The flamingo's most characteristic habitats are large alkaline or saline lakes or estuarine lagoons that usually lack vegetation. Lakes may be far inland or near the sea.
A variety of habitats are used by flamingos: mangrove swamps, tidal flats, and sandy islands in the intertidal zone.
The presence or absence of fish may have a great influence on the use of lakes by some flamingos
Feeding Behavior & Diet:
Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp and blue-green algae. Their beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat, and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering of food items is assisted by hairy structures called lamellae which line the mandibles, and the large rough-surfaced tongue. The pink or reddish color of flamingos comes from carotenoids in their diet of animal and plant plankton. These carotenoids are broken down into pigments by liver enzymes. The source of this varies by species, and affects the saturation of color. Flamingos whose sole diet is blue-green algae are darker in color compared to those who get it second hand (e.g. from animals that have digested blue-green algae)
Nesting & Eggs:
Flamingos build nests that look like mounds of mud along waterways. At the top of the mound, in a shallow hole, the female lays one egg. The parents take turns sitting on the egg to keep it warm. After about 30 days, the egg hatches.
Until about 1900, flocks of flamingoes from the Bahamas regularly migrated to Florida Bay, in what is now Everglades National Park. Today, most flamingoes seen on the loose in North America are considered suspect, as possible escapees from aviaries or zoos. However, some of those appearing in Florida Bay may still be wanderers from Bahamian colonies, and some seen in coastal Texas may come from colonies on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
Flamingos usually stand on one leg while the other is tucked beneath their body. The reason for this behaviour is not fully understood. Recent research indicates that standing on one leg may allow the birds to conserve more body heat, given that they spend a significant amount of time wading in cold water. However, the behaviour also takes place in warm water. As well as standing in the water, flamingos may stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up food from the bottom.
Young flamingos hatch with greyish reddish plumage, but adults range from light pink to bright red due to aqueous bacteria and beta-Carotene obtained from their food supply. A well-fed, healthy flamingo is more vibrantly colored and thus a more desirable mate; a white or pale flamingo, however, is usually unhealthy or malnourished. Captive flamingos are a notable exception; many turn a pale pink as they are not fed carotene at levels comparable to the wild
Flamingos are generally non-migratory birds. However, due to changes in the climate and water levels in their breeding areas, flamingo colonies are not always permanent.
- Populations that breed in high-altitude lakes, which may freeze over in the winter, move to warmer areas.
- When water levels rise, birds may search for more favorable sites.
- Drought conditions may force some flamingo populations to relocate.
- Most flamingos that migrate will return to their native colony to breed. However, some may join a neighboring colony.
- When flamingos migrate, they do so mainly at night. They prefer to fly with a cloudless sky and favorable tailwinds. They can travel approximately 600 km (373 miles) in one night at about 50 to 60 kph (31-37 mph). When traveling during the day, the flamingos fly at high altitudes, possibly to avoid predation by eagles.
Young flamingos hatch with greyish reddish plumage.
After the chicks hatch, the only parental expense is feeding. Both the male and the female feed their chicks with a kind of crop milk, produced in glands lining the whole of the upper digestive tract (not just the crop).
For the first six days after the chicks hatch, the adults and chicks stay in the nesting sites. At around seven to twelve days old, the chicks begin to move out of their nests and explore their surroundings. When they are two weeks old, the chicks congregate in groups, called "microcrèches", and their parents leave them alone. After a while, the microcrèches merge into "crèches" containing thousands of chicks. Chicks that do not stay in their crèches are vulnerable to predators