Chilean Flamingo

Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus chilensis
Irish Name: Lasairéan Sileach
IUCN Status: Near threatened

Flamingos are a species of bird famous for their pink feathers, long stilt-like legs and hooked downward-bent bills. Dublin Zoo is home to large flock of about 100 Chilean flamingos.

 

Chilean Flamingo

Flamingos are a species of bird famous for their pink feathers, long stilt-like legs and hooked downward-bent bills. Dublin Zoo is home to large flock of about 100 Chilean flamingos.

 

General Information

Where do they live? (Natural habitat)

Chilean flamingos originate from the east and south west coast of South America where they live in mudflats, estuaries, salt lakes and lagoons.

How long do they live?

Up to 50 years in the wild and up to 80 years in zoos

What do they eat?

Flamingos eat small organisms that they filter from the water with their beaks. This includes algae, crustaceans, plankton and larvae. Their food contains a pigment called beta-carotene (the same pigment that gives carrots their red colour), and it is this pigment that gives them their pink colour.

Closest related species/sister species

There are five other flamingo species: greater flamingo, lesser flamingo, Andean flamingo, James' (or puna) flamingo and American (or Caribbean) flamingo.

Group Name

Flamboyance, colony, flock

Zoo location

Near side, beside the sea lions

Animal Class

Aves

Animal Order

Phoenicopteriformes

Fun Facts

Backwards knee

The joint on their legs which looks like a backwards-bending knee is actually their ankle, and they are standing on their toes. Their knee is higher up close to their body and hidden in the feathers.

Changing colours

Flamingo chicks are white and get their colour from the pigment in the regurgitated so-called "crop milk" that their parents feed them. So while the chicks are turning pink, their parents' colour is fading.

Tongue

Flamingos use their beak and tongue like a pump to suck food from the water that they have collected with their beaks.

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Family Life

Flamingos are very social animals, and live in groups from 50 to up to 1,000 birds. Apart from vocal communications flamingos also have a number of non-verbal ways to communicate, like head-flagging or flapping their wings. Very often flamingos also engage in the same behaviour at the same time, for example marching in synchronicity or mating at the same time.

Baby Name

Chick

Gestation (pregnancy) period

30 days incubation

Number of young at birth

1

Weight at birth

73-90 grams

Age at maturity

3-5 years

Size adult

Up to 145 cm and up to 3.5 kg

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Conservation

IUCN status

Chilean flamingos are classified as 'Near Threatened' on the International Union for Nature Conservation due to habitat loss from human intrusion for different reasons like mining, building dams and tourism.

Current population estimate

Estimated around 300,000 in 2019

Threats

Egg-harvesting (egg collecting led to partial or complete failure of colonies in Bolivia). A breeding site in Argentina is under threat due to the redirection of water for irrigation projects. Mining, hunting and tourism-related disturbances are also a problem.

What is Dublin Zoo doing?

Dublin Zoo is part of the European Zoo Breeding Programme for the Chilean flamingo species and is funding flamingo conservation in the wild. Keepers at Dublin Zoo share their research finding with other zoos around the world.

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FAQ's

  • Why are flamingos pink?

    Flamingos are pink because their diet of algae, crustaceans, plankton and larvae contains a pigment called beta-carotene (the same pigment that gives carrots their red colour), and it is this pigment that gives them their pink colour.

  • Can flamingos fly?

    Yes, flamingos can fly.

  • What is a flock of flamingos called?

    A flock of flamingos is called a flamboyance or also a colony.

  • What do flamingos eat?

    Flamingos eat small organisms that they filter from the water with their beaks. This includes algae, crustaceans, plankton and larvae. Their food contains a pigment called beta-carotene (the same pigment that gives carrots their red colour), and it is this pigment that gives them their pink colour.

  • Where do flamingos live?

    They live in mudflats, estuaries, salt lakes and lagoons all along the east and south-west coast of South America.

  • Why do flamingos stand on one leg?

    In 2009, psychologist Matthew Anderson from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia investigated why flamingos stand on one leg, and his conclusion was that this helps to reduce heat loss, especially when standing in water.

  • Are flamingo egg yolks pink?

    Yes, the inside of a flamingo egg is pink.

  • What sound does a flamingo make?

    Flamingos can make very loud “honking” noises. Their vocal repertoire also includes growling and low gabbling.

  • What are baby flamingos called?

    Baby flamingos are called chicks.

  • How tall are flamingos?

    Up to 145 cm

  • Are flamingos endangered?

    The IUCN currently evaluates Chilean flamingos as near-threatened which means that they do not currently qualify as vulnerable or endangered, but are likely to qualify for one of these categories in the near future.

  • How long do flamingos live?

    Flamingos live up to 50 years in the wild and up to 80 years in zoos.

  • Can flamingos swim?

    Yes, flamingos are very good swimmers.

  • How do flamingos sleep?

    Flamingos sleep standing up on one leg, and only one part of their brain is asleep at a time, so that they can change from one foot to the other, and can also remain alert for predators.

  • Are all flamingos pink?

    Flamingos get their colour from a pigment in their food, so their colouring can change with their diet. Flamingos also can be black due to having too much melanin, but these are very rare.

  • How much does a flamingo weigh?

    Flamingos weigh up to 3.5 kg.

  • Is a flamingo a mammal?

    Flamingos are birds, not mammals.

  • Do flamingos migrate?

    Flamingos are non-migratory birds, but may relocate if the climate or the water levels in their breeding area change.

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