Flamingo / Phoenicopterus chilensis

Did you know...

Without a food additive zoo flamingos would turn white during moulting

Flamingos produce a liquid called crop milk on which they feed their babies

Flamingos are gregarious wading birds easily recognisable by their striking pink plumage and oddly-shaped bills. Their colour is due to diet; small organisms they eat contain a red plant pigment – a carotene – which is absorbed into the body and deposited in their feathers.

Flamingos eat microscopic blue-green algae and invertebrates that live in alkaline salt and soda lakes. Their beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat, and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering of food items is assisted by hairy structures called lamellae which line the mandibles, and the large rough-surfaced tongue which acts as a piston to suck water in to and force water out of the bill.

Flamingos are very social birds, living in colonies that can number thousands. Prior to breeding colonies split into groups of around 15-50 birds. Both males and females in these groups perform synchronised ritual displays to form pair bonds. Flamingos build mound-like nests of mud on which they lay a single egg. The incubation period is usually around 27-31 days. Chicks weigh 73-90g at hatching and are covered in grey down feathers and have straight beaks.