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Caribbean flamingo, American flamingo
Caribbean flamingos are tall, large bodied birds with long necks and small heads. Most flamingos have bright pink or crimson plumage, legs, and bills. The Caribbean flamingo is by far the brightest and one of the largest of all the flamingos.
Approximately 80-145 cm (31-57 in) long
Females tend to be smaller than males
Approximately 1.9-3 kg (4.2-6.6 lbs)
Includes algae, diatoms, aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans and mollusks
Typically 1 large egg
Approximately 11 weeks
2-6 years; usually do not breed until around 6 years, even if they have reached sexual maturity earlier
In the wild, up to 50 years
South America and the Caribbean; small population in the Galapagos
Inhabits tropical and warm temperate sites; found near shallow salt or soda lagoons and lakes
In many languages, the word flamingo (originally derived from the Portuguese for 'red goose'), is a reference to their flying formation and the noise they make.
Caribbean flamingos are thought by some scientists to be the most primitive in their mating and courtship displays. Previously, researchers believed these birds to be monogamous, but recent studies have shown otherwise.
All flamingos feed with their bills upside-down. They tip their head into the water and filter feed, using special adaptations in the top half of their bill, to gather the microorganisms that make up their diet.
Flamingos are an ancient group of birds. Their fossil records dates back to the Miocene epoch, which is about 10 million years ago.
Flamingos are not born with their beautiful pink plumage. Their color comes from the carotenoid pigments they consume as part of their diet. Some scientists believe that a flamingo's success in breeding relies on its bright color.
The flamingo is unique in that the adults, both male and female, provide their young with a type of milk called crop milk.
For more information about flamingos, explore the
flamingo info book
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Flamingos have few natural predators because they live in remote, inhospitable places.
Their mostly alkaline diet does not fit the needs of other animals. By eating the smallest of organisms, they not only keep watering holes productive, they also help circulate the waters by turning over the mud and silt on the bottom of rivers, streams, and ponds.
Their uses to man are unfortunately the flamingos greatest problem. In the past, their tongues were a rare, pickled delicacy and their plumage was sometimes sought for its vibrant color. However, as with most animals, habitat destruction and exploitation is by far the flamingo's greatest challenge.
Austin, O. L.
Birds of the World
. Golden Press, New York. 1961.
Harrison, C.J.O., and Perrins, C.
Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World
. Reader's Digest Association, Inc., New York. 1987.
Perrins, C. and A. Middleton.
The Encyclopedia of Birds
. Facts on File Publications, New York. 1985.
SeaWorld Education Department Publication.
: Sea World, Inc. 1994.