There are six species of Flamingoes, all of which come from rather harsh inhospitable environments. Some species live on frozen windswept saline lakes at high altitudes in the Andes Mountains while others nest on extremely caustic alkaline mud flats that contain boiling mud pots erupting from volcanic fissures .
- The unique bill distinguishes the American flamingo from many other birds. This bent bill is an adaptation for feeding, and designed so that the bent portion is parallel with the bottom of the pond , lake or flats in which they are feeding.
- The legs of the American flamingo are long, which enables them to wade into much deeper water than most other birds. Webbed feet support them on soft mud .
- Flamingos frequently stand on one leg. Being able to curl the leg under the body, American flamingo keeps the foot warm and conserves body heat. Flamingo stand on one leg in both cool and warm environments.
Common Names in English:
American Flamingo, Caribbean Flamingo, Greater Flamingo
Species Phoenicopterus ruber ruber
The American Flamingo is a deep scarlet red on head
, neck, breast
with Lighter shades of scarlet and pink on the back and
under the tail. The Primary
and Secondary feathers
are jet black
and make a striking contrast to the vivid colors of the rest of the
Males are larger than females, but otherwise the same in apperance. The American flamingo may be up to 57 inches in length . The average weight is 6 to 8 pounds . The American flamingo has long legs that are ideal for wading in water. The color of a flamingo's feathers, except for some black wing feathers, varies from bright red to pale pink. For example, flamingos of the Caribbean area have coral red feathers, and South American flamingos have pinkish white feathers. Chemicals in the crustaceans are what gives the flamingo its pink color. Coloration of the feet and legs is the same. What appears to be the flamingo's knee is actually its ankle. The American flamingo has a boomerang shaped beak that can filter out water and trap food. Its beak is referred to as a "Roman nose." The American flamingo has a wingspan of 150 cm (59 in).
The beautiful color of Flamingoes (and a number of other colorful birds) is acquired from their diet . The small crustaceans and algae that the flamingoes eat contain carotinoid and other natural pigments that are processed in the body and deposited in the growing feathers. (Carotene is one of the most common carotinoid pigments and is what makes Carrots and other vegetables orange in color.) Only specific red chemical compounds will color Flamingoes. This means that you can't turn a Flamingo blue by feeding it blue colored food. At the zoo we add a product called Roxanthin Red to their food. This is what gives Flamingoes their bright "Pink" color.
Lives in saline lagoons , and breeds on mudflats or islands.
American flamingos reach sexual maturity several years after birth.
They begin to breed
at about 6 years of age. Breeding can occur in
, and a flamingo may breed twice in a year. Breeding and
building may depend on rainfall and its effect on food supply.
American flamingos perform structured preening when courtship
Birds interested in each other will call
to one another in unison.
Male and female bounding is very strong
during breeding season
flamingos may mate with more than one partner. A flamingo's nest
is made of mud
, straw and feathers
and may be as high as
12 inches. A single egg
is laid on the top of a tall mound that the
female constructs. At hatching
the youngster is covered with white
gray in approximately 3 weeks.
Whatever the species, Flamingoes are hardy long-lived birds. It takes several years for them to become sexually mature and find a mate. Once the birds mate, they don't always reproduce every year. In the wild breeding only takes place in years where the rainfall is adequate and food sources abundant. Even a year that starts out good could end in disaster if the rains stop too early, or there is too much rain and the nests becomes flooded. It has been estimated that taking into account bad weather, predation , food resources , natural disasters and deaths , it may take an average pair of Flamingoes 25 years or more to produce enough offspring to replace themselves!
Young flamingos leave the nest after five days and form groups. But the young will return to the nest to feed on fluid produced in the digestive system of the parents. The adult dribbles this fluid from its mouth into the youngster's bill. After about two weeks, the young start to find their own food. Flamingos live fifteen to twenty years and longer in captivity.
Flamingoes are very social birds and will not nest
unless there are
a number of other flamingoes present. Usually there is a "critical
mass" of birds that is needed to initiate breeding and smaller
flocks tend not to breed
us well as larger ones. During the breeding
, group behavior is very important to get the entire flock
"in the mood" for breeding and synchronize the production
The flock displays are very dramatic, especially when performed by a large group of birds simultaneously. In the wild where flocks of Flamingoes can number in the hundreds of thousands, the infectious courtship behaviors can be seen to sweep through the flock like the crowd doing "the wave" at a football game. In smaller flocks, usually one or to birds start calling and displaying and soon the whole flock joins in, performing in unison.
Although Flamingoes are extremely social, they spend quite a bit of time fighting with each other. These are usually only noisy squabbles and pecking skirmishes and never cause any damage or harm. When nesting, you can see that each nest is placed exactly one neck length away from its neighbor, just within arguing distance! The most disastrous consequence of all this fighting is broken or "scrambled eggs!"
American flamingos are waders and good swimmers. They congregate in large flocks. Its method of feeding is similar to that of the baleen whales in that the food is taken in along with water and then the water is expelled through a comb-like structure (lamallae) leaving the food behind .
Flamingo vocalizations range from nasal honking to growling. Specific calls can be associated with certain behaviors. Vocalizations are used in parents chick recognition.
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Goodrich, 1930
- Linnaeus, 1758
- Gauthier, 1986
- (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Pycraft, 1900
- Garrod, 1874
- Bonaparte, 1854
- Suborder: Ciconiae () - Bonaparte, 1854
- Order: Ciconiiformes () - Bonaparte, 1854
- Superorder: Ciconiimorphae () - Garrod, 1874
- Cohort: Neognathae () - Pycraft, 1900
- Infraclass: Aves () - (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Subclass: Avialae () - Gauthier, 1986
- Class: Aves () - Linnaeus, 1758
- Superclass: Tetrapoda () - Goodrich, 1930
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
The largest of the flamingo species.
Members of the genus Phoenicopterus
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 8 species and subspecies in this genus:
P. andinus (Andean Flamingo) · P. chilensis (Chilean Flamingo) · P. jamesi (James's Flamingo) · P. minor (Lesser Flamingo) · P. roseus (Afro-Asian Greater Flamingo) · P. ruber (West Indian Flamingo) · P. ruber glyphorhynchus (Galapagos Flamingo) · P. ruber ruber (American Flamingo)
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- IUCN Directory of Neotropical Protected Areas IUCN url p. 266.
- Ornithological gazetteer of Colombia / Raymond A. Paynter, Jr. Cambridge, Mass.: Bird Dept., Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 1997. url p. 505.
- Brands, S.J. (comp.) 1989-present. The Taxonomicon. Universal Taxonomic Services, Zwaag, The Netherlands. Accessed January 10, 2012.
- Bronx Zoo, Bronx, NY USA
- Clark, M. A. WhoZoo.
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Accessed October 02, 2006. http://www.gbif.org Mediated distribution data from provider.
- Honolulu Zoo