Vol 2, #6 – The American Flamingo

American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) for Birds Illustrated

American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) for Birds Illustrated

From col. Chi. Acad. Sciences. Copyrighted by
Nature Study Pub. Co., 1897, Chicago.



N this interesting family of birds are included seven species, distributed throughout the tropics. Five species are American, of which one reaches our southern border in Florida. Chapman says that they are gregarious at all seasons, are rarely found far from the seacoasts, and their favorite resorts are shallow bays or vast mud flats which are flooded at high water. In feeding the bill is pressed downward into the mud, its peculiar shape making the point turn upward. The ridges along its sides serve as strainers through which are forced the sand and mud taken in with the food.

The Flamingo is resident in the United States only in the vicinity of Cape Sable, Florida, where flocks of sometimes a thousand of these rosy vermillion creatures are seen. A wonderful sight indeed. Mr. D. P. Ingraham spent more or less of his time for four seasons in the West Indies among them. He states that the birds inhabit the shallow lagoons and bays having soft clayey bottoms. On the border of these the nest is made by working the clay up into a mound which, in the first season, is perhaps not more than a foot high and about eight inches in diameter at the top and fifteen inches at the base. If the birds are unmolested they will return to the same nesting place from year to year, each season augmenting the nest by the addition of mud at the top, leaving a slight depression for the eggs. He speaks of visiting the nesting grounds where the birds had nested the previous year and their mound-like nests were still standing. The bird’s nest in June. The number of eggs is usually two, sometimes only one and rarely three. When three are found in a nest it is generally believed that the third has been laid by another female.

The stature of this remarkable bird is nearly five feet, and it weighs in the flesh six or eight pounds. On the nest the birds sit with their long legs doubled under them. The old story of the Flamingo bestriding its nest in an ungainly attitude while sitting is an absurd fiction.

The eggs are elongate-ovate in shape, with a thick shell, roughened with a white flakey substance, but bluish when this is scraped off. It requires thirty-two days for the eggs to hatch.

The very fine specimen we present in Birds represents the Flamingo feeding, the upper surface of the unique bill, which is abruptly bent in the middle, facing the ground.



AMERICAN FLAMINGO.Phœnicopterus ruber.

Range—Atlantic coasts of sub-tropical and tropical America; Florida Keys.

Nest—Mass of earth, sticks, and other material scooped up to the height of several feet and hollow at the top.

Eggs—One or two, elongate-ovate in shape, with thick shell, roughened with a white flakey substance, but bluish when this is scraped off.

American Flamingos Many With Foot Up by Lee at Gatorland

American Flamingos Many With Foot Up by Lee at Gatorland

Lee’s Addition:

Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. (Psalms 96:6 AMP)

The American Flamingo is a member of the Phoenicopteridae – Flamingos Family which has six (6) species. We were just at Gatorland, in Orlando, today and were able to see and photograph some American Flamingos. (The photos are today’s – Forgot that this next article was about the Flamingo, so these were very handy.)

The American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is a large species of flamingo closely related to the Greater Flamingo and Chilean Flamingo. It was formerly considered conspecific with the Greater Flamingo, but that treatment is now widely viewed as incorrect due to a lack of evidence. It has also been known as the Caribbean Flamingo, but the species’ presence in the Galápagos makes that name problematic. It is the only flamingo which naturally inhabits North America.

Adult American Flamingoes are smaller on average than Greater Flamingoes but are the largest flamingoes in the Americas. They measure from 47 to 57 in (120 to 145 cm) tall. The males weigh an average of 6.2 lb (2.8 kg), while females average 4.9 lb (2.2 kg). Most of its plumage is pink, giving rise to its earlier name of Rosy Flamingo and differentiating adults from the much paler Greater Flamingo. The wing coverts are red, and the primary and secondary flight feathers are black. The bill is pink and white with a restricted black tip, and the legs are entirely pink. The call is a goose-like honking.

American Flamingos with foot up

American Flamingos with foot up at Gatorland

Flamingos often stand on one leg, the other tucked beneath the body. The reason for this behavior 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. (It definitely was warm today-95 degrees)

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 coloured 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.

American Flamingo Beak at Gatorland by Lee

American Flamingo Beak at Gatorland by Lee

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.

American Flamingo Beak cropped

American Flamingo Beak cropped


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources, with editing)

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