A Collection Of Interesting Flamingo Facts
When you observe these unusual birds in their natural habitat, or in a zoo, you just can’t help but want to dig into a few flamingo facts. You might be curious as to why they are pink, or why they spend so much time standing on one leg. You might observe them eating in their very peculiar manner, and wonder why they eat the way they do, and what they eat.
A list of flamingo facts would include the fact that not only can they fly (we don’t observe them in flight very often), but they gather into truly huge flocks, probably larger flocks than you’ll see for any other bird, when they go from place to place. Flamingos march too. Marching is just one of the ritualized activities they partake in. A group of flamingos, more appropriate called a colony, can consist of a dozen or so birds, up to tens of thousands of birds. A colony, or part of a colony, will often do things like preening, stretching, and marching, in unison, not unlike synchronized swimming! Flamingos are not only very beautiful birds but can be fun to watch when they are being active. When they are just standing there, on one leg, it’s because that’s the most comfortable and restful position for them to stand in.
There are five species of flamingo, one of which, the lesser flamingo, comes from Africa. The other species are located in South and Central America, including the Galapagos Islands, and the Caribbean area. Flamingos are tall birds, standing between 3 1/2 and 4/12 feet tall, with a 5 foot wingspan. Flamingos usually lay a single egg, about 3 inches in length, with an incubation time of one month. The birds don’t necessarily breed every year. Flamingos frequent marshlands and shallow lakes, particularly areas in which there is little vegetation. Because of this, there are usually few other animals where flamingos hang out, and adult flamingos have few predators. They eat crustaceans, especially shrimp, plus algae and insects. The crustaceans and algae are rich in beta-carotene, responsible for giving the flamingos their familiar pink to red coloring. Young chicks are gray rather than pink, and remain that way until they reach adulthood, at 3 years. Flamingos often live to an age of between 15 and 20 years in the wild, and tend to live even longer in captivity.
Flamingo nests are not terribly attractive as bird’s nests go. They are built on the ground from mud and stones, with feathers used to hold everything together, and resemble a small mound. Both male and female take turns incubating the single egg. Baby chicks, once hatched, will only remain in the nest for about 4 days, but will return for feeding for sometime thereafter. The adults will only tend to their own chicks. Eventually the chicks band together in a colony, along with a few adults, presumably there for teaching and supervising purposes.
Two of the five flamingo species, living in the Andes, are listed as “species of concern” and in need of protection. One of the two species, the James’ flamingo, was for a time believed to be extinct. The other species are doing well, in danger only to the extent that their natural habitat is altered or destroyed by humans. The wetlands they inhabit tend to be quite fragile, and the fact that huge numbers may live in the same area, means that when habitat is damaged or destroyed, large numbers of the birds can be adversely affected.
Among the more interesting flamingo facts is the peculiar way in which they eat. Flamingos feed in shallow water. They have a bill which resembles a boomerang, hooked downward with a flat upper surface. When they eat they turn their heads upside down, so that the top surface of the bill is moved back and forth parallel to the bottom. Food is strained through their bills as they move in this back and forth motion. Their long legs allow then to stand in a foot or two of water while they feed. Flamingos feed primarily in salty water, yet when they drink, they drink fresh water.
Flamingos are truly interesting birds, and if you observe them long enough you’ll no doubt come away with a few more interesting flamingo facts. Maybe if you’re patient, they’ll march for you!