Five feet tall, with a wingspan of up to 69 inches, flamingos are with no doubt very distinct birds, and it will not take much before anyone recognizes these birds.
But what makes flamingos different and how many flamingo species there are still left?
There are only six species of flamingos left in the world. Flamingos live in America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. Each is having its distinctive characteristics.
Their most common characteristics are relatively small heads, very long legs, and long thin necks. Their bills are large and have a distinctive beak.
Flamingo Species Profile
Flamingos birds are the only birds that belong to the Phoenicopteridae bird family. Their most common characteristics are relatively small heads, very long legs, and long thin necks. Their bills are large and have a distinctive beak.
Some records suggest flamingos are native to Florida. For example, the scientist found documentation to four flamingo eggs specimens from the 1880s, indicating that the birds existed at that time. Flamingos live in South American, Africa and in the warmer areas of western Asia and southern Europe.
On average, the flaming gets to about 30 years old, although it is not uncommon for some flamings to get to 50 years old.
Adult flamingos are four to five feet tall. Their weight is between four and eight pounds.
Currently, there are only six distinctly recognized flamingo species. Although, it is believed that there have been additional ten species, now already extinct.
Most of these six species are a pink/orange color. But as mentioned some can be white, gray and even blue. The color of flamingos comes from the food they eat, a type of algae that turns the flamingo into the bright pink bird. The exciting part is that underneath, their wings are black colored.
Flamingos are known for their pink plumage. The pink coloration comes from the bird’s diet. When lucking in carotenoid pigmented foods, the birds are gray or white instead. This is why their offspring are white or gray for the first couple of years. In addition to being pink, white or gray, depending on their diet their feathers can also be orange with some black on their wings.
Flamingos have large oddly shaped beaks. They use their beaks to filter shrimp out of the water and to separate mud and food in the water. Flamingo’s mouth is covered in little hairs called lamellae. This hair assists in the filtering of water. But the hair is not the only part of their body to help them filter water. Flamingos also have a rough tongue which they use to contribute to filter food out of the water.
Even though most of the flamingos have things in common, such as extremely large legs and a fantastic display of colored feathers, they are social birds that like to live in groups of varying sizes, all six different species have their unique characteristics.
1. American (Caribbean) Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)
The Amercian flamingo also is known as Caribbean Flamingo, is the largest breed naturally found in the Americas and considered a subspecies of the greater flamingo.
They are excellent swimmers and often travel in flocks.
Since this flaming naturally prefers areas with a large concentration of salt in them, they are often found around lagoons, mudflats, and inland lakes.
They inhibit the Galapagos Islands, West Indies, Yucatan, Columbia, Venezuela, Cube and other close islands, but can also be found in Florida and Mexico. The most significant amount of American Flamingos are found around the Caribbean which is why they are often referred to as the Caribbean Flamingo. And this is the only species also found in North America.
It is related to the Chilean Flaming and the Greater Flamingo. Their maximum height is 55 inches. A male flamingo can weigh up to 6Ibs and females can weigh 5Ibs and above. They usually lay one egg, from which a chick hatches after about 30 days.
2. Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
The Greater Flamingo is the largest species of all flamingo species. They can be found in Asia, Africa, southern Europe (Spain, France, Italy, and Turkey).
During the colder seasons, flamingos living in Asia relocate to warmer climates ending up in Iran or India. They can reach heights of 60-70 inches, and they can weigh about 8 pounds.
Their feathers range in color from dark pink to bright red.
(Compared to the American Flamingo, their color is more of a pinkish-white. The coloring is also the main difference for telling them apart.)
They have a long and very flexible neck. This is because many vertebrae are found there. They feed upside down in the water, and they are filter feeders. Meaning, when they reach for food, they take both their prey and water and then filter back into the body. They feed on small fish, shrimp, larvae, plankton, and many other organisms found in those waters.
The more significant part of their diet is crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, shrimps), which is where the pink coloring comes from. And if they do not get enough food, the will lose pigmentation and their feathers will be white.
These flamingos prefer saltwater lagoons where they can find food like shrimp, algae, and mollusks. As they stick to lakes and swamps, which are not that deep, they stomp their feet in the mud to help stir up the available food.
In captivity, they have an average lifetime of 60 years. The oldest known Greater Flamingo lives in Australia at Adelaide Zoo, and it is 77 years old.
3. Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor)
The name tells it all. The Lesser Flamingos are the smallest of all Flamingos. Compared to other species, they are about 5 million of them around the world, most than any other flamingo species.
Their height can reach up to 3 ft. These flamingos can be found in some parts of India, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. They interact well with other types of flamingos.
Lesser Flamingo also has long legs and neck, a bent deep red bill, and light pink feathers. Adults look angry, due to their deep eye and surrounding bare facial skin. They have a hind toe known as a “hallux,” unlike Andean and Puna Flamigo species.
This species is classified as Near Threatened because it appears as they are undergoing a moderately rapid decline in population.
4. Puna (James’s) Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi)
Puna Flamingos also are known as Jame’s Flamingo (Jame’s Flaming was named after Harry Berkeley James) and is one of the three species of South American flamingo. The other two being the Andean and Chilean Flaming. The Puna name is derived from its habitat ‘puna’, the local word for the high Andean plateau.
The Puna or James Flamingo, closely related to the Chilean Flamingo, can be found in South America, mainly Peru, Argentina, and Chile. They inhabit the salt lakes and lagoons of the Andes mountains and can be found at altitudes of over 9,900 ft or 3,000 m. However, during the winter many relocate to warmer climates.
Their size is more or less as same as the Lesser Flamingo, and they share some of the physical characteristics. Although, the Lesser Flamingo is lighter in color than the Chilean Flamingo.
With very long neck and legs, these birds have pinkish white plumage with dark pink streas at the base of their neck and on their back. They also have a distinctive downcurved bill, unlike other flamingo species. They are filter feeders, and they feed on algae. Their body is covered in pinkish-white feathers, and they have black flight feathers and bright red elongated shoulder feathers.
5. Andean Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus)
These flamingos can be found in the Andes Mountains to Chile to Argentina, and they do not have many predators. Due to harsh living conditions, they need to relocate quite often. Andean Flamingos can fly up to 700 miles in a single day.
Being birds that relocate during weather and according living condition changes, they travel in flocks in the thousands and can be found in an area containing high quantities of plankton and invertebrate life. They are most active during the day, sleeping at night in trees or standing on one foot in the water while they feed.
Andean Flamingos has yellow legs and a large black triangle on the rear parts, and it is the largest of the three flamingos of the Andes. Andean Flamingo is also the rarest group of flamingos in the world.
Andean flamingos have yellow legs as an adult, which helps to separate them from other species. It is also the only flamingo species of its kind found to have three-toed feet, perfect for standing in the shallow waters. The beak is hooked, and it has black and yellow color.
They are filter feeders, and they eat anything that they can properly digest. Their bill allows them to take in the larger sea creatures that they commonly eat. Their most common food source is diatom, a type of plankton found at the bottom of lakes and rivers, as well as algae. Their bill which filters out all of the unnecessary minerals also expels water without swallowing it.
6. Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)
The Chilean Flamingo is related to the Greater Flaming, and they are comparable in size. They live in warm and tropical environments and inhabit muddy, shallow alkaline lakes. They are native to South American countries like Chile and Peru.
Andean flamingo is smaller and paler the other flamings. It has a pale white-pink plumage. Legs are blue-grey legs with red or bright pink ‘knees’ (they look like they are knees, but actually, they are ankles or carpal joints and bend both ways) and feet. One other way to distinguish them from other species is by the pink base to its bill as well as a speedy way to acquire their food. They have faster foraging rate, almost twice as fast as the other species.