flamingos 2

You are What You Eat

Flamingos are famous for their appearance –– their show-stopping, candy-colored, double order of pink-ness. Add to that legs that go on forever, long, curved necks, and black-tipped, hooked bills and you have the supermodel of birds. But did you know that all of these unique physical quirks are based on what they eat? It’s true. Their diet makes them a stellar star of nature.

That elegant stretch of their long flamingo necks allows them to feed on small organisms like the plankton, blue-green algae, and shrimp found in the muddy bottoms of shallow water. It’s the beta-carotene content of these organisms that give flamingos their famous pink hue. Often, the flamingo will bury not only its bill but its entire head to suck up the mud and water, using a built in filter to keep just the good stuff. Their long legs and webbed feet serve a purpose too—they’re used to stir up the mud and find food.

Flamingos nest in mudflats near warm lagoons or lakes and while they’re generally considered non-migratory, they will often relocate to follow warmer weather and more abundant food sources, traveling mainly at night. They live on many continents including Africa, South America, North America and Asia in colonies or flocks, working together to protect themselves from predators and to raise their young. Pairing with one mate for life, females lay one egg at a time. Those chicks are born gray or white, turning pink within a year or two and living up to 20 – 30 years in the wild.

Five interesting flamingo facts: 1) They don’t look like it but they’re surprisingly good swimmers; 2) there are four species in North America and two in Afro-Eurasia; 3) the greater flamingo is the tallest, standing about 4 feet tall on average and weighing up to 7.7 lbs (3. 5 kilograms); 4) the flamingo will often stand on one leg and tuck the other one beneath its body, though the reason for this behavior remains unclear; 5) the name comes from the Provencal name Flama or Flamenc meaning flame, and from the Greek for blood red feather.

With all these defining quirks, we find them one of the most curious and lovely of all birds.

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