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Flamingo Gifts

Flamingos often stand on one leg, the other tucked beneath the body. The reason for this behavior is not fully understood. Some suggest that the flamingo, like some other animals, has the ability to have half of its body go into a state of sleep, and when one side is rested, the flamingo will swap leg and then let the other half sleep, but this has not been proven. Recent research has indicated that standing on one leg may allow the birds to conserve more body heat, given they spend a significant amount of time wading in cold water.

Learn about Flamingos

The flamingo is a genus of wading bird. While the flamingo is best known for its pink hue, the genus' scientific name is Phoenicopterus, derived from ancient Greek and meaning "purple wing." Six species of flamingo exist, with four residing in South and Central America and the other two in southern Europe and parts of Asia and Africa.

Flamingos are well known for their pink color; long, thin legs; and long, curved necks and bills. Flamingos' long legs allow them to wade into relatively deep water in search of food. The flamingo feeds by filtering water and mud through its beak so that small shrimp and algae remain trapped in the bristly plates of its beak.

Adult flamingos may be anywhere from light pink to red in color. A flamingo's color depends on the aqueous bacteria and beta-carotene it consumes, making dietary differences accountable for this range of colors. Generally, flamingos of a more vibrant color are better nourished and healthier, though captive flamingos are often lighter due to relatively low dietary beta-carotene levels, and baby flamingos hatch with reddish-grey feathers.

Flamingos are social creatures, living in large groups that may contain thousands of individuals. The great size of these groups is advantageous for a variety of reasons, one being that remaining in large colonies makes individuals less susceptible to attack by predators. Flamingos' tendency to group together in such large numbers also maximizes their food intake and ensures the efficient use of scarce nesting spaces.

Before breeding, flamingos in a colony separate into smaller breeding subgroups, which typically contain anywhere from 15 to 50 individuals. Though these breeding groups collectively perform a synchronized courtship display, flamingos tend to form strong bonds with one mate, particularly in smaller colonies. Flamingo pairs each build a nest together when the time comes to breed, and they typically mate during the time in which they construct their nest. Male and female flamingos both contribute to building nests, protecting their nests and eggs, and feeding their offspring.

The average lifespan for a flamingo is 20 to 30 years. However, some flamingos have lived to remarkable ages. Notably, a flamingo housed in a zoo in Australia lived to the age of 83.

While plastic flamingo lawn ornaments are are perhaps the best known example of the significance of flamingos to humans, flamingos have held much more significant roles in human culture. Ancient Egyptians held flamingos to be manifestations of the god Ra, while the Moche people of Peru, who worshipped nature, frequently portrayed flamingos in their art. Flamingos have also been valued for their purported medicinal qualities and as a food source. The flamingo is the national bird of the Bahamas.

About the Author
Jacob Maddox manages content for Wildlife Animals an educational wildlife and animal website.

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