird species such as lappet-faced
white headed vultures, marabou stock, eagle and black kite.
The James Flamingos nearly extinct
in 1924. Later, scientists found new colonies living with the Chilean
flamingo. Some flamingo species are labeled as threatened animal.
the U.S. Endangered Species Act did not listed any of the flamingo
are as an endangered animal. The IUCN/World Conservation Union has
both Andean and James flamingo.