This bird belongs to the flamingo-like and lamellar-beaked. In fact, flamingos are very ancient animals, they have been around for over 30,000,000 years. They appeared in Asia and Africa, but the remains of these amazing creatures are found in America and Europe. Geese are a related species, although outwardly flamingos look like herons. The name of the species comes from the word “flamma”, which means fire from the Latin.
These birds do not usually nest, the species is migratory. At least individuals from Eurasia and Kazakhstan lead such a lifestyle.
There are several types of flamingos, namely pink, Caribbean, Chillian, Andean and lesser subspecies. There is also a James flamingo.
Common pink flamingos are the largest. Animals weigh more than 4 kilograms, and their height is about one and a half meters. Representatives of the small subspecies are much smaller: their height is less than a meter.
The population is quite unstable. The species is listed in the Red Book of the world, but still the last 10 years the number has not been greatly reduced. Although some populations are losing habitat due to human activities.
Another factor that reduces the number is hunting for animal eggs. You can see them in many restaurants. So, masonry is constantly emptied. Pollution of water and soil also plays a huge role, because of which individuals get sick and die. An equally important cause of death is anxiety caused by the desire to stroke or touch the animal.
The birds are quite large, on average, the height ranges from 130 to 140 cm, and the weight is from 2 to 4 kg. The wingspan of the animal can reach 160 cm. Sexual dimorphism is expressed in the size and length of the legs: females are smaller and their legs are shorter. The bird’s head is not very large, the beak is knee-shaped in the middle. Thanks to the developed jaw apparatus, flamingos can search for small food in the water. There are plates in the beak itself, plankton settles on them the favorite food of animals.
Flamingo legs are long, each has 4 fingers, the first three of which are connected by a web. The latter is located above the foot itself. Neck strongly curved. The plumage of birds is soft, it often gets wet and therefore animals do not go deep into the water. The color of the feathers usually varies from pink to red, but the ends of the hairs are always black. The pink tint comes from the carotenoids in the fabric. Flamingos get these substances from food. In captivity, this shade fades if you do not feed the bird with carrots and beets. Young individuals are usually gray, only by the age of 3 their feathers acquire a pinkish tint.
Usually birds live near lakes, they love alkaline water and food that is there or in salty moisture. Salt-excreting glands in the body allow them to excrete all the salt.
Flamingos live in Asia, southern Europe and Africa. The Chilean subspecies inhabits the tropics and subtropics of the Andes, and red flamingos live in the Caribbean.
Pink flamingos create nests mainly in France and Spain, Eurasia and Kazakhstan. They deviate from the route more than all subspecies during migration and therefore sometimes fly to Transbaikalia. Every year, animals create nests on Lake Tengiz and in Kurgaldzhino. Sometimes this happens on the territory of the Caspian Sea and near small lakes in Kazakhstan. Another colony is the Kyzylgach Reserve.
On the territory of Europe, the Camargue has the most nests, it is located in southern France. Usually in the spring there are about 20-25 thousand birds. On the territory of Africa, birds create nests near the lakes of Morocco, in Kenya and in the north of Mauritania, and in southern Africa. Another nesting area is Northwest India. Flamingos live on the coasts, they prefer salt lakes in the steppe.
Often nesting habitat changes when areas become dry. In the late 50s of the last century, the population was larger, and now the number of animals is about 11,000 pairs.
Lifestyle and social behavior
Usually birds are more active during the daytime, and they devote the night to sleep. These are animals that almost always live in colonies. In such conditions, nests are located close to each other, which is why conflicts occur. During them, flamingos cackle and straighten their feathers. However, these fights end quickly.
There are always guard birds in the flock, who carefully monitor the situation, protecting the rest of the flock. In most cases, animals suffer from droughts or floods, and not from enemies in nature.
During winter migrations, many birds fly to Iran, some spend this time in nature reserves, especially Kazakh populations.
Feeding and feeding behavior
Interestingly, a group of these flamingos can consume approximately 140 tons of food per day. Birds mainly feed on crustaceans and their eggs. They also love insects and worms, they look for them in the water. They can search for food near the lake where their nest is, but they can also fly to other water bodies 50 km away. Feeding takes place in different ways: the Chilean and pink flamingos have such a beak structure that large objects linger in the mouth, and a small subspecies has a filter that can catch groups of unicellular.
At the beginning of feeding, animals trample down the silt and only then dig in it with their beak. Usually they strongly lower their heads down, move their beak in different directions, and the tongue plays the role of a piston and filters moisture for plankton. If the depth of the lake is deep, they submerge their whole head.
Birds drink water mainly during the rainy season, they lick the moisture from their feathers.
The voice of the animal is very loud and rude. Listen to the voice of the flamingo:
All flamingos are monogamous, they mate both for a season and for a couple of years. All mating rituals begin with demonstrations of their masculinity, this happens about 2 months before flamingos create nests. During this period they are aggressive, although at other times they are quite calm. When courting, the animals call loudly, spread their wings and make large runs in groups, raising their legs very high.
They often take abrupt breaks during their manhood runs. Usually mating rituals are very species specific. Individuals from different species do not create pairs, hybrids are also unknown.
After the formation of the couple, they become so close that they always stand up for their partner and do everything in sync. They scream together.
The clutch contains several white eggs. Both parents incubate and feed the young. Incubation lasts about a month, in a particularly hot climate, this is the protection of the chicks from overheating. They hatch already sighted, and the beak of newborns is straight. By the time of the birth of flamingos, the goiter of the parents is increased several times. From there, a special milk is released, which consists of digested crayfish, insects and mucus from the organ itself. This liquid is pinkish, as it contains the blood of the inhabitants that flamingos feed on. Milk is very similar in composition to colostrum. The female and the male feed this to their cubs.
Within a couple of days after birth, the chicks leave their nest, and when they turn one month old, the outfit changes to a new one. After two weeks after hatching, the beak takes on a curve. Those chicks that were left without parents for some period, because they flew away in search of food, begin to form groups. They are controlled by individuals guards left by their parents. Upon returning, the female and male feed the chicks with milk from the goiter.
Cubs begin to fly only in the second month of life, and even by the 80th day of life. At about the same time, the chicks develop a filtering apparatus. Individuals become sexually mature only at 5 years.
In nature, flamingos live for about 30 years, and in captivity they can live up to 50.
In colonies of birds there are several thousand individuals, and all of them become a tasty morsel for their enemies. The most dangerous for flamingos are falcons and kites. They constantly steal animal eggs, steal chicks. But during nesting, individuals in the colony always defend the clutches of others. However, birds are also hunted by wolves with foxes, jackals. Predators love flamingo meat, and it is easy to catch them: one has only to ambush an individual standing far from the rest in shallow water. It is also not uncommon for these predators to settle nearby and then many flamingos die.
In the 1950s, the James flamingo was thought to be extinct, but in 1957 a colony of these birds was discovered in Bolivia. Today, the number of this species is already 50,000, the same number of individuals of the Andean subspecies. To preserve the species, zoos were created in Switzerland and the United States. However, if you try to move the colony, sooner or later the individuals will return to where they were born.
Why does a flamingo stand on one leg??
Some scientists believe that this is due to the need to rest the leg, while others think that this significantly reduces heat loss.
- Flamingos build their nests out of mud that is found by the lake under a crust of gypsum. For the same purpose, shell rock is also used.
- The shape of the nest is a cone, it is about 1.5 meters high.
- Individuals of the Andean subspecies have yellow legs.
- The largest flocks are created in eastern Africa, scientists have about 1 million individuals in one colony.
- In flight, flamingos do not flap their wings, they can reach speeds of about 50 km / h.
- If you stretch the bird’s neck in a straight line, its length will be equal to the length of the flamingo’s legs.
- Birds often come to fresh water sources to cleanse themselves of alkali and salt.
- In zoos, flamingos are fed carrots, gammarus, and even minced fish. This is mixed with protein containing food and water is added. They will receive such food once a day, and they are given dry feed several times a day.
- The flamingo population in the Mediterranean consists of 60,000 birds.
- Most of all, flamingos like to winter in Italy, especially in Sardinia and Puglia. They have been spending the winter there since the 1990s.
- In the ancient empire of Mesopotamia, flamingos were called the bird of light, in Kikuyu the name of the bird is translated as “long neck”.
- The Chilean subspecies was described by Darwin in his work of 1860, they were previously classified as subspecies ruber.
The connection between flamingos and grebes is almost confirmed in the world of scientists, together they form a whole group called Mirandornite. Ernst Mayer, a well-known zoologist, also thinks so.