American Flamingo

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Name:  American flamingo
Scientific name:  Phoeniconais ruber ruber
Range:  Columbia, Galapagos Islands, Caribbean, Venezuela
Habitat:  Shallow, salty lagoons and lakes
Status:  Not threatened
Diet in the wild:  minute animals and vegetable matter, such as algae and diatoms, or mollusks and crustaceans
Diet in the Zoo:  Mainly crustaceans (shrimp)
Location in the Zoo:  Flamingo Exhibit just left of the bridge entrance
 
Physical description: 

Males are larger than females, but otherwise the same in apperance.  The American flamingo may be up to 57 inches in length.  The average weight is 6 to 8 pounds.  The American flamingo has long legs that are ideal for wading in water.  The color of a flamingo's feathers, except for some black wing feathers, varies from bright red to pale pink.  For example, flamingos of the Caribbean area have coral red feathers, and South American flamingos have pinkish white feathers.  Chemicals in the crustaceans are what gives the flamingo its pink color.  Coloration of the feet and legs is the same.  What appears to be the flamingo's knee is actually its ankle.  The American flamingo has a boomerang shaped beak that can filter out water and trap food.  Its beak is referred to as a "Roman nose."  The American flamingo has a wingspan of 150 cm (59 in).

General information:

Young flamingos leave the nest after five days and form groups.  But the young will return to the nest to feed on fluid produced in the digestive system of the parents.  The adult dribbles this fluid from its mouth into the youngster's bill.  After about two weeks, the young start to find their own food.  Flamingos live fifteen to twenty years and longer in captivity.

American flamingos are waders and good swimmers.  They congregate in large flocks.  Its method of feeding is similar to that of the baleen whales in that the food is taken in along with water and then the water is expelled through a comb-like structure (lamallae) leaving the food behind. 

Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations:

The unique bill distinguishes the American flamingo from many other birds.  This bent bill is an adaptation for feeding, and designed so that the bent portion is parallel with the bottom of the pond, lake or flats in which they are feeding.  The legs of the American flamingo are long, which enables them to wade into much deeper water than most other birds.  Webbed feet support them on soft mud. 
Flamingos frequently stand on one leg.  Being able to curl the leg under the body, American flamingo keeps the foot warm and conserves body heat.  Flamingo stand on one leg in both cool and warm environments.

 
Reproduction:

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American flamingos reach sexual maturity several years after birth.  they begin to breed at about 6 years of age.  Breeding can occur in any season, and a flamingo may breed twice in a year.  Breeding and nest building may depend on rainfall and its effect on food supply.  American flamingos perform structured preening when courtship begins.  Birds interested in each other will call to one another in unison.  Male and female bounding is very strong during breeding season.  American flamingos may mate with more than one partner.  A flamingo's nest is made of mud, stones, straw and feathers and may be as high as 12 inches.
"A single egg is laid on the top of a tall mound that the female constructs.  At hatching the youngster is covered with white down which turns gray in approximately 3 weeks."
 

 
Communication:

Flamingo vocalizations range from nasal honking to growling.  Specific calls can be associated with certain behaviors.  Vocalizations are used in parents chick recognition.

 
Comments From the Zoo Keepers:

I was not able to discuss flamingos with anyone at the Fort Worth Zoo.  However, I was able to discuss flamingos on the Internet.  One of the significant thing that I found out was that flamingos require a diet rich in crustaceans (shrimp) to give their plumage pink.  Without it their feathers turn white.  Flamingos feed at day and night. 


Other Flamingos at the Fort Worth Zoo

Page author:  Marina Sedenko 

Email:  msedenko@yahoo.com 

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Sources and Links:

http://www.honoluluzoo.org/american_flamingo.htm
http://www.palmbeachzoo.org/flamingo.htm
The World Book Encyclopedia 
http://employeeweb.myxa.com/rrb/Audubon/VolVI/00637.html
Grolier Encyclopedia