Caribbean Flamingo

Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus ruber

Description

Flamingos are members of one of the oldest bird groups. Recently discovered fossils of flamingos, dating back 30 million years, point to the ancient nature of these unique birds. Fossilized footsteps of a 7 million year-old primitive flamingo have been found in the Andes Mountains of South America.

Time to Eat

Filter feeding flamingos actually eat with their heads upside down, using their specially adapted bill and mouth to sift algae, crustaceans and small fish from the water. Ancient Romans considered flamingo tongue a delicacy, and in some parts of the world flamingo eggs are still a popular food item.

Where’s My Baby?

Flamingos lay only one egg atop a carefully constructed mound of soil. The plain white egg is incubated by both parents for about 30 days. Once flamingo chicks leave the nest, they gather in groups called créches, a French word for crib. Parent flamingos recognize their chick’s voice within the créche and will feed no chick but their own. Baby flamingos are fed by regurgitation. Flamingo “milk”, produced by both parents, is a red liquid with a nutritional value similar to the milk that people drink.

Think Pink

Flamingos get their wonderful pink color from the food they eat. In the wild, flamingos may be bright pink, or surprisingly pale, depending on the amount of special nutrients called carotenoids it contains. These are the same nutrients that make carrots orange and tomatoes red. The flamingo food at Riverbanks Zoo is carefully balanced to make them as beautiful—and healthy—as possible.

Flamingos are found in large, mostly vegetation-free lakes or lagoons in Africa, Eurasia and the West Indies, Bahamas and even the Galapagos Islands. Mining, road production, desert irrigation and pollution have disrupted or degraded many flamingo habitats, although salt production in the Bahamas is actually producing more habitat area.

Flamingos are very popular at Riverbanks Zoo because of their loud vocalizations, elaborate displays and beautiful vibrant colors. The flamingos can be seen in their home in front of the Birdhouse at Riverbanks.

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