Photograph by Michael Nichols
Greater Flamingo Range
- 36 to 50 in (91 to 127 cm); Wingspan, 60 in (152 cm)
- 8.75 lbs (4 kg)
- Group name:
- Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
These famous pink birds can be found in warm, watery regions on many continents. They favor environments like estuaries and saline or alkaline lakes. Considering their appearance, flamingos are surprisingly fluid swimmers, but really thrive on the extensive mud flats where they breed and feed.
Greater flamingos are likely to be the only tall, pink bird in any given locale. They also have long, lean, curved necks and black-tipped bills with a distinctive downward bend.
Their bent bills allow them to feed on small organisms—plankton, tiny fish, fly larvae, and the like. In muddy flats or shallow water, they use their long legs and webbed feet to stir up the bottom. They then bury their bills, or even their entire heads, and suck up both mud and water to access the tasty morsels within. A flamingo's beak has a filterlike structure to remove food from the water before the liquid is expelled.
Shrimplike crustaceans are responsible for the flamingo's pink color. The birds pale in captivity unless their diet is supplemented.
Greater flamingos live and feed in groups called flocks or colonies. They find safety in numbers, which helps to protect individual birds from predators while their heads are down in the mud. Greater flamingos also breed while gathered in groups. Once mating is complete, a pair takes turns incubating their single egg. Young flamingos are born gray and white and do not turn pink for two years. In years when wetlands and pools are dry and food scarce, flamingoes may not breed.
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