Critter Science

The Science of Animals

flamingo

The Beautiful Flamingo

Made famous, in part, by plastic lawn ornaments it’s the flamingo. There are 6 known species of flamingo. Flamingos have good hearing but little to no sense of smell. Good thing, cause they can be a bit… messy, if you know what I mean. Did you know that, once they’re shed, flamingo feathers quickly lose their color and turn light pink to white. Also, the Andean flamingo is the only flamingo species with yellow legs. Most flamingo species are not endangered, although the Andean flamingo is listed as Vulnerable, and the Chilean, Lesser, and Puna flamingos are Near Threatened.

First the Stats…

Scientific name: Phoenicopterus
Weight: Up to 9 lbs.
Length: Up to 4.6 feet tall
Wingspan: Up to 5 feet
Lifespan: Up to 40 years

Now on to the Facts!

1.) A flamingo will spend up to 30% of the day in preening their feathers. Oil produced in a special gland is spread over their feathers with a help of their beak.

2.) These birds love to congregate in large masses, called colonies. The colonies can contain up to a 1,000,000 birds!

3.) Both mom and dad incubate the egg. Several days after hatching, both parents will start feeding their chick with a milk-like substance (called crop-milk) which is rich in fats and proteins.

4.) Baby flamingos do not have a curved bill, it becomes curved after few months after birth.

5.) They eat shrimp, crustaceans, and algae.

But wait, there’s more on the flamingo!

6.) Flamingos eat by shuffling their feet in the mud and then take in a mouthful of muddy water and use specialized filters to sort out the mud and water, leaving behind the tasty meal.

7.) Being monogamous (mate for life) flamingos mate just once a year and this yields a single egg.

Did you know…?
Their pink color comes from the beta-carotene in the crustaceans and plankton that they eat. Without this, they slowly turn white.

8.) The nest is constructed out of mud.

9.) The visible ‘knee’ of a flamingo is actually their ankle joint. Their actual knee is close to the body and can’t be seen due to their feathers. So, when you wake up late at night wondering if flamingos have knees… yes they do. Now go back to sleep with this knowledge.

10.) Some flamingos like to steal a nest that’s already been built, so the mating pairs have to guard their nest from other flamingos as well as predators.

But wait, there’s still more on the flamingo!

11.) Flamingo chicks are born with grey and white feathers. They do not turn pink for a year or two.

12.) Though the pink coloration is primarily seen in a flamingo’s plumage, the carotenoids they consume spread a lot deeper than just feathers. Flamingo skin is pink and even their blood is pink! Contrary to popular believe though, their egg yolks are not pink.

13.) Flamingo bullies exist. That’s right. They like to bully each other in order to establish hierarchy. They’ll even knock over a sleeping bird.

14.) Males and females perform a wonderful courtship dance to attract a partner.

15.) Plastic lawn flamingos (Phoenicopterus plasticus) are an American cultural icon that was introduced in the 50s by artist Don Featherstone. This icon has grown so popular that in 2009, Madison, Wisconsin, named the plastic flamingo as the city’s official bird!

Now a Short Flamingo Video!

Learn more about all kinds of cool critters here.

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Critter Man

With over 40 years of critter experience to my credit and hundreds of zoology teaching hours to people around the world, I have amassed not only a continuing thirst for critter knowledge but a desire to teach others all I can about the majesty and wonder of our natural world. Critter Science is a culmination of such knowledge.I have hands on as well as book acquired intel on all kinds of critters. Whether they're on land, sea, or air.I will never say that I know everything about all animals. That's impossible, even for a savant. But, that being said, ask me any animal question and I'll answer it. If I don't know the answer, I'll get an answer for you!Let it be said that I have been oft times accused of loving animals more than I love people. I can neither confirm nor deny this.

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