Flamingos are wading birds that are found in lagoons and lakes in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Mexico and the Caribbean. They feed on shrimp, algae, mollusks, crustaceans, insects and fish. Flamingos live to be between 20 and 30 years old in the wild and up to 50 years old in captivity.
- Scientific & Common Names
- Present Status
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Aves
Order - Phoenicopteriformes
Family - Phoenicopteridae
Genus - Phoenicopterus, Phoeniconaias, Phoenicoparras
Species & Common Names- There are six species of flamingos. These include Phoeniconaias minor (lesser Flamingo), Phoenicoparrus andinus (Andean Flamingo), Phoenicoparrus jamesi (James’ Flamingo or Puna Flamingo), Phoenicopterus chilensis (Chilean Flamingo), Phoenicopterus roseus (Greater Flamingo) and Phoenicopterus ruber (American Flamingo).
Flamingos have bright pink, red or orange feathers, which they get from pigments in the algae they eat. They have long, thin legs, curved bills and long necks. Flamingos vary in size based on species. Greater flamingos are the biggest species, with adults weighing between 4.6 and 9 pounds and measuring between 3.9 and 4.7 feet. Lesser flamingos are the smallest, with adults measuring between 2.6 and 2.9 feet and weighing between 3.3 and 4.4 pounds.
Male and female flamingos build nests of mud that are 1 to 2 feet high. Females typically lay one large egg, which incubates for 27 to 31 days before hatching. Flamingo chicks weigh about 3 ounces at birth and have downy gray feathers. They remain in the nest for up to 12 days and feed on crop milk provided by the mother or father. When the chicks leave the nest, they gather into groups with other chicks and are watched over by adults. The parents visit the group of chicks to continue feeding their young.
Flamingos are highly social and live in groups of varying sizes. They perform displays that include flagging their heads, saluting with their wings, marching and twisting their necks and preening. Flamingos also communicate with each other through vocalizations, such as honking and even growling. Before flying, they have to run for a short distance to build up speed. When feeding, they wade into deep water to look for food. Flamingos are also known for standing on one leg, although the purpose of this is not fully understood.
Flamingos have been admired by different civilizations since ancient times. Egyptians believed that these birds represented the god Ra, while native populations in the Americas during ancient times included flamingos in their works of art.
The American and greater flamingo species are listed as “least concern,” while the Chilean, lesser and puna flamingo species are listed as “near threatened.” The Andean flamingo species is listed as vulnerable. Flamingos mainly face threats from habitat loss, egg collecting and hunting. They are protected from illegal wildlife trade under international regulations.