Top 5 Fantastic Facts and Feats Involving Flamingos

Updated on September 20, 2018
Jana Louise Smit profile image

Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.


Flamboyant and Strange

They wear bright pink plumage and have odd beaks. Sure, let's throw in those strange knob-knees too. The way they look is not the only unusual thing about flamingos. Sometimes, they're not pink at all. These big birds also do jaw-dropping things, possess an odd biology and have lived on planet Earth for longer than most can even guess.

1. The Black Flamingo

A sight in Cyprus had several people thinking that something was wrong with their vision. Wading among a bunch of pink birds was a single black flamingo. Discovered in 2015, it had a charcoal-like body and white wing tips, which lend it the appearance of a male ostrich. This colour, which is believed to be some form of mutation, is so rare in flamingos that the Cyprus bird is believed to be the only black flamingo in the world.

2. They aren't Naturally Pink

Large water birds are sometimes clumsy when there's a sudden need to take off. Flamingos are awkward to begin with and have natural predators. For them, camouflage seems like a good idea but instead, flamingos advertise their drumsticks with neon — literally. Some are so bright, they make your eyes hurt.

The fact that they are a little too visible is not a genetic mistake. The iconic plumage is not present at birth, nor in the first few months. By nature, flamingos are greyish-white and gradually turn pink because of what they eat. Certain crustaceans and algae contain a reddish-orange pigment called beta carotene. That's right, the same stuff you find in carrots. Should a flamingo avoid these dyed foods, its pink would fade and eventually the bird turns white again.

Colours of the Flamingo Rainbow

Flamingos basically come in vivd red, pink, white and all the shades in between. The more brightly red they are, the more pigment they consumed.
Flamingos basically come in vivd red, pink, white and all the shades in between. The more brightly red they are, the more pigment they consumed. | Source

3. They're Unbelievably Ancient

Few people spare a thought about where flamingos come from. How old are they? When was the first fossilized flamingo found? Way back in the Miocene era, a lake existed in modern-day Spain. The lake dried up and left behind limestone and fossils. Incredibly, one ancient discovery was a preserved nesting site. It contained five eggs laid around 18 million years ago and presented the first traces of the flamingo.

However, the prehistoric flamingo was a little different. The adult responsible for the clutch was never found but the way it constructed the nest was unlike today's birds. Modern flamingos build mud towers for a single egg. The fossil nest, with its five eggs, was woven from sticks and leaves. The ancient eggs shared remarkable similarities to modern-day flamingos, but since the nest compared better to grebes, a living relative of flamingos, it could've belonged to a mutual ancestor.

4. The case of Flamingo 492

In 2003, an African flamingo arrived at the Sedgwick County Zoo. Two years later, it escaped with another flamingo. Tagged as 492 and 347, the latter was never seen again. Flamingo 492 has evaded capture ever since. More remarkably, it's managed to survive for over a decade. The latest sighting occurred in 2018, when the lone fugitive was spotted in Texas where it had settled down in a salty wetland. The bird was not the only foreign sight at the lake. Oddly, 492 had a fitting companion — a Caribbean flamingo. While nobody can say for sure how the unusual friend appeared, it most likely became lost after being separated from its flock because of a tropical storm.

Strange Stance

Researchers still don't know why flamingos like standing on one leg.
Researchers still don't know why flamingos like standing on one leg. | Source

5. A One-Legged Mystery

Ever since mankind first noticed pink flocks in lagoons everywhere, the question had been asked. Why do they stand on one leg? It's an inquiry that still baffles zoo keepers and researchers. This doesn't mean that the experts are clueless, though. Some suggestions include conserving energy and not falling prey to predators during sleep.

The energy theory has merit — with such long legs, the loss of heat would be substantial and some flamingos live in very cold places. Drawing one leg up against a warm, feathery chest cuts the heat loss in half. The predator theory doesn't seem solid at first. What on earth does standing on one leg have to do with a bird too busy sleeping to sense a crocodile cruised closer?

It turns out that flamingos share a trait with marine mammals, like whales and dolphins. To prevent drowning and attacks while sleeping, only one half of their brains enter true sleep. The other half keeps a watchful eye on the world. Researchers speculate that since flamingos also do this, tucking away one leg might be a reflex connected with the sleeping half of the brain. A third theory is more simple — flamingos do it because it's comfortable.

Endless Wonders

There are many more remarkable facts about flamingos. The next time you see one at the zoo (or you're lucky enough to spot some in the wild), lend a hat tip to a truly weird and wonderful bird. After all, one would have to look far and wide to find another creature that dyes itself pink, lived for millions of years and sports a beak only a mother could love.

© 2018 Jana Louise Smit


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)