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Caribbean Flamingo

Flamingo Hop!

The Caribbean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is the most vibrantly colored of all flamingos, and the only species truly native to North America. Like all flamingos, this species gains it coloration from the existence of carotenoid pigments within the algae and tiny crustaceans that they ate. In captivity, flamingos exist on a special pellet diet that not only provides them with their required nutrients, but also gives them the pigmentation needed to maintain their snazzy colors.

In order to get at their food, flamingos feed with their heads upside down. They use their tongues to suck in water and everything that comes with it, and then using filters built in to the ridges of their beaks they are able to dispel the excess water.

Like many animals that I have discussed here, there is some argument surrounding the classification of the Caribbean Flamingo. Some consider it to be its own species, (though it is sometimes called the American Flamingo, due to the fact that it lives in the Galapagos Islands - well away from the Caribbean) while others consider it to be a subspecies of the Greater Flamingo. Those in the subspecies camp have given it the full name of Phoenicopterus ruber ruber.

Flamingos at the Milwaukee County Zoo
Caribbean Flamingos can live to be 40-50 years old and exist in large colonies with mating pairs that often change from year to year. The couples build cone-shaped nests out of mud that keep their single egg off of the ground. Chicks are born white, and then eventually turn grey, and then finally pink during their second year. They do not have the special filters in their beaks that the parents have, and must subsist off of "crop milk," a secretion produced by glands in the upper digestive tracts of both parents. Pigeons and some penguins also produce similar milks. After about two weeks, the young flamingos join a creche, a large gathering of juvenile birds.


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