Flamingos are among the world’s most beautiful tall birds.These famous pink birds can be found in warm, watery regions on many continents.
The word "flamingo" comes from the Spanish and Latin word "flamenco" which means fire, and refers to the bright color of the birds' feathers.While flamingos are considered wading birds, they are most closely related to grebes genetically.
There are six different species of flamingos. The Rosy flamingo or Caribbean flamingo is the only type of flamingo that lives naturally in North America. The most widespread type is the Greater flamingo, which is found in Africa and southwestern Asia. Other species are the Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo, Lesser flamingo and James’s flamingo.
The largest species is the Greater Flamingo, which stands between 4 and 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) tall and weighs up to 7.7 pounds (3.5 kilograms). The smallest species is the Lesser Flamingo, which stands a little more than 2.5 feet (0.8 m) tall and weighs about 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg).
Greater flamingos have the palest plumage, while Caribbean flamingos are the brightest pink in color.
Adult flamingo's legs can be 30-50 inches long, which is longer than their entire body.
Flamingos run to gather speed when taking off. They flap their wings almost continuously in flight. They fly when startled or to migrate. The speed of a flock can reach 31 to 37 miles per hour. They can fly 300 miles to reach a new habitat.Considering their appearance, flamingos are surprisingly fluid swimmers, but really thrive on the extensive mud flats where they breed and feed.
Their pink or reddish color comes from the algae, diatoms, and small crustaceans the birds eat. They also eat aquatic insects. Flamingos eat with their head upside down in the water, so they can suck water and food in with the front of their bill. Mud and water drain out the back of the bill. The food is caught by finger-like projections called lamellae in the beak. Flamingos hold their breath when feeding.
Flamingos often rest on one leg in the shallows. This position is very comfortable for the bird, as it greatly reduces the amount of body heat lost to the cool water. Sometimes, they also sit down on land, especially during the hatching period, to keep their eggs warm.
Closely related to grebes, flamingos are very social birds. They love to remain in flocks. Their cone-shaped nest is made up of mud, shells, grass and pebbles, with a flat top and strong base. After the eggs are hatched, cute little chicks are born. These chicks feed on special red-colored 'milk' that is very nutritious. The amazing thing is that both the parents feed their youngsters with this milk-like substance.
The backward bending "knee" of a flamingo's leg is actually the bird's ankle. The actual knee is very close to the body and is not visible through the bird's plumage.
Flamingos have a wild lifespan of 20-30 years, but in captivity have been recorded as living up to 50 years or longer.
The male and female co-operate to build a nest and they lay only one egg per season, which both parents defend. After the chick has hatched both parents are also involved in feeding it.