Flamingos are a type of wading bird in the genus Phoenicopterus - from Greek meaning 'purple wing'. There are are six flamingo species which are recognized by most sources, four species in the Americas and two in the Old World.

Flamingos are very social birds that live in huge colonies that can number in the thousands. These large colonies are believed to serve three purposes for the flamingos. these are predator avoidance, maximizing food intake, and exploiting scarce suitable nesting sites.

The most basic and stable social unit of the flamingo is the pair bond and is made up of one male and one female. The bond between them tends to be strong; however, in larger colonies (where there are more mates to choose from), mate changes will occur.

In pair bonds, both the male and the female contribute to building the nest for their egg and defending it. Before breeding, flamingo colonies split into breeding groups of around 15–50 birds. Both males and females in these groups perform synchronized ritual displays. These displays serve to both stimulate synchronous nesting and establish pair formation for birds that do not already have mates. A flamingo group stands together and display to each other by raising their necks, followed by calling with head-flagging and then wing flapping. The displays do not seem to be directed towards an individual but instead appear to occur randomly.

Flamingo facts

1. The Old World flamingos were considered by the Ancient Egyptians to be the living representation of the god Ra.

2. In Ancient Rome, flamingo tongues were considered a delicacy.

3. The flamingo is the national bird for the Bahamas. 4. Andean miners killed flamingos for their fat, as they believed it to be a cure for tuberculosis.

5. The first flamingo hatched in a European zoo was a Chilean Flamingo at Zoo Basel in Switzerland in 1958. Since then, over 389 flamingos grew up in Basel and were distributed to other zoos around the globe.

6. While flamingos are considered wading birds, they are most closely related to grebes genetically.

7. Flamingos are strong but rare swimmers and powerful fliers, even though they're most often seen just wading.

8. When flying in a flock, the top speed of a flamingo can be as high as 35 miles per hour.

9. Flamingos hold their bills upside down while feeding, often for several hours a day, so they can filter out their food while skimming the water.

10. A flamingo chick's bill is small and straight, but will develop the distinct 'break' curve after a few months.

11. Flamingos are monogamous birds that lay only a single egg each year. If that egg is lost or damaged, they do not typically lay a replacement.

12. Parent flamingos feed their chicks exclusively crop milk for 5-12 days after hatching. This high fat, high protein substance is not like mammalian milk, but is excellent nutrition for growing chicks.

13. Flamingo chicks are born grey or white and take up to three years to reach their mature pink, orange or red plumage.

14. The pink, orange or red colour of a flamingo's feathers is caused by carotenoid pigments in their food, and a flamingo's diet includes shrimp, plankton, algae and crustaceans.

15. The greater flamingo is the largest flamingo species and can measure up to five feet tall, but only weighs a maximum of eight pounds. The lesser flamingo is the smallest and can reach three feet tall.

16. A adult flamingo's legs can be 30-50 inches long, which is longer than their entire body.

17. The backward bending "knee" of a flamingo's leg is actually the bird's ankle. The actual knee is very close to the body and is not visible through the bird's plumage.

18. Flamingos are gregarious birds that do not do well in very small flocks. While a typical flock is only several dozen birds, flocks of up to a million or more have been recorded.

19. A flock of flamingos is called a stand or a flamboyance.

20. Flamingos have a wild lifespan of 20-30 years, but in captivity have been recorded as living up to 50 years or longer.

21. The Andean flamingo is the most threatened of all flamingo species, and estimates show there to be only 30,000 of the birds left in the wild. 

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