What do FLAMINGOS EAT - Food and curiosities

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Flamenco, with a scientific name Phoenicopterus roseusIt is one of the most beautiful birds in the world and possibly the most spectacular aquatic bird that inhabits wetland areas, as well as the most peculiar and the most admired for its elegant gait.

In this article that we present to you from Green Ecologist we explain more about these birds and, specifically, we focus on what do flamingos eat. We encourage you to continue reading to discover everything about their diet and some curiosities, such as why flamingos are pink or with white, pink and orange tones.

What do pink flamingos eat

To answer this question, we will start with another question: Are flamingos omnivores? The answer is yes, they are animals with a very varied diet, which includes:

  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Prawns.
  • Plankton.
  • Algae.
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Crustaceans.
  • Fish.
  • Mollusks.
  • Fly larvae.
  • Pieces of vegetation.

How baby flamingos feed

Once we have talked about the diet of adult flamingos, we wonder what do flamingo babies eat. These animals feed their young with crop milkAlthough it is called milk, it is not called milk, since it is a question of birds, but it would be the equivalent of the mother's milk of mammals.

This milk is made up of food that adults take and the substances they produce in the crop. Thus, this very complete substance is secreted by the epithelial lining of the crop, located in the upper area of the digestive tract, of males and females, and the they regurgitate to feed the chicks. Specifically, this substance is very rich in fats, proteins, antioxidants and stimulating factors of the immune system.

What do flamingos eat to be pink

As its species name suggests, roseus, which in Latin means "rose", one of the characteristics that stands out most of these animals is their pink color, although sometimes it can vary between red and orange as well. This characteristic is also supported by its common name "flamingo" which derives from the Old Spanish for "flaming" or "red feather". But, What gives pink flamingos? Well, the answer to this question is in the feeding the flamingos, although it is not synonymous with the flamingo being pink because it eats pink things.

The explanation is due to the fact that a large part of the foods that make up their diet are rich sources of carotenoids, among them, canthaxanthin and astaxanthin, a chemical compound commonly present in nature that is decomposed in the flamingo's liver and then dispersed towards the animal's feathers, beak and legs, giving rise to this peculiar tonality of the animal. . In fact, a more pink and luminous tone indicates that the flamingo is eating well and is healthy, in addition to that, therefore, it is potentially more desired as a couple. Neither flamingos nor any other animal can produce carotenoids, but some animals can transform them; flamingo, for example, converts zeaxanthin and b-carotene from the seaweed in canthaxanthin and astaxanthin. Algae present these carotenoids in abundance, since they produce them themselves, especially in conditions of high light and salinity, and it helps them protect themselves from environmental stress. In addition, there are other pinkish or reddish pigments that are not due to plant carotnoids that are found in small animals, such as some crustaceans that these birds feed on (for example, the brine shrimp).

What do flamingos eat in captivity

However, in zoos or other breeding grounds for these animals in captivity, it is often observed that these animals have lost that color or have a duller pink color. Therefore, What do flamingos eat in the salt flats and in captivity? Well, in the salt flats, which is one of the places where they live in freedom, they feed as we have explained, but in captivity their diet varies, since they are basically fed with prepared feed granules and these do not contain carotenoids Responsible for their coloring, taking into account that flamingos cannot produce them either, what was done was adding these chemical compounds to both the water and the food they ate to keep them pink.

Here below you can see a photo of pink and orange wild flamingos and another image of flamingos in captivity that have lost their characteristic coloration due to feeding in another way and, in addition, no chemicals have been used to keep them pink.

Characteristics of flamingos

These are the main characteristics of flamingos:

  • The flamingos present a singular figure, with long legs and a long, curved neck.
  • They have a remarkable size, being able to reach 1.2 meters high, a wingspan of 1.5 meters high and a weight that ranges from 2 to 4 kg, the males being larger and heavier than the females.
  • They have one pink hue which contrasts with the black color of their flight feathers (12 in particular), only noticeable when these animals spread their wings.
  • With a small, spindle-shaped head, the flamingos peak it is semi-inclined and is uniquely adapted for feeding by filtration of water dams; Furthermore, the shape of its beak is not shared by any other family of birds.

Where does the pink flamingo live

Flamenco is typical of tropical and subtropical zones, so that they are found in several countries in South America, including Peru, Argentina and Bolivia, as well as in areas of Central America (Cuba, Bahamas and Yucatan Peninsula) and some regions of Africa and the Iberian Peninsula.

This animal is commonly seen in many of the humid Mediterranean and South Atlantic coastal enclaves, or even in salt flats and inland lagoons, typically frequenting areas that are not easily accessible to people and other animals. Typically, they are found in lakes, coastal lagoons, marshes, estuaries, mangrove areas, tidal flats, or even sand islands that remain in intertidal areas. Their habitat is usually always surrounded by salty, brackish and alkaline waters shallow, that is, in wetlands.

Curiosities of flamingos

As a curious fact, surely, you have ever seen flamingos sleep on one leg and you may have wondered why this position. Well, this is because these animals have a great ability to maintain balance with little effort. In fact, with this position they use the same energy as if they used both legs. All this is given by the "stopping device", which consists in that when the flamingos are positioned on a single leg, it locks the legs in a specific position, so that muscles and ligaments are activated that prevent the animal from destabilize and allow you to enjoy balance without having to make a conscious effort to maintain it. Another curious fact is that often flamingos rest their head on their body to avoid fatigue in the muscles of his long neck.

Discover in this post which animals sleep standing up and why they do it, you will see that there are many more besides flamingos and not all of them are birds.

If you want to read more articles similar to What do flamingos eat, we recommend that you enter our category of Animal Curiosities.

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  • Scarton, F. (2022). Environmental characteristics of shallow bottoms used by Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus in a northern Adriatic lagoon. Acrocephalus, 38(174-175), 161-169.
  • SEO Bird Life. (). Guide to the birds of Spain. Recovered from: https://www.seo.org/ave/flamenco-comun/
  • Zoofundación Santa Cruz. Conservation education. (2015). Flamingo Recovered from: https://zoosantacruz.org/animales/flamingo/
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