Flamingos or flamingoes are a type of wading bird in the genus Phoenicopterus
(from Greek meaning "purple wing"), the only genus
in the family Phoenicopteridae
. There are four flamingo species
in the Americas and two species in the Old World.
|Parts of Africa, S. Europe and S. and SW
(Most widespread flamingo).
|Africa (e.g. Great Rift Valley) to NW India
(Most numerous flamingo).
|Temperate S. South America.
or James's Flamingo
|High Andes in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
|High Andes in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
|Caribbean and Galapagos islands.
Flamingos often stand on
one leg, the other tucked beneath the body. The reason for
this behavior is not fully understood.
Some suggest that the flamingo, like some other animals,
has the ability to have half of its body go into a state
of sleep, and when
one side is rested, the flamingo will swap legs and then
let the other half sleep, but this has not been proven.
Recent research has indicated that standing on one leg may
allow the birds to conserve more body heat, given that they
spend a significant amount of
time wading in cold water. As well as standing in the water,
flamingos may stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir
from the bottom. Or perhaps they just like to stand onm
one leg at a time.
Young flamingos hatch with grey plumage, but adults range
from light pink to bright red due to aqueous bacteria and
obtained from their food supply. A well-fed, healthy flamingo
is more vibrantly coloured and thus a more desirable mate;
or pale flamingo, however, is usually unhealthy or malnourished.
Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp and blue-green algae.
Their beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt
food they eat, and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering
of food items is assisted by hairy structures called lamellae
which line the mandibles, and the large rough-surfaced tongue.
The pink or reddish color of flamingos comes from carotenoid
proteins in their diet of animal and plant plankton. These
proteins are broken down into pigments by liver enzymes.
The source of this varies by species, and affects the saturation
of color. Flamingos whose sole diet is blue-green algae
in color compared to those who get it second hand (e.g.
from animals that have digested blue-green algae). Zoo-fed
flamingos, who often lack the color enhancer in their diet,
may be given food with the additive canthaxanthin.
Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor in Chilika, Orissa,
Photo: © J.M. Garg
Flamingos are very social
birds that live in colonies that can number in the thousands.
These large colonies are believed to serve
three purposes for the flamingos: predator avoidance, maximizing
food intake, and exploiting scarce suitable nesting sites.
The most basic and stable social unit of flamingos are pair
bonds which are made up of one male and one female. The
between them tends to be strong; however, in larger colonies
(where there are more mates to choose from), mate changes
occur. In pair bonds, both the male and the female contribute
to building the nest for their egg and defending it.
Before breeding, flamingo colonies split into breeding groups
of around 15-50 birds. Both males and females in these groups
perform synchronized ritual displays. These displays serve
to both stimulate synchronous nesting and establish pair
birds that do not already have mates. A flamingo group stands
together and display to each other by rasing neck, followed
calling with head-flagging and then wing flapping. The displays
do not seem to be directed towards an individual but instead
Flamingos will viciously defend their nesting sites and
young. After the chicks hatch, the only parental expense
Flamingos produce a crop milk, like pigeons and doves, due
to the action of a hormone called prolactin (see Columbidae).
It contains more fat and less protein than the latter does,
and it is produced in glands lining the whole of the upper
not just the crop. Both parents nurse their chick, and young
flamingos feed on this milk, which also contains red and
cells. In the first six days, the adults and chicks stay
in the nesting sites. At around seven to twelve days the
chicks begin to move
and explore their surroundings. After two weeks, the chicks
join groups called "microcrèches" and their
parent soon leave them in
these groups. Later, many microcrèches come together
to form crèches which contain thousands of chicks.
Chicks that do not
stay in their crèches are vulnerable to predators.
Flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus
|The Greater Flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus, is the most widespread
species of the flamingo family. It is found in parts of Africa,
southern Asia (coastal regions of Pakistan and India), and southern
Europe (including Spain, Albania, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus,
Portugal, Italy and the Camargue region of France). Some populations
are short distance migrants, and sightings north of the
breeding range are relatively frequent; however, given the species'
popularity in captivity, whether or not these are truly wild
individuals is a matter of some debate. A single bird was seen
on North Keeling Island (Cocos (Keeling) Islands) in 1988.
The Greater Flamingo is the state bird of Gujarat, India.
This is the largest species of flamingo, averaging 110150
cm tall and weighing 24 kg. The largest male flamingos have
been recorded at up to 187 cm (74 in) tall and 4.5 kg. Most of
the plumage is pinkish-white, but the wing coverts are red and
primary and secondary flight feathers are black. The bill is pink
with a restricted black tip, and the legs are entirely pink.
The call is a goose-like honking.
Like all flamingos, this species lays a single chalky-white egg
on a mud mound.
are usually found in large colonies and are partly migratory.
Lesser Flamingo, Phoenicopterus minor
Lesser Flamingo at Slimbridge
Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, Gloucestershire, England.
Taken by Adrian
Pingstone in June 2003 and released to the public domain.
|The Lesser Flamingo, Phoenicopterus minor, is a species in the
flamingo family of birds that resides in Africa (principally in
East African Rift) and in southern Asia. Birds are occasionally
reported from further north, but these are generally considered
to be escapees.
The Lesser Flamingo is the smallest and most numerous flamingo,
probably numbering up to two million individual birds.
They generally weigh 2.0 kg, are 85cm long, stand in 1 m) tall,
and have a wingspan of 1 m).
Most of the plumage is pinkish white. The clearest difference
between this species and Greater Flamingo, the only other Old
World species, is the much more extensive black on the bill.
Size is less helpful unless the species are together, since
of each species also differ in height.
This species feeds primarily on Spirulina, algae which grow
only in very alkaline lakes. Although blue-green in colour,
contain the photosynthetic pigments that give the birds their
pink colour. Their deep bill is specialised for filtering tiny
The lesser flamingo also feeds on shrimp.
Flamingos, Phoeniconaias minor, flying over Lake Nakuru,
Lesser Flamingos are prey to a variety of species, including
Marabou Storks, Baboons, African Fish Eagles and Wildcats.
In Africa, where they are most numerous, the Lesser Flamingos
breed principally on the highly caustic Lake Natron in northern
Tanzania. Their other African breeding sites are at Etosha Pan,
Sua Pan and Kamfers Dam. The last confirmed breeding at
Aftout es Saheli in coastal Mauritania was in 1965. Breeding
occurred at Lake Magadi in Kenya in 1962 when Lake Natron
was unsuitable due to flooding. In the early 20th century breeding
was also observed at Lake Nakuru.
The species also breeds in south-western and southern Asia.
In 1974 they bred at the Rann of Kutch, but since then only
at the Zinzuwadia and Purabcheria salt pans in north-western
Like all flamingos, they lay a single chalky white egg on mounds
they build of mud. Chicks join creches soon after hatching,
sometimes numbering over a hundred thousand individuals. The
creches are marshalled by a few adult birds who lead them by
foot to fresh water, a journey that can reach over 32 km.