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Flamingoes

Meet the World’s Flamingoes

Flamingoes are a group of six birds which are part of the family, Phoenicopteridae. This is the only family in the order Phoenicopteriformes.


They are similar in appearance having long legs ending with webbed feet that allow them to wade easily through the water.

Their feathers are colored pink but when they hatch they are grey and if they lose a feather it will quickly lose its color. This is because their color comes from their food. To keep this color in zoos they may be provided with food coloring as a supplement to their diet.

At birth a hatchling will be grey or white taking between one and two years to develop the adult coloration.


A group of flamingoes is known as a flock or flamboyance. Each flamingo flock may include as many as tens of thousands of birds. Sometimes flocks may be mixed between two species.

In Africa lesser flamingoes form the largest known flock of any bird today with as many as one million birds gathering.

It is thought that the most common flamingo species is the lesser flamingo with up to 2.5 million of them and the least common being the Andean flamingo with around 33,000 birds remaining.

Between 15 and 30% of a flamingoes day is spent preening. They distribute oil which is secreted from a gland at the base of their tail using their bill.

In ancient Rome the flamingoes tongue was viewed as a delicacy.

Flamingoes are well known for their habitat of standing on one leg with the other tucked up against their body.

The joint in the middle of the leg which is often thought of as a ‘knee’ is actually the ankle joint. Their true knee is located up higher on the body and is hidden under the feathers.

Their nest is made of mud and formed in to a cone shape. Once per year they deposit a raise a single egg in this nest. At hatching the young lack the curve in their beak. This will develop over the first few months of life.

Chilean Flamingo

A Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)

By Thomas Fuhrmann – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Diet

Flamingoes feed in the water where they will use their beak to filter small water creatures such as shrimp and particles such as algae out for them to eat.

Young flamingoes are raised on a milky fluid which the parents produce in their upper digestive tract. This has a similar digestive value to the milk produced by mammals.

Range

You can find flamingoes in Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. They are found on lagoons and large, shallow lakes in tropical and subtropical areas. Flamingoes have an ability to survive in water courses which are much saltier than other animals could inhabit.

Greater flamingoes have the largest distribution of the six species being found across parts of Asia, Europe and Africa.

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World’s largest Flamingo


The largest of the six flamingo species is the greater flamingo which reaches a height of 1.2-1.45m (3.9-4.7ft) and a weight of 2.1-4.1kg (4.6-9lbs).

World’s smallest Flamingo

At just 80-90cm (2.6-2.9ft) tall the lesser flamingo is the smallest of the six flamingo species. Their weight averages 1.5-2kg (3.3-4.4lbs).

Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

Christian Ferrer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA

Flamingo Species – A full list of the 6 species

  • Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
  • Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)
  • Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor)
  • Andean Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus)
  • Puna (James’s) Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi)
  • American (Caribbean) Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)
american flamingo

An American (Caribbean) Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)

Public domain

Species Profiles – A detailed fact file on some of the world’s flamingo species

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Seaworld.org. 2021. All About Flamingos – Behavior | Seaworld Parks & Entertainment. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 January 2021].

Lewis, R., 2021. Flamingo | Bird. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/animal/flamingo-bird> [Accessed 7 January 2021].

Softschools.com. 2021. Flamingo Facts. [online] Available at: <https://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/flamingo_facts/5/> [Accessed 7 January 2021].

Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2021. Flamingo | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/flamingo> [Accessed 7 January 2021].

DK Find Out!. 2021. DK Find Out! | Fun Facts For Kids On Animals, Earth, History And More!. [online] Available at: <https://www.dkfindout.com/us/animals-and-nature/birds/flamingos/> [Accessed 7 January 2021].

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