The flamingos are one of the most beautiful birds in the world, as well as being among the most peculiar. Having the luck to see them in person generates a beautiful memory about these impressive animals, so distributed around the world.

What does a flamingo look like?

Flamingos are part of the order of phenicopteriformes, although some usually include them in ciconniformes. There are four species of flamingos, two of which are found in the Americas and the other two in Europe and Africa.

The flamingos can measure up to 120 cm in length, reaching a wingspan of 140 cm. Its head is small, fusiform and appears larger because of its enormous, semi-tilting beak. This beak has lateral channels that serve as a sieve for the bird to obtain its natural food: zooplankton and phytoplankton. Their neck is long and they can control it at will, which allows them to achieve very elegant postures.

One of its main characteristics is its long, thin, reddish legs, which end in three front fingers joined by an interdigital membrane and a posterior finger. The appearance is almost identical in both sexes, so it is very difficult to distinguish them with the naked eye.

Its wings, always pink, have some black winged wingspan, which gives a rather beautiful appearance to the view.

How long can a flamingo live?

The flamingo species is considered to be long-lived. They cannot live as long as a parrot or macaw, but the average age of these animals in the wild is usually between 25-30 years.

live of a flamingo

However, the flamingos who live in zoos have reached the age of 50 thanks to the care they receive, as well as not being in contact with bacteria and other harmful agents that can harm their health.

Is it possible to have a flamenco as a pet?

Even if it is an impressive animal that many people would like to have in their garden, showing it off in a pond, it is impossible to have one of these animals.

flamingoes as a pets

To begin with, it is forbidden by law to have a flamingo as a domestic bird. Second, a lot of ground is needed, and that this one has everything that flamenco can need to survive. Finally, it is a bird that needs very specific care, to which not everyone has access.

Why do flamingos have such a peculiar colouring?

If there is one thing that makes a flamingo stand out from all other birds, it is its peculiar and curious pink colouring. But why do they have such bright pink feathers?

The reason is simple: algae are part of their daily diet, and they contain a large amount of carotene pigments. Thanks to this, their feathers get that luminous pink tone, which means that flamenco eats well and is healthy. In addition, within his family, a pinker flamenco is always more desirable as a couple.

color of the flamingos

On the other hand, if an adult flamingo has white or pale feathers, it means that it is sick or has not eaten enough. Only when they are small do they have white or grey feathers on their bodies.

What is the behaviour of the flamingos?

The flamingos are very sociable animals, in fact, it is the most sociable species of bird that exists. All their activities of reproduction, defense, search for food and other work are carried out in groups.

They tend to live near large lagoons, rivers, mouths or estuaries where they can easily obtain food. Colonies can be as small as 50 members or as large as 20,000 members. Interestingly, although they are a very large group, small groups can also be formed within this colony.

flamingoes birds

A very curious aspect of the behaviour of flamingos is that adults are away from young people during the day. The younger ones form their own group, not far from the adults, but far enough away from them not to be a bother in their work of foraging for food, learning from each other how to survive. When they live in captivity, their behaviour does not change much, as they form groups of no more than 350 members.

While other birds can be very territorial, and delimit the terrain that other species can cross, flamenco usually allows coexistence with other species, showing how sociable it is. Violent flamingos that threaten other birds are rare.

Observing the behaviour of the flamingos can be quite amusing, as they use different gestures to communicate with each other. The boss’s flag is one of the best known, in which the Flemish leader of the colony stretches his neck backwards, lifts it and then turns it from one side to the other in order to demonstrate his “primacy”. Another very curious gesture, and one that is very similar to what we humans do, is the greeting of the wing, which is a friendly interaction between them and also allows us to see the wonderful colors of their feathers. Marching is another of their common behaviors. They may go one way for a while and then quickly go the other way. During this activity they have perfect timing and frequency.

If they do not do any of these activities, then they will be feeding or eating. In fact, they can spend 25% of the day grooming their feathers, using a gland that they use to secrete oil and order their feathers. They also swim a lot, because they love to feel clean.

They are animals with highly developed senses, especially the auditory, being able to hear sounds at long distances. Young people can recognize the sounds of their parents from an early age and those of their children within the colony, which is very important for their communication. Their vision is not better than that of human beings, but it is ideal for flying properly or for foraging underwater.

Although there are many zoos with flamingos in captivity, many groups are fighting for their release. Beginning with the practice of cutting off the primary feathers of their wings so that they cannot fly away. The second is because in zoos the colonies are very small, and this can lead to problems. In addition, some use “deception” techniques by placing mirrors near where the flamingos are, to make them believe that there are more members in the colony.

It is true that in captivity they are less likely to become ill, but they may end up suffering from pododermatitis, one of the most serious health problems of flamingos living in captivity. This disease is caused by factors of climate, soil, ecosystem and two bacteria, known as dichelobacter nodosus and necrophorus bacteroids. The disease causes injuries to the legs of these birds, including chicks and young birds. If the lesions on the legs are opened, this allows harmful microorganisms to enter and can trigger the deterioration of the bird’s health.

What does a flamingo eat?

Flamingos have a very complete diet. Their main food is seaweed, but they can also eat fish of different sizes and some small crustaceans, such as crabs.

In order to feed themselves, they fill their beaks with water and then expel it, using their tongues to retain whatever they may have caught. Around its beak it has corneal lamellae, or lamellae, with which it filters the water. Watching them feed can be quite a spectacle, as they completely immerse their heads in water, grab as much as they can with their beaks and then go through the’straining’ process to hold the food in their mouths and swallow it.

In the youngest specimens, this food process is learned by the young people on their own. A flamingo can spend a lot of time of the day feeding, although most usually at night.

A great peculiarity about the process of feeding a flamingo is not only that it is capable of filtering the “water”, but also that it is capable of separating the mud from the food it is going to drink, being able to eat it completely clean thanks to its fabulous beak.

And how do flamingos reproduce?

When the breeding season arrives, the flamingos build their nests with their legs, forming a mound 30-40 cm high from the mud, making a hole in the middle, in which the female will lay the two eggs.

The incubation of these eggs takes approximately 60 days, with both the female and the male taking care of the process. To incubate, they shrink their legs under the body or hanging on the sides of the mound. When the chicks are born, they have light samples of white down that becomes more noticeable with the passage of time.

reproduction of flamingos

From birth, these chicks are in the water and learn quickly. In their first months of life, parents will be watching their children and caring for them with great zeal. In their first weeks of life they will be fed by the father, but then they will look for food themselves on the surface of the lake or lagoon. When the father sees that he is quite independent, the pigeon will join the rest of the young colony.

It should be stressed that flamenco is not played every year. After a nest, it may be several years before the pups are born again.

Why do flamingos sleep on one leg?

It’s clear that if you think of flamingos, pink will come to mind. But they have another characteristic that has always made them very special and curious: their habit of sleeping on one leg.

Have you ever wondered how it is possible for a flamingo to sleep on one leg? Or stand on one? In fact, every scientist has his or her own theory about why they do this, but a recent study may have found the key to explaining this fact.

Their legs are a very important part of their body, and the study has shown that flamingos are animals that can maintain their balance with little effort. While a person needs the muscles of the spine, legs, neck… to maintain balance, flamingos do not have this problem.

In order to find out how they did it, the group of scientists used two dead specimens from a zoo. One of them put himself on one leg with the help of clamps to check if he was able to keep his balance. And it was. The other body was used to investigate its muscles and how they work. Thus, the group of scientists discovered that flamingos are not only able to keep their balance on one leg passively, but they do so by using the same energy as if they used both legs.

But what’s the trick? It seems the whole secret lies in the weight of the bird. When placed on one leg, flamenco blocks the legs in a specific position. To do this, it uses a set of muscles and ligaments that prevent destabilising movement of the animal, without the animal having to use another muscle, which is known as the’stopping device’. This is only possible when the animal’s leg is underneath its body, adopting this position in a natural way. Thanks to this, flamenco does not have to make a conscious effort to maintain its balance, as its leg is ready to take on the job.

flamingoes bird in nature

The other theory being considered is that of thermoregulation. When we are in contact with water, we lose body heat more quickly, up to 25 times faster according to some experts. For example, if you dip your hand in water, you will lose as much body heat as if you were up to your neck. For this reason, it is estimated that flamingos submerge one of their legs in water and the other one is kept in the air, so that they can save heat loss.

These are not the only theories that are being considered. For others, using only one leg, with the other leg folded, can help reduce the strain on the heart to bring blood back from the lower parts. Another proposal is that having a single leg in sight would serve as a camouflage element, especially when they are resting with their necks shrunken and their heads hidden between the plumage, which gives them the appearance of a pink bush. Another of the most famous theories is that during the sleep stage they sleep with half their brains, like sea lions or other types of birds, such as migratory birds that can sleep while flying.

What is the current situation of the flamingos?

Faced with the serious situation of other birds, such as some species of owls, eagles or hummingbirds, the flamingo is not an endangered species.

The largest colonies of these animals live far away from human activity and people are much more aware of the perpetuation of this species than of other birds. In fact, when building roads or tracks, great care is taken not to do so near the livelihoods of this species.

Another great example of the care of these birds, although it is something very rare that happens, is that when a person buys a piece of land, if it is inhabited by flamingos, it is the duty of the owner of the land to take care of them, something that is fulfilled in more than 90% of cases. Those who live in zoos are also very well cared for and fed.

Many groups have helped the flamingos to live calmly without having to worry about man’s performance, keeping their habitat safe or giving them everything they might need to survive. They also take care of them in the event that a specimen is injured, taking care of it until it is fully recovered.

Want to know more reasons why you can’t have a flamingo?

If a person sees that there are flamingos living on one of their grounds, in their lagoon or in a garden, they will have to resign themselves and leave them alone. However, there are many reasons why these birds would be better off in their natural habitat.

  • To begin with, there is food. In the wilderness where they live the food is abundant and regenerates quickly. However, in an environment as enclosed as a park or zoo it is scarce, and can cause the animal to starve.
  • Living in a different environment affects their reproduction. For their reproduction they need rain, especially to build the nest with mud. In places where there is little rain they rarely reproduce.
  • Although it may seem that in captivity you can be safer and free of disease, flamingos in the wild know how to take care of themselves from bacteria and diseases. Few people in captivity would know what to do when a flamingo gets sick.
  • In captivity they have very little space to move freely. Although they are social birds, it is normal for young people to be a little away from their parents. Otherwise, they may get annoyed and become somewhat violent.
  • By not having access to so much food, and that may not be of good quality, you will lose the pink coloration of your wings and nurse.
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