KINGDOM: Animalia (Animals)
PHYLUM: Chordata (Possessing a notochord)
CLASS: Aves (Birds)
ORDER: Phoenicopteriformes (Water Birds)
FAMILY: Phoenicopteridae (Water Birds)
GENUS: Phoenicopterus (Flamingos)
SPECIES: Phoenicopterus ruber (American Flamingo)
The American flamingo is found in Central and South America and the Caribbean and it is the only flamingo species found in North America. It is also occasionally seen in Florida and along the Gulf Coast as a vagrant. The American flamingo does not breed in the United States.
Males are larger than females but otherwise the same in appearance. The American flamingo has long legs that are ideal for wading in water. The colour of a flamingo’s feathers, except for some black wing feathers, differs from bright red to pale pink. Flamingos of the Caribbean area have coral red feathers and South American flamingos have pinkish white feathers
They inhabit saline and freshwater habitat such as lagoons, estuaries, mud flats and coastal or inland lakes. They tend to occupy large mud flats where the loose mud can be easily formed into the mounds that they use as nests. These large mud flats are usually located near a food supply.
The American flamingo uses its feet to stir up the mud; then it sucks water through its bill and filters out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms, and molluscs.
They can mate with more than one partner. Breeding and nest building may depend on rainfall and its effect on food supply. American flamingos perform structured preening when courtship begins. Birds interested in each other will call to one another in unison. Male and female flamingos court each other with a variety of display behaviours that involve head movements, wing displays, and vocalizations.
American flamingos nest in large colonies. The female flamingo lays one or two eggs on a mound of mud. The eggs take about a month to incubate. Both the male and female incubate the eggs. They fold their long legs and straddle the nest. Flamingos live an average lifespan of 25 years in the wild with a maximum of 44 years. In captivity, flamingos live an average of 30 years.
Flamingos generally have very few predators. These are turkey vultures, foxes, badgers, and wild boars. Yellow-legged gulls will prey on eggs and flightless young. Humans will also hunt flamingos for meat or for their eggs.
American flamingos depend on wetlands which are threatened by development, human disturbance and habitat loss. Fortunately however, its population remains very large and is actually believed to be increasing overall.
Did you know?
- Chicks are fed a diet of crop milk that comes from the upper digestive system of both of their parents
- What appears to be the flamingo’s knee is actually its ankle
- The flamingo is actually sleeping when it is on one leg but the strange thing is, that only half of the flamingo is actually asleep – the half that contains the leg still standing remains active. The flamingo then swaps over so that the remaining side also rests