The fascinating flamingo is easily recognizable by young and old. Known for their one-legged stance, flamingos get their name from the Latin and Spanish word flamenco – meaning fire. This bird’s feathers may be fiery red or passionate pink, but flamingos can do more than decorate the beach with their beauty! They are capable fliers and strong swimmers. They wade in large lakes or lagoons. Mangrove swamps, tidal flats or sandy islands are also home for colonies of this social bird. In their natural environment, flamingos flock together in Florida, Central and South America and along the coasts of Africa.
Flamingos are what they eat.
The flamingo's gorgeous plumage can be pink, orange or red. This fancy coloring is caused by the food they eat – specifically from the carotenoid pigments they consume. Usually dining on animal and plant plankton, the flamingo's color will vary if the diet changes. Flamingos kept in captivity are often fed a specialized diet that enhances their beautiful coloring. If you see a grayish flamingo, it usually just means she is snacking on different fare. She might look pale, but she is probably still healthy.
Flamingo flocks and families.
Flamingos stick together. A gathering of more than two birds can be called a stand, colony, regiment or a flamboyance. Flamingos thrive better in large groups rather than in small clusters. Large colonies are safer against predators and seem to maintain a more stable population. Flamingo females lay only one egg a year. The chick hatches after 30 days in a sculpted mud nest, and both parents feed the chick a milky mixture of nutrients from their inner crop. A flamingo chick is not bright in color, and its bill doesn’t have the distinctive hook shape of an adult bird—The new beak style grows in after a few months, and the traditional flamingo coloring strengthens with age, too. Babies stay safely in the nest for a few weeks, then they congregate with other young ones. Flamingos can live up to about 30 years in the wild and closer to 50 years in captivity.
Faux flamingos are fun.
The plastic pink flamingo lawn decoration was created in the 1950's. It was a hit, but the trend waned in the 1960's. The 1970's brought the pink birds back – iconic and beloved in their tacky plastic-ness. In 1979, students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison posted more than one thousand faux flamingos in front of the dean's office. This famous feat earned the flamingo a place in the national spotlight.
“Flocking” is a fundraising effort that involves teams staking a colony of plastic flamingos into someone’s lawn. The victims wake up to find the surprise, and they must donate to the charity before the birds get taken down.
Fine flamingo facts:
- Though long-legged, the flamingo is rather petite, weighing only five or six pounds.
- Flamingos eat upside down and let the water drain out of their mouths as they swallow plankton.
- The flamingo is the national bird of the Bahamas.
Flashy and fabulous – the flamingo.
Flamingos were highly prized and protected in ancient Egypt. Early Egyptians saw flamingos as the personification of Ra, their sun god.
In Peru, the flamingo was considered sacred and ancient artifacts display the flamingo prominently.
The Romans? They just hunted and ate them.
In our culture, we see flamingos on fabric, pillows, beach bags and all kinds of décor. When we’re lucky enough to see one in its own habitat, we watch their awesome balance and gaze in wonder at their pinkness. Their unassuming, unique beauty amazes us…and never fails to make us smile.
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