2021 | CAN FLAMINGOS FLY? (FUN FACTS WITH PICTURES)

Most of the time, you are likely to see the flamingo is on the ground and not in the air. And this brings in the question of whether the flamingoes can fly?

Yes, flamingos can fly. In fact, unlike most birds that spend most of their time on the ground, the flamingoes can fly to very high altitudes and can fly for a very long distance at a very high speed.  At night, a flamingo can fly for up to 375 miles continuously at an average speed of 35 miles per hour!  This can happen while flying as high as 15000 feet above the ground.  The flamingoes usually fly mostly during the night, and they prefer to travel with the cloudless skies and favorable tailwinds.  Whenever they travel during the day, they do it at high altitudes to avoid any alteration by the predators.

The flamingo is mainly found in tropical and sub-tropical areas. The flamingoes are generally non-migratory birds, but due to change in climate and water leaves in their breeding areas, they ate left with no option but to move to safer areas.  Below are some of the conditions that may lead to the migration of flamingoes. 

  • The population that breeds in high altitude areas may have to migrate since the lakes may freeze during the winter hence the migration to warmer areas.
  • When the water levels in their breeding areas rise, the flamingoes might migrate to more favorable places.
  • During the drought season, the flamingoes may be forced to relocate to more favorable areas.
  • Most of the flamingoes that migrate to new areas usually return to their original colony to breed but may end up joining the neighboring colony.

Are flamingoes flightless birds?

As mentioned previously, the flamingoes are not flightless birds and are not in any case related to other ground birds such as the chicken ducks and the turkey that can only fly over a short distance. They belong to a separate family called the Phoenicopteridae, and they are the only members of the family. Despite the fact that they are wading birds, no other wading bird is close to it, not even the roseate birds that physically look like the flamingo. Actually, the closest bird that is relative to the flamingoes is the grebe, but physically, it looks nothing close to them. The flamingoes spend most of their time on the ground since that is where they get their food from, but they are capable of flying over a long distance at high speed. The domesticated flamingoes have their wings clipped to prevent them from escaping, but still, they have managed to escape and end up living in the wild.

Why don’t we see the flying flamingoes often?

As stated earlier, the flamingos fly at very high altitudes, especially during the day, and this means it is very difficult to spot them and notice them.  Depending on where you live, there is a high probability that you have spotted them once or twice, but you failed to recognize them since they are high.

How do flamingoes take off?

The flamingoes do not look like the birds that are able to fly from the ground so frequently, considering the fact that they have long necks and legs. They have distinctive take-off patterns that helped them get off the ground.  They start by flipping their wings rapidly and then taking quick running steps or paddling in the water to build up speed and help them take off. Just like an airplane, the flamingoes need a bit of runway in order to gain momentum and be able to take off from the ground.

What do they do with the long neck and legs during the flight?

Have you come to think about what happens to the long legs and the neck when flying? It seems like they make the flight awkward, right?  Most of the birds usually draw their legs underneath their body tucked in their feathers to minimize the drag while the bird is on the flight.  For the flamingos, it is not possible for this to happen, bearing in mind the legs are too long. Likewise, the neck is too long as compared to other birds that fold their neck to s shape to make sure everything is compact and close to the center of gravity.

 However, for the flamingos, they keep their long neck and legs straight on, and they help them keep them on balance and ensure the weight is on the center.  This keeping of the legs and neck straight out minimizes the drag too.

Do flamingoes roost on trees?

The flamingoes roost and build their nests on the ground. As it is common knowledge that most of the birds that feed on the water have webbed feet, the feet are not suitable for grasping the tree branches, and this explains why they do most of their activities on the ground.  The flamingoes, unlike other birds that rest by lying on the ground or tree branches they rest by standing none foot with the other tucked underneath its body. This may seem uncomfortable nut the research has established that they can maintain this position for long since it is comfortable.

How do they land?

 As the flamingoes attempt to land, they slow down by making an upright position by lifting the feet downwards and forwards, and this slows them down to almost zero speed by the time they are touching down.  Just like we had stated earlier, the flamingoes behave like an airplane, and this means as they touch down, they receive a gentle impact with a few steps or with few pedaling movements if they land on water.  Despite the high speed, the flamingoes fly with, they surprisingly land smoothly and extend their graceful upright position after the landing.

Do they fly in formations?

Yes, whenever the flamingoes are flying over a long distance, they organize themselves in different shaped formations to ensure that they fly close to each other.  Whenever the flamingoes are flying, they face air resistance, and this explains why they need to fly together and flap their wings pretty much when on the flight.  This helps them beat the air resistance.

 Whenever the flamingoes are fling, they maintain a speed of approximately 35 miles per hour, and this is determined by the wind.  They, however, prefer flying in clear weather. Whenever the flocks are flying, they keep forming different shape formations to their advantage depending on the wind. They are mostly seen in v-shaped formations, and they keep changing an irregular line and ball-like formation.

 The flamingoes are known to make a loud honking noise that is similar to that made by the geese. This noise serves as communication that they use to recognize each other during flight formations.  Some research shows that this communication is used to send a communique about the location, any impending dangers, and they use different call and response sounds for locating their partners and parents.

 Different from the fling that is usually coordinated, when the flamingoes start to land, the formations are scattered, and everyone starts looking for a soft landing spot creating beautiful chaos.

At what age do they start to fly?

During the first few of their offspring’s lie, flying is not part of the agenda. However, they spend the first months feeding and taking care of the chicks.  They start making the attempts after 11 weeks, and that is when they start to naturally try to fly.  After the second to the third month, that is when the chocks make the first flights, and at this point, they have not fully developed their pink color.

Why do flamingos not fly away in zoos?

 Every bird or animal wants to live in a safe place with minimum distraction. When the flamingoes get enough food and are safe from predators, they have less reason to fly away from their habitat.  To prevent the flamingos from escaping, practice clipping their wings.  The clipping is done by trimming their primary feathers, This process of crimping is considered to be painless, but it should be done by a veterinarian. 

For the birds in captivity or the domesticated, they are used to human care, but for the birds in the wild, this process of capturing and trimming the feathers and losing its natural flying capabilities can be traumatic. This does not only occur in zoos, but some of the tourist destinations practice this process to keep the flamingoes for long in the same areas without migrating.

Why do flamingoes have long legs?

 The main reason why the flamingoes have long legs is that they enable them to move into deep waters and be able to collect food from places other birds cannot be able to.

Flamingo moves

For those who have taken their time to observe and study the movements of the flamingoes, they can attest that they make some funny moves. A research carried by the famous zoologist called Phil Kahl documented some of these moves as:

  • Head flagging – This is when the flamingo stretches its neck and the head up in the air and tilts it from side to side.
  • Wing salute – This is where the flamingo displays its different colors of the plumage by spreading its wings.
  • Twist-Spleen– In this case, the flamingo turns its neck backward and quickly moves its bill through the feathers.
  • Marching – The flamingoes, in this case, match in one direction like a brass band before they suddenly stop and change the direction.

flamingos general information

The flamingos are birds with long legs, bright pink in color, and strange long beaks that are turned down. The most popular places you are likely to find flamingoes are in zoos, documentaries, or even the wild.  It is very interesting and enjoyable seeing them as they stride through the water, sweeping the beaks through the water as they try to feed.  They are a group of wading birds that are spread throughout the Americas, Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and even Europe.  The word flamingo is derived from the Portuguese word which means flame-colored in reference to its pink-red coloration.

 The famous colors come from their diet, which is rich in brine shrimp and algae.  Whenever the flamingoes are bred in captivity, they lack the pink color but have the white color due to the lack of coloring pigment that is found in the diet. The captive flamingoes do not have an opportunity to feed on the diet that contains the coloring pigment. Actually, all the variation in colors among the different types of flamingoes can be attributed to differences in the diet they feed on, like the birds that feed on the largest amount of the algae and coloring diet end up with the darkest coloration.

Most of the time, you are likely to see the flamingo is on the ground and not in the air. And this brings in the question of whether the flamingoes can fly?

Habitat

The flamingoes are mostly found habiting in alkaline or saline lakes that are large or the estuarine lagoons that have no vegetation.  Other varieties of flamingo habitats include sandy islands in the intertidal zone mangroves swamps and tidal flats. The absence of the fish may have a greater influence on whether they will live in a particular lake or not.

 The Chilean flamingoes are rarely found in the lakes that contain fish. This is because a lake with fish means that there will be competition for food.

 Whenever there is an introduction of fish in the lake with the Chilean flamingo, there will be a very big impact and the Caribbean flamingoes too.  This is because they all feed on invertebrates. Other species of flamingoes are not affected since they feed on different types of food.

Distribution of flamingoes

There are different types of flamingoes, and they live in different parts of the world.

The Chilean flamingoes– are found in central Peru, both coastal and southern South America, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil.

The Lesser flamingos- these are naturally found in Africa.  This type is mostly found in eastern, southwestern, and western Africa. However, there is a significant population that is found in India.

The James Flamingos- they are the most restricted species of flamingos. They are mainly found in western Bolivia, southern Peru, northeastern Argentina, and northeastern Chile.

The Caribbean Flamingo – is found throughout the Caribbean, that is, the Cuba, Bahamas and the Turks, the Galapagos Islands, and the northern part of coastal South America.

The Greater Flamingos – is the most widespread population of all flamingo species.  Most of the population is found in North West indie, the Middle East, the western Mediterranean, and Africa.  Some of the species are found in Europe and east of Siberia.

Fun facts about Flamingoes

  • Throughout the world, there are only six species of flamingoes, although there are several of those species that have smaller subspecies.
  • Flamingoes have rarely seen fly flying; they are powerful fliers and strong but rare swimmers despite the fact that they are mostly seen wading.  They do well in flying, although they rarely fly unless migrating to new sources of food or better climatic areas.
  • The flamingos fly in groups called flocks, and they move at a very high speed of approximately 35 miles per hour.
  • Whenever the flamingoes are feeding, they flip their long bills upside down for several hours every day so that they can filter their food as they swim in the water. 
  • The bill of a flamingo chick is usually long and straight with no distinct color patches.  They later develop a distinct curve and start eating on their own after a few months.
  • The flamingoes are known to be monogamous in nature, whereby they lay one egg per year, and in a case where an egg is stolen, lost, or damaged, they do not lay any replacement. This, however, means that in case a colony of flamingos is hit by a calamity or a natural disaster such as fires, they take a lot of time to grow in terms of population.
  • The flamingo chicks are feed on crop milk by the adults during the first five to twelve days after they are hatched. After then they start to forage on their own though the chicks may continue to feed on the crop milk for up to 2 months as the bills develop.  The crop milk is very nutritious to the chicks, and that is why it is fundamental during this stage.   The adult flamingoes have the capacity to produce the crop milk within their digestive tract and regurgitate it to feed their young ones.
  • The young flamingoes are naturally born gray or white in color, but as time goes by, they reach the mature pink, orange or red plumage in approximately three years.  Their feather is not as structured as those of the adults, but they are insulated enough to keep the baby flamingoes warm throughout.
  • The greater flamingo is the largest species among the flamingoes, and it can measure u7pto 5 feet when standing with its head raised. In terms of weight, the flamingo can measure up to eight pounds.
  • The average length of adult flamingo legs is up to 30 to 50 inches, and this is longer than its entire body. The flamingoes mostly stand in one leg while tucking the other inside the body to preserve body warmth. They often interchange the legs to regulate the body temperatures.
  • The knee bending backward in the leg of a flamingo is the actual ankle.  The actual knee is so close to the body, and it is invisible through the plumage of the bird.
  • The flamingoes are known to be the gregarious birds that do not do well in small flocks of a few birds. A typical flock contains a few dozens of birds, but the best flock for the flamingoes can go up to a million birds, and this is very advantageous to them as they keep the bird safe from predators. The larger flocks are also more stable for population growth and breeding success.
  • The life span of a flamingo is estimated to be up to 30 years in the wild, but those in captivity can live up to 50 years, and this is mainly because they are not subjected to dangers such as predators, poaches and they can be able to receive premium care and veterinary services.

Conclusion

Mainly the ground-dwelling birds do not fly over long distances since they only fly on top of trees to roost or to escape some predators. The case of flamingos is different sine they can fly over a long distance and at a very high speed.  If you look at them in the first stance you will, also realize they are more adapted to walking than other ground birds such as hens and turkeys, but they still do better on flying.

The flamingoes are generally better flyers with the capability of covering long distances and can be able to fly in high altitudes.  Many have a belief they are similar to the birds like hens since they dwell on the ground, but this is not the case. They are a true definition of unique birds.