Flamingos are beautiful, gregarious long-legged birds, found in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. They are usually three to five feet in height with their long-billed legs and S-shaped neck. While you’ll love Flamingos for their sociable traits, another feature that marks them out is their bright pink hue. Flamingos love devouring shrimps, snails and other plant-based organisms like algae; and when they spot their potential dinner, they immediately plunge their head in the water, overturn it and scoop the food using their upper beak. Like many other long legged birds, Flamingos too can run on water. They run with their webbed feet, and after they gain enough speed, they soar up to the sky. In case you’re curious to know more about this bird, here are some fun facts that’ll totally blow you away!
Flamingo couples take equal responsibilities in raising their young bird
Flamingos usually build their nests along the waterways. These nests look like small piles of mud. When a female Flamingo is about to lay an egg, they reach the top of this mound, dig a shallow hole and lay their egg in that hole. Flamingo couples don’t shy away from responsibilities and both the parents take turns to sit on the egg (for keeping it warm). Their eggs are likely to hatch after twenty eight to thirty days. After a baby flamingo hatches from this egg, both the male and the female counterpart secrete a milky fluid for feeding their baby bird. This milk, also known as the crop milk is fed from the throats of the birds. Interestingly, in case of feeding too, both the parents take turns in feeding their baby bird.
At times, certain flamingo couples tend to steal the nest of other hardworking couples. Due to this reason, the mating couple guards their nest from both predators and other lazy flamingo couples.
Their bright pink hue indicates good health
Every time you come across a Flamingo, the first thing that’ll grab your attention is their bright pink hue. Ever wondered where they get this color from? Astaxanthin . Yes! This naturally occurring beta-carotene pigment attributes to their beautiful color. The pigment is obtained from their food sources. So when a flamingo is healthy and hearty, they are usually brighter in color. This is also the reason why most flamingos in captivity do not have the bright pink hue like their free roaming counterparts. Interestingly, a flamingo’s real feathers are concealed under their wings, and unlike the outward pinkish hue, these feathers are stark black in color. You can see these black feathers only when the birds are flying.
Young flamingos are bright, white in color
When a flamingo is born, they are usually white in color with soft, mushy feathers and a perfectly straight bill. This bill eventually takes a downward curve as the flamingo grows up. While both the parents take care of their young, the baby bird leaves his nest after five days to mingle with other baby flamingos in small groups. In the evenings, they return to their nests for food. A parent flamingo identifies their babies with their voice. After around two to three weeks, the adults herd their younger counterparts in small groups (also known as crèches). The chicks then collectively search for food, all by themselves.
A large number of Flamingo species are still not endangered
Although the Andean Flamingo is endangered and the Puna, Lesser and Chilean ones are said to be under high threats, a huge number of flamingo species are not yet deemed to be vulnerable.
Flamingos are gregarious birds
Like I already mentioned, Flamingos don’t really enjoy being isolated and are hardly found alone. Throughout their lives, they spend a huge chunk of time in groups. While an average group of flamingo includes as many as seventy birds, flamingos with bigger groups (having almost a million birds) have also been reported. According to ornithologists, Flamingos do not enjoy mating in private and they prefer performing their mating rituals in a huge herd.
They have a unique way of eating
Flamingos usually have a strange and unique way of eating. When they finally spot a prey, they eat it by stirring up mud with their long legs. After they prey is in full control, they head downwards and a scoop out a mound of mud and water with their beaks. Interestingly, like most aquatic animals, flamingos’ beaks too are designed to drain out the mud and retain the animals/prey. Once they have their prey in their beak, they devour it while keeping their heads overturned.
Flamingos have their own leaders
I’ve already told you that Flamingos prefer mating in groups. But guess what they do while mating? Usually, a heard of flamingos have their own designated leader who controls their breeding process. When a colony of birds, are breeding, this leader will influence the rest of the group to breed by changing the color of its feather to a deeper, pinkish hue. This change of color kick stars the mating ritual. In this context, it is interesting to note that usually the pinkest birds have the highest status in their groups. This is because their bright pink hue automatically indicates that they are good and strong enough to find the necessary food and resources.
Flamingos are extremely faithful
Although flamingos spend a large part of their time with thousands of other counterparts, these birds are among those few rare species that are monogamous throughout their lives. Usually, a male flamingo mates with only one female for the rest of its lives.
They can thrive in the most unexpected situations
While the lifespan of a flamingo is usually around 20-30 years, this very number can increase when they are captive. There is obviously a condition- that the birds are to be kept with a group of other flamingos. This will help them get a feel of their natural congregations.
Flamingos are truly flamboyant
The word flamingo’ is likely to be derived from the Latin word Flamma’ which means flame. And guess what? One of the collective nouns denoting a group of flamingos is flamboyance. Need I say more?