21 Captivating Facts About Flamingos

If we tell you that we have seen a pink bird with a long neck walking around, you instantly know what kind of animal we’re talking about, right?

In this post, we’ll check out some amazing facts about flamingos, one of the most beautiful bird species in the world!

1. It’s the only bird species in its particular order

Flamingos are part of the family Phoenicopteridae which is the only extant species in the order Phoenicopteriformes.

It’s assumed they got their name from the Spanish and Portuguese word “Flamengo” which means “flame-colored.” It’s also possible that the name has a reference to “flamenco” which means “Flemish” in Spanish, referring to a region in Belgium.

2. They have long legs because they are wading birds

Flamingos can mostly be found near shorelines wading in the mud to find food. Because these shorebirds like to wade, they are referred to as “waders” or “wading birds.”

Yes, these are animals that love spending time in lakes.

flamingos wading in the water

3. There are 6 species of flamingos

Flamingos live all around the world and there are a total of 6 recognized species. 4 species live all around the Americas and the Caribbean and 2 species live in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

6 different species are recognized:

  • Greater flamingo – Phoenicopterus roseus – Lives in Africa, Europe, and Asia.
  • Lesser flamingo – Phoeniconaias minor – Lives in Africa and India.
  • Chilean flamingo – Phoenicopterus chilensis – Lives in South America.
  • James’s flamingo – Phoenicoparrus jamesi – Lives in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.
  • Andean flamingo – Phoenicoparrus andinus – Lives in Peru, CHile, Bolivia, and Argentina.
  • American flamingo – Phoenicopterus ruber – Lives in the Caribbean islands, Caribbean Mexico, southern Florida, Belize, coastal Colombia, northern Brazil, Venezuela, and the Galápagos Islands.

4. Nobody knows for sure why they stand on one leg

One of the most interesting facts about flamingos is that they usually tend to stand on one leg, and nobody really knows why they do this. They stand on one leg in the water while their other leg is tucked beneath their body.

One theory suggests that they do this to conserve body heat as they wade through the cold water. They do, however, also display this behavior while they’re not in the water.

Another theory claims they do this because it helps them save energy. It’s been discovered that they can stand on one leg without any muscle activity which allows them to relax and look for food at the same time.

flamingo facts

5. They use their feet to stir up mud to find food

They do use their feet to stir up mud. This allows them to use their upside-down bills to scoop up the food that is waiting for them on the floor.

6. What do flamingos eat?

Once they take a scoop, they can filter the mud and the food with their specialized bills, which is perfectly suited for bottom scooping.

For the most part, their diets consist of blue-green algae and all sorts of small crustaceans.

One of the most fascinating facts about flamingos is that they are omnivores because they also eat insect larvae, small insects, and mollusks.

Flamingos looking for food
Flamingos looking for food / Source

7. They turn pink because of the food they eat

Did you know that you can turn orange if you eat too many carrots?

That’s exactly what happens to flamingos because their diet mostly consists of food rich in aqueous bacteria and beta-carotene such as animal and plant plankton.

This also usually means that the most colorful flamingos are the healthiest.

facts about flmaingos

8. Young flamingos are grayish

When flamingos are born they are far from orange or pink though!

The moment they are born they are just grayish and turn orange and pink as they start eating the food rich in beta-carotene that transforms them into the colorful birds we know.

Flamingo and chick
Flamingo and chick / Source

9. American flamingos are redder than other species

White and pale flamingos are often considered to be unhealthy and unattractive, which is the reason they will find it more difficult to find a partner as well.

By this rationale, American flamingos are the most attractive because they are the most colorful of all flamingo species!

The reason is simply that the food they can consume in the area that they live in is much richer in beta-carotene than all other species around the world, making them appear much healthier than their counterparts.

American flamingos

10. They have black feathers on their wings

Another one of the remarkable facts about flamingos is that you can’t actually see that they have back feathers on their wings. This can only be seen when they are flying.

Flamingos are great flyers by the way and their wings need to be clipped in captivity to avoid escape. Ask the management of the zoo in Wichita, Kansas, and they will be able to entertain you with a remarkable story.

The African flamingo fugitives that escaped from that zoo in 2005 have only been found in Texas after 14 years on the run!

Flamingos flying

11. Flamingos are very social animals

Have you ever seen a flamingo wandering about alone?

That’s not a common sight because these are some of the most social animals on the planet!

They often live in colonies that can reach up to thousands of individuals. The reason is believed to be to avoid predators, maximize food intake, and make nesting as efficient as possible.

Flamingo colony
Flamingo colony / Syllabub / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

12. They are for the most part monogamous

For the most part, flamingos form lifelong bonds with just one partner. This is usually the case if the colony they live in isn’t huge (even though it’s mostly quite large).

In colonies consisting of thousands of individuals, it’s possible that the copious opportunities available get the better of them and that these loyal birds cheat on their partners.

13. They form groups before breeding

Once pairs have been formed and nesting takes place, they usually move on and go live in smaller groups to breed. These groups can consist of anywhere between 15 to 50 birds.

flamingo breeding group

14. A strange ritual is going on in the breeding groups

During their time in these breeding groups, flamingos display very strange behavior. Both males and females perform synchronized ritual displays. This consists of wing flapping, head bobbing, in combination with making peculiar calls.

This odd behavior is most probably an effort to get the entire group ready for nesting and to encourage birds that haven’t found a partner yet to get things rolling!

interesting flamingo facts

15. The female decides where the nest will be built

When every bird in the group is finally ready after an extensive period of rituals, it’s time to build a nest. If you wonder, it’s usually the female who decides where and how the nest will be built.

As they build the nest, the female of another pair might find the location suitable for themselves and the male has to fight off these intruders.

They won’t let that happen as they aggressively defend their nest, that’s for sure!

flamingos nesting

16. Chicks form their own groups called “microcrèches”

The chicks of the flamingo are fairly easy to manage for the parents. The only thing they need to do is feed their chicks, something both the male and the female can do with a kind of crop milk that comes straight from the digestive tract.

After 7 to 12 days, the chicks already wander around outside of the nest and when they are just 2 weeks old they start bonding with their fellow chicks. What’s remarkable about this is that their parents leave them alone which strengthens their sense of social awareness.

The microcrèches soon turn into mini-colonies of chicks simply called “crèches” which, just like the adult colonies, can consist of thousands of young flamingos!

flamingo chicks

17. The greater flamingo can grow really big

So how big are flamingos? This really depends on the various types of species but the largest of the 6 species, the greater flamingo, can grow really big!

These birds can stand 3.9 to 4.7 feet (1.2 to 1.4 meters) tall while the smallest of the species, the lesser flamingo, stands just 2.6 feet (0.8 meters). Their wingspan can range from 37 inches (94 cm) to as big as 59 inches (150 cm)!

One of the most peculiar facts about flamingos is that they don’t weigh a lot even though they can stand so tall. The largest species weighs just up to 7.7 pounds (3.5 kilos) while the smaller species weighs just 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilos).

The reason they are so light is that it enables them to carry their weight while flying.

Greater flamingo
Greater flamingo / Elgollimoh / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

18. Flamingos can have a very long life

In the wild, flamingos are known to live between 20 and 30 years. In captivity, however, they are known to easily live over 50 years!

The oldest recorded flamingo ever was named “Greater” and is also commonly known as Flamingo One and Flamingo 1. This bird lived at least 83 years and lived at the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide, Australia. He died in the year 2014 after arriving at the zoo in either 1933, 1930, 1925, or 1919, and was already an adult bird by then.

This just shows that flamingos can live really long in an environment they enjoy!

Greater the oldest flamingo ever
Greater in 2013 / Source

19. A little trick is used to increase breeding in captivity

Breeding flamingos in captivity isn’t always an easy thing to do. These birds flock together and create groups of up to 50 birds to breed. These conditions aren’t easy to replicate.

Zookeepers in Colchester in England have found a clever trick to make the process easier!

Strategically placed mirrors gave the flamingos at the zoo the impression that they were in a bigger group than they really were, making them feel more comfortable which translated into better results while breeding.

A week after the mirrors were placed, the normal breeding behavior such as building a nest and the special rituals began!

flamingos at the zoo

20. Flamingos had it rough in Roman times!

Most cultures in history have been fascinated by these amazing creatures. Some cultures such as the Moche people of ancient Peru even worshipped them and depicted them in their art.

The Bahamas even made the Flamingo their national bird, just as the Peacock is the national bird of India and the keel-billed toucan that of Belize. Today, plastic flamingos are found all across gardens in the United States as they are used for decorations on lawns.

It’s good to be a flamingo today, but that wasn’t always the case! In Ancient Rome, flamingo tongues were considered to be a delicacy, best served together with pheasant brains, parrotfish livers, and lamprey guts. You know, the usual dishes on the Roman Emperor’s menu!

flamingos were eaten in ancient rome

21. Real flamingos aren’t endangered, fake flamingos are

Today, flamingos aren’t considered to be endangered because of their wide range. Strangely enough, plastic flamingos in the United States are being protected by a group called “Save the Flamingos” who claim that these lawn ornaments are “emblematic of a kinder, gentler time in American society.”

Their goal? To decorate every garden in America with plastic flamingos!

Garden with plastic flamingos
Garden with plastic flamingos / Corey Coyle / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en