Flamingos are very easy to spot and are unique birds in many ways. Long legs, bright pink/light orange or blue color feathers. While elegantly standing on one leg in shallow waters, they are either sleeping or filtering their catch of the day. Flamingos are large birds. While most of the flamingo species are light in weight, their height differs from species to species. Some are short, and some are significantly taller than other species.
So how big do flamingos get? Flamingos can be anywhere from 1.2 to 1.45 meters (3.9 to 4.7 feet) in height and 2.5 to 3.5 kilograms (5.5 to 7.7 pounds) in weight.
The exact origin of flamingos is still a big question. Also, there are lots of theories and missing parts about the flamingo adaption and evolution. But there is enough information out there to form some realistic ideas of their early life.
Through DNA it is known that flamingos are related to some forms of ducks and geese. Some researchers also believe that flamingos are distant relatives of hero and ibis.
Flamingo is the common name for any of the wading birds comprising the family Phoenicopteridae. And all flamingos belong to the bird family Phoenicopteridae. They are known for their typically pink or reddish plumage, based on the food they eat. Also, their spindly legs and their peculiar feeding behavior, which is different from other birds bill makes these birds curiosity of nature.
The word “flamingo” comes from the Spanish and Latin word “flamenco” which means fire. It refers to the bright color of the birds’ feathers.
The exact age of modern flamingos it is still a speculative topic, and there is a need for a further investigation in this matter. Including, how do the existing six species of flamingos relate to each other as, how long ago these divergences occur and where did crown Phoenicopteridae originate (1).
Flamingos are perceived as among the old lineages of living birds. However, the earliest records of the family Palaelodidae first appear in the early Oligocene of Europe and the earliest members of the crown family Phoenicopteridae appear during the Oligo-Miocene of the Old World.
There are two flamingo ancestors. The earliest flamingo ancestor is believed to be palaelodus, a slender bird with a long neck, about 5 ft tall and around fifty pounds. Based on some data palaelodus birds could have been found 12-33 million years ago. If they had been still alive, they would be found in Europe.
Another ancestor would be the Eocene and Cretaceous. They look similar to modern flamingos, had clawed feet, long legs and lived in salty areas.
Flamingo Physical Characteristics
Flamingos are tall wading birds in the family Phoenicopteridae. The greater flamingo stands 3.9 to 4.7 feet (1.2 to 1.45 meters) when standing erect with its head raised. The wingspan of flamingos ranges from 37 inches (95 cm) to 59 inches (150 cm). Even though considered wading birds, the same classification as herons, egrets, spoonbills, and cranes, genetically, it is believed that they are most closely related to grebes.
When looking at them, one would think that they weigh a lot. But flamingos do not weigh more than 10 pounds. They can weigh up to 7.7 Ibs. (4 kg). The shortest species is the lesser flamingo. It stands 2.6 feet (80 cm) and weighs 5.5 Ibs. (2.5kg).
Even though there are several different species of the Flamingo, their anatomy is the same. Their body is designed in such a way that they can turn the head upside down to feed. Their wings are made up of delicate feathers that keep them warm, allow them to swim and fly. The wingspan can be 3 feet in distance.
All species of flamingos are very long-legged and long-necked birds with down-curved bills, webbed feet, large wings, and a short tail. Flaming’s long legs are longer than its entire body. An adult flamingo’s legs can be 30-50 inches long. Flamingo’s long legs can bend backward, and the backward bending “knee” is the bird’s ankle. The actual knee is not that visible to our eyes as it is very close to the body and is not visible through the bird’s plumage.
The neck is very flexible, with 19 vertebrae, which explains their flexibility. It is so flexible that they can not only bend it downward to eat but also they can band it backward to preen their feathers.
Their tongue is an important part of their feeding system. It moves up and down hundreds of times per feeding. Their bill also has a unique design. It is designed to filter feeding and to help them gather large quantities of small food organisms by filtering in shallow lakes. The upper and lower part fit together very tightly, the same as when you’d place a lid on a pot. This way they small insects they catch, and other tiny food will not escape before being filtered.
The Flamingo has webbed toes so they can easily stand in the muddy waters without losing their balance.
Interesting fact. The brain is smaller than the eye!
The flamingo birds lay one chalky white egg at the time, on mounds built of mud, stones, and feathers. Eggs are very large, a little bigger than a large chicken egg, around 3.5 inches (78 to 90 millimeters), and they are long 4-4.9 ounces (115 to 140 grams). Flamingo eggs yolks are yellow or orange, quite similar to the standard chicken egg yolks color.
After about 27 to 31 days, the egg will hatch. A newborn baby chick will only be 2.5 to 32. ounces (73. to 90 gr).
Flamingos at birth
Young flamingos hatch with gray plumage. A flamingo chick’s bill is straight and small. After a few months, their bill will grow and develop a distinct break curve.
One way to know that flamingos get enough nourishment is by looking at the color of their plumage. A well-fed flamingo is more vibrantly colored and considered a more desirable mate. A white or plain flamingo is usually malnourished, or it is unhealthy.
Youngsters flamingos reach maturity at 3 to 5 years old. A flamingo reaches sexual maturity (which means the flamingo can breed) when the flamingo is between three and six years old. Flamingos tend to live a long life with an average of 25 to 30 years.
Flamingos fly mostly at night. Which is why we do not see them very often. They can fly up to 35 miles per hour, hundreds of miles a day. Flamingos fly between different locations in search of an adequate amount of food.