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If asked what a Flamingo looks like, it's not hard for anyone to do. They are known for their stilt-like legs, pink feathers, and round beak. There are six species of Flamingo in the world today. They are comprised of The Greater Flamingo, The Lesser Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo, Andean Flamingo, Puna Flamingo, and American/Caribbean Flamingo and live on many continents of the world including South America, Africa, The Middle East and India. These bird's natural habitat is around bodies of water, lakes, and lagoons. Their food sources can be found there, and their bodies work well with the environment.
Types of Flamingos
- Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)
Interesting fact: the pigment of the Flamingo feathers comes from eating algae and invertebrates. The ingredient that turns their feathers is beta-carotene, an organic chemical containing the color. The same is true for humans who eat plenty of tomatoes, spinach, pumpkins, carrots, and sweet potato. All carry beta-carotene as well. Species plagued by drought will have less pink pigment than other species. The Greater Flamingo is tallest, as you can imagine, standing up to 4.5 feet tall and weighing up to 7.7 lbs. Its wingspan ranges from 37 inches. Due to their webbed feet, they are able to walk/run on water prior to lifting off into flight.
What do Flamingos Eat?
Flamingos are generally non-migratory, but changes in weather or food source will cause them to relocate, according to Sea World. They are omnivorous birds, eating larva, small insects, algae, mollusks, crustaceans and small fish. They use their feet and legs to stir up the mud and creatures at the bottom of the lake. Their 'S' shaped neck dips below the water, twists upside down, and is able to scoop their meals with the upper part of their boat-shaped beaks. No one knows for sure why Flamingos stand on one leg, but it's been presumed that keeping one leg out of cold waters allows the bird to conserve body heat. Although they are so slender and people usually think of them as classified tropical birds, the Flamingo would be able to endure cold climates as long as food and water were available.
Research done by Sea World suggests that Flamingos are monogamous creatures. Once they mate, they state together. A group of flamingos, called a colony or flock, will mate at the same time, to lay eggs that hatch simultaneously. Their nests look like mounds of mud and the female lays one egg, just larger than a chicken's, at a time. Male and female birds take turns keeping the eggs warm and they hatch just after a month of incubation. The birds hatch quite small and don't reach their maturity until 3-5 years old. Baby Flamingos are gray and white due to their lack of the same diet as their elders. They are provided a fluid to eat from the digestion of their parents. They will turn pink within the first years of life.
Evidence provided by fossils and endorsed by Sea World suggests that the group of birds Flamingos evolved from are 30 million years old, long before many avian bird species evolved. Flamingos can live individually between 20-30 years, quite long.
Flamingos in the Wild
None of the six Flamingo species are considered endangered at this time, although three of them have small or decreasing populations (Lesser, Chilean, and Puna). The largest flock ever recorded was of 1 million Flamingos known to gather in East Africa. Flamingos can be viewed by the public in several zoos and in The Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.