The flamingo is a genus of wading bird. While the flamingo
is best known for its pink hue, the genus' scientific
name is Phoenicopterus, derived from ancient Greek and
meaning "purple wing." Six species of flamingo exist,
with four residing in South and Central America and
the other two in southern Europe and parts of Asia and
Flamingos are well known for their pink color; long,
thin legs; and long, curved necks and bills. Flamingos'
long legs allow them to wade into relatively deep water
in search of food. The flamingo feeds by filtering water
and mud through its beak so that small shrimp and algae
remain trapped in the bristly plates of its beak.
Adult flamingos may be anywhere from light pink to
red in color. A flamingo's color depends on the aqueous
bacteria and beta-carotene it consumes, making dietary
differences accountable for this range of colors. Generally,
flamingos of a more vibrant color are better nourished
and healthier, though captive flamingos are often lighter
due to relatively low dietary beta-carotene levels,
and baby flamingos hatch with reddish-grey feathers.
Flamingos are social creatures, living in large groups
that may contain thousands of individuals. The great
size of these groups is advantageous for a variety of
reasons, one being that remaining in large colonies
makes individuals less susceptible to attack by predators.
Flamingos' tendency to group together in such large
numbers also maximizes their food intake and ensures
the efficient use of scarce nesting spaces.
Before breeding, flamingos in a colony separate into
smaller breeding subgroups, which typically contain
anywhere from 15 to 50 individuals. Though these breeding
groups collectively perform a synchronized courtship
display, flamingos tend to form strong bonds with one
mate, particularly in smaller colonies. Flamingo pairs
each build a nest together when the time comes to breed,
and they typically mate during the time in which they
construct their nest. Male and female flamingos both
contribute to building nests, protecting their nests
and eggs, and feeding their offspring.
The average lifespan for a flamingo is 20 to 30 years.
However, some flamingos have lived to remarkable ages.
Notably, a flamingo housed in a zoo in Australia lived
to the age of 83.
While plastic flamingo lawn ornaments are are perhaps
the best known example of the significance of flamingos
to humans, flamingos have held much more significant
roles in human culture. Ancient Egyptians held flamingos
to be manifestations of the god Ra, while the Moche
people of Peru, who worshipped nature, frequently portrayed
flamingos in their art. Flamingos have also been valued
for their purported medicinal qualities and as a food
source. The flamingo is the national bird of the Bahamas.
About the Author
Jacob Maddox manages content for Wildlife Animals http://www.wildlife-animals.com
an educational wildlife and animal website.