Size: Height 31 to 51 inches (80 to 130 cm); weight 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) to 3.5 kg (7.7 lb).
Area: Africa, South America, Florida.
Offspring: One egg at a time.
· Fossilized flamingo footprints, estimated to be 7 million years old, were found in the Andes.
· Flamingos spend 15% to 30% of the day preening, distributing oil throughout their feathers.
· Florida’s Hialeah racetrack has a flock of approximately 900 Caribbean flamingos.
· Caribbean, Chilean and greater flamingos are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act of 1918.
· Busch Gardens Tampa has the largest flock of Caribbean flamingos of any zoological park in the world.
Flamingos are very social birds that live in large colonies consisting of thousands. There are five species of flamingos, and the different species can live together harmoniously. All five species have long legs and necks. The greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is the largest and is divided into two subspecies, while the lesser (Phoeniconaias minor) is the smallest and more brightly coloured. The Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) has grey legs with pink bands, and the James’ flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi), instead of having red flight feathers, has black. The James’ flamingo was believed to be extinct in 1924, but was rediscovered in 1957, cohabiting with the Chilean flamingo. The Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) is the only flamingo with yellow legs and feet, and a red spot on the nose. Flamingos are active both day and night, and find food by using their legs to stir up mud as they stand in water. Using their beaks, they then sift through the mud and eat seeds, algae, crustaceans and molluscs. They have webbed feet and often stand on only one of their feet. Flamingos fly with their heads and necks stretched out in front and their legs held out behind. They’re also good swimmers.
Flamingos are found in tropical and subtropical areas. Chilean flamingos are found in central Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and the Falkland Islands. The lesser flamingo lives in Africa, India and southern Spain. The James’ flamingo is found in southern Peru, north-eastern Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. Andean flamingos are found in southern Peru, north-central Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. The greater flamingo has the largest distribution, with populations in northwest India, the Middle East, the western Mediterranean, Africa, and some are even found in Europe. The Caribbean flamingo is found in Yucatan, West Indies, Bahamas, Galapagos Islands, Florida, and the northern tip of South America.
Flamingos who are interested in another bird call out to each other. The female will let the male know she’s interested in mating by walking away from the herd. The male follows and when she stops, she lets him know she’s ready by spreading her wings and lowering her head. He then will leap on her back and put his feet on her wings. When mating has taken place the male will jump over her head to the ground. Some flamingos form lifelong bonds, while other flamingos have multiple partners. Up to six weeks before the egg is laid, the mother and father begin to build a nest of mud, straw, feathers and tiny stones. The nest may be as large as a foot high. Both the female and the male take turns incubating the egg. Breaking out of the shell is a traumatic event for both the parents and the chick, who calls out often during hatching while the parents look distressed and call back. They gently groom and nibble at the chick as it emerges from the shell. Young flamingos are grey in colour with red, straight beaks, and are fed a formula by both parents, similar to mammal’s milk. The milk is red in colour and is a secretion of the adult’s upper digestive tract. After four to seven days, the chick is strong enough to stand and walk, and is able to swim immediately. In a little over a week, the youngster’s red bill will turn black like those of the adults, and within three months, the bill will develop a hook, enabling the youngster to feed itself. Chicks gather together to play while their parents keep a protective eye on them. The lifespan of a flamingo in the wild is unknown. Captive flamingos have lived over forty years.