American Flamingo

(Phoenicopterus ruber)

FUN FACT

American flamingos’ long legs appear as though their knees bend backwards, which is not the case. Flamingos actually stand on their “tip-toes” – meaning the prominent joint on their leg is their ankle! Their knee is hidden by feathers and is located close to the bird’s body.

American flamingos are unmistakable birds with a curiously shaped bill, slender necks and long, delicate looking legs.  Their brilliant feathers range from a pale pink to scarlet red, with bright pink being the most common.  Although they may appear strange, each feature on the flamingo serves an important function.  Their long legs and necks allow the birds to wade and forage in water several feet deep.  Their oddly shaped bill is perfectly suited to strain plankton and other small invertebrates from the water.  The microscopic shrimp and algae in their diet is also the source of their iconic pink color – the pigment is deposited in their feathers as they grow and the brightness of the color indicates how well the flamingo was eating as the feathers were growing.  This may be a sign to other flamingos of an individual’s fitness. 

 

For a unique, up-close look at these amazing birds, consider booking a Flamingo Encounter!

Distribution

Caribbean and Galapagos Islands

Habitat

Shallow, salty lagoons and lakes.

Diet

Small invertebrates and algae filtered from the water.

Breeding

American flamingos build bizarre conical nests out of mud. These odd structures keep the flamingos’ single egg from rolling away and protect the egg from flooding. After a 30 day incubation, the single chick hatches and is covered in grey downy feathers. It takes 10 weeks for the chicks to become fairly independent, but may take up to 4 years for the young birds to develop their bright pink coloration and become mature.

Status

Not Under Threat (Least Concern)

At the Aviary

See Beaker, and Sweetums (along with the rest of the flock) in the Wetlands of the Americas.