American Flamingo Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Flamingo

Scientific Name:

Phoenicopterus ruber

Wild Status:

Least Concern

Habitat:

Nearby lagoons and lakes

Country:

Galapagos islands and northern South America

Shelter:

Estuary grasses and plants

Life Span:

40 years; up to 60 in captivity

Size:

~50 inches tall; ~6 lbs.

Cool Facts:

  • There are 6 different species of flamingo.
  • This is the only species of flamingo native to North America.
  • Flamingos are not naturally pink in color. They are born gray and gradually gain a pink hue due to their diet, which mainly consists of brine shrimp and blue-green algae. Canthaxanthin is the name of the carotenoid that colors their feathers.
  • It is thought that flamingos stand on one leg in order to conserve body heat, though this theory is yet to be proven.
  • Did you know these birds can fly? They clock in at 37 mph.
  • Flamingos lay eggs atop a mound of mud. This is their nest.
  • These animals hold their breath while feeding.
  • Flamingos have a joint in the center of their leg; you would think that this is their knee but it is actually their ankle joint. Their knees are up closer to their bodies and hidden by their feathers.
  • Flamingos have acquired tiny hairs on the inside of their upper beaks that aid in filtering for food such as algae and shrimp. These specialized tiny hairs are called "lamellae" and can also be found on the feet of most species of gecko such as the crested gecko.

Details:

The flamingo is a unique genus of birds found mostly in the Americas and also in Africa. There are 6 species of flamingo: the Andean, American, Chilean, James, Greater and Lesser Flamingo. The bird of choice today is the American, sometimes referred to as the Caribbean flamingo. These birds are filter feeders and spend most of their day mingling with one another as if at a cocktail party. They are filter feeders, stirring up the waterbed with their feet and dipping their heads down into the water. Their diets consist mainly of brine shrimp, other crustaceans, and blue-green algae. The pigments in their diets contribute to their pink color which builds up over the lifespan of a flamingo, which averages 40 years in the wild. A good rule of thumb for telling the age of a flamingo is comparing how pink it is. These are migratory birds and they look for still shallow waters with vegetation to wade through. Both mother and father flamingos keep the eggs warm until the chick is hatched. The parents continue sharing responsibilities such as feeding and protection until the young bird is just over 100 days old.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Aves Order: Phoenicopteriformes Family: Phoenicopteridae Genus: Phoenicopterus Species: Phoenicopterus ruber

Conservation & Helping:

American flamingos are in the 'least concern' category according to the "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species." Though this is good news, it is important that we continue to hold a respect and value for the balance and well-being of this species and its environment. If you would like to experience the James and the lesser flamingo species, you can visit the Los Angeles Zoo for their flamingo mingle in which you are able to feed and have hands on interaction with these birds.

For Teachers and Educators

American-Flamingo-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Keep Exploring Defenders!