After writing a lot about places and their history I thought it was about time to go wild – the animal kind of wild.
One of the places I visit very regularly is our local zoo; I never tire of going, there is always something new to discover.
My last visit was at the end of March, and whilst Calgary is not usually known for warm temperatures during that month, it was a beautiful sunny day and I was lucky enough that the flamingos were outside.
The flamingos in our zoo are Chilean Flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis), and the species is currently classified as Near Threatened. As their name suggests, they are found in South America and in the wild can live up to 50 years; 40 years in captivity. I had no idea that flamingos get this old!
Chilean Flamingos are a large species of flamingo; they can grow up to 1.3 meters/4.3 feet and have a wingspan of up to 1.5 meters/4.9 feet.
Flamingos are known for their plumage, but did you know that their young are grey or white with grey legs and pink knees? The name Flamingo comes from the Latin word “flamma” meaning flame, and feather colours can be anything from pink to red and orange depending on the species. One of the things I love about this species is their red wing coverts; they stand out so well.
Flamingos live in flocks ranging from a few dozen to thousands of birds. So, what do you call a flock of flamingos? There are a few options, colony, regiment, flurry and stand, but the best one has to be a flamboyance of flamingos!
The other thing I always wondered about is why certain birds just stand on one leg, the flamingo being one of them. Some research on the internet reveals that flamingos sleep and stand on one leg to conserve energy and to maintain their body temperature.
The other odd thing about flamingos is their tongue; it is large and fleshy, which is unusual for a bird. Additionally, when the flamingo wants to sit down it bends its legs back in order to gracefully lower itself to the ground. Almost everything about these birds is so very different from other birds, including the way they feed. They use their feet to stir up the water, then put their head and bill upside down into it, suck up the mud and water and then move their heads from side to side to extract plankton, small fish, and fly larvae from the mud and water. Given this feeding technique it should come as no surprise that flamingos do not breath during this process.
So, next time you are at a zoo, make sure to stop by the flamingos and have fun observing these gangly but beautiful looking birds (even better if you are fortunate enough to see them in the wild!).