The flamingo is one of Africa’s treasured birds. There are two major species that inhabit the continent—the Greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) and the Lesser flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor). The Greater flamingo, which is considered the most widespread species, is found in various parts of Africa, Southern Europe, South Asia, and Southwest Asia. The Lesser flamingo, which is considered the most numerous species, is found from Africa (Great Rift Valley) to Northwest India.

Flamingos can have a weight of up to 8.8 pounds or 4 kilograms and a height of up to 60 inches or 150 centimeters. Greater flamingo species have plumage of pinkish-white. The primary and secondary flight feathers are usually black and the wing coverts are red. The Greater flamingo has a pink bill with a black tip and pink legs. Generally, all flamingo species achieve pink coloration during their adult years.


Flamingo Photo by Robbi Drake

The cardiovascular system of the flamingo is vital for flight. Flamingos have a closed circulatory system that separates the deoxygenated and oxygenated blood. This makes their metabolism more efficient when they fly.

Flamingos are usually found in shallow salt-water lagoons and mudflats. They can also reside in mangrove swamps, sand-rich islands, and tidal flats. They prefer shallow bodies of water, so that they could feed off algae, small fish, mollusks, small insects, and crustaceans very easily. Lesser flamingo can live along volcanic lakes that have pH levels of up to a basic 10.5. They just have to find fresh water to rinse in and to drink.

You usually see flamingos with their one leg tucked beneath their entire body while standing on one leg. Experts believe that they do this to save and produce more body heat because they do spend a lot of time wading in cold, shallow water. Flamingos also stamp their broad, webbed feet in the muddy areas of the shallow water. They do this to stir up food for easier feeding.

Flamingos are known to be very social. Their colonies can comprise of thousands of individuals. They maintain large numbers to use scarce nesting sites efficiently, to ward off predators, and to maximize their intake of food.

Flamingos split into small breeding groups of about 15 to 50 members. The females and males in these groups perform courtship rituals. The dance involves head-flagging, neck stretching, and wing flapping. This activity occurs randomly and helps pair up flamingos that do not have partners yet.

Smaller flamingo colonies have strong, monogamous mating pairs. Larger colonies change mates on occasion because there are more males and females to mate with. Once flamingos pair up, they defend their nests aggressively. When the chick hatches, both parents feed it with crop milk, which is produced in glands that line their upper gastrointestinal tract. Crop milk has red blood cells, white blood cells, fat, and protein.

Flamingos use their bills to filter out blue-green algae, mollusks, seeds, and small shrimp from the muddy water. Their pink coloration of their plumage comes from the beta-carotene that their food supply has. More vibrantly colored flamingos get more beta-carotene from their food sources.

The flamingo is in no real danger and is considered to be of least concern, which is good new for fans of this amazing bird.