Like all flamingoes the American flamingo is notable for its bright pink plumage. These cover most of their body but the tips of the wings are black. They are considered the brightest of the flamingoes and their color may be red, pink or orange.
This color comes from pigment in the food which they eat such as algae and shrimp.
They have long, slender legs and a flexible, curved neck which ends with the relatively small head. The legs end with a foot with three webbed toes with the fourth toe being small or missing. These legs are colored pink.
Their bill features a curve and has a black tip with a pink/orange mid-section and a yellow base. The upper bill is often lighter in color.
Males tend to be larger than females. On average an American flamingo will stand between 120 and 145cm (47-57in) tall. Males weigh 2.8kg (6.1lbs) on average while females weigh 2.2.kg (4.8lbs). They have a wingspan of between 37 and 42.5cm (14.6-16.7in) across.
Greater flamingoes are omnivores. They feed on organic ooze, worms, nematodes, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, larvae and small fish.
The crustaceans in their diet are responsible for the bright pink color.
Food is filtered from the water using their downward sweeping bill. This is swept from side to side to collect food and water in it. The filter which helps them to feed also prevent them consuming too much salt which would be toxic.
Wild 20 years
Captive 60 years
— AD —
North, South and Central America along with islands in the Caribbean are the native home of the American flamingo.
Here they can be found throughout Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Bonaire), Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States, US Virgin Islands and Venezuela.
They make their home in saline lagoons, mud flats and shallow lakes. This species shows a preference for saline over fresh water.
The breeding season is highly variable among different populations with rainfall being the most important cue to breeding.
Pairs create lasting bonds which will remain for multiple breeding seasons. They perform a courtship display where they open their wings and turn their heads in a synchronized movement. These displays help to synchronize the breeding of the group so they all lay their eggs at the same time.
They will form a nest by scooping mud up with their lower jaw in to a small, cone-shaped mound. In areas without mud they may use stones to form the nest. Occasionally twigs and roots are used to form the nest. This nest is made to be high enough to protect it against flooding.
A single white egg is laid with two being laid on rare occasions. These are incubated for between 27 and 31 days by both parents.
At hatching the young are covered with white or grey down feathers and the bill is straight. This will develop its curve by two weeks old. They will first leave the nest at 5-8 days old.
Parents feed the chick with ‘crop milk’ which is created by the parents in their crop and dripped in to the chicks bill.
By 28-42 days old they will begin to feed themselves independently but the parents will supplement their diet until fledging at 9-13 weeks old.
Their regular feathers will grow in between 6 and 10 months old.
Sexual maturity is reached between 3 and 5 years old.
Flamingoes form groups known as a colony or flamboyance. These may include thousands or even tens of thousands of flamingoes.
One of the most well-known habits of the flamingo is standing on one leg. They will tuck the leg under the abdomen which helps to cut heat loss through the legs and feet.
Their vocalization is a loud honk used when in flight. When feeding they make a ‘low, gabbling’ noise with grunts and growls used when breeding or aggressive.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the American flamingo include racoons, cats such as margays and jaguars, grey foxes, crocodiles and birds of prey.
They are threatened by ingestion of lead from shooting and habitat loss a result of mineral mining. Human disturbance is also a threat.
American flamingoes are also known as Caribbean flamingoes.
The name “flamingo” comes from a Spanish word for ‘flaming’ or ‘red feathered.’
They are among the largest of the six flamingo species beaten only by the greater flamingo. Previously these two were thought to be a single species.
By Betty Wills (Atsme) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76296765
By Adam Baker from Houston / Moscow / Toulouse (travel a lot) – Flamenco Dance,
CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19169212
By Elelicht – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22727067
San Diego Zoo Kids. 2021. American Flamingo. [online] Available at: <https://kids.sandiegozoo.org/animals/american-flamingo> [Accessed 19 January 2021].
Smithsonian’s National Zoo. 2021. American Flamingo. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/american-flamingo> [Accessed 19 January 2021].
Nhpbs.org. 2021. American Flamingo – Phoenicopterus Ruber | Wildlife Journal Junior. [online] Available at: <https://nhpbs.org/wild/greaterflamingo.asp> [Accessed 19 January 2021].
American Flamingo (Pheonicopterus ruber) Fact Sheet. c2003-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed 19 January 2021]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/ americanflamingo.
Bouglouan, N., 2021. American Flamingo. [online] Oiseaux-birds.com. Available at: <http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-american-flamingo.html> [Accessed 20 January 2021].
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