Flamingo (Family: Phoenicopteridae, Genus: Phoenicopterus) - Wiki
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Order: Phoenicopteriformes F??rbringer, 1888
Family: Phoenicopteridae Bonaparte, 1831
Genus: Phoenicopterus Linnaeus, 1758
[Photo] A Caribbean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), with Chilean Flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis) in the background. By Aaron Logan, from www.lightmatter.net/gallery/albums.php
Flamingos or Flamingoes are gregarious wading birds in the genus Phoenicopterus and family Phoenicopteridae. They are found in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres, but are more numerous in the former. There are four species in the Americas while two exist in the Old World. Two species, the Andean and the James's Flamingo, are often placed in the genus Phoenicoparrus instead of Phoenicopterus.
Old World Flamingos
- Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) parts of Africa, S. Europe and S. and SW Asia (most widespread flamingo).
- Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor) Africa (e.g. Great Rift Valley) to NW India (most numerous flamingo).
New World Flamingos
- Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) Temperate S. South America.
- James's Flamingo (Phoenicopterus jamesi) High Andes in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
- Andean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus andinus) High Andes in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
- Caribbean Flamingo or American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) Caribbean and Galapagos islands.
Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp. Their oddly-shaped 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. The flamingo's characteristic pink colouring is caused by the Beta carotene in their diet. The source of this varies by species, but shrimp and blue-green algae are common sources; zoo-fed flamingos may be given food with the additive canthaxanthin, which is often also given to farmed salmon.
Flamingos frequently stand on one leg. The reason for this behavior is not fully known. One common theory is that tucking one leg beneath the body may conserve body heat, but this has not been proven. It is often suggested that this is done in part to keep the legs from getting wet, in addition to conserving energy. As well as standing in the water, flamingos may stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up food from the bottom.
Young flamingos hatch with grey plumage, but the feathers of an adult range from light pink to bright red due to the bacteria in the water they inhabit and the pigments obtained from their food supply. A flamingo that is well-fed and healthy is vibrantly coloured bright pink and is more desirable as a mate. A white or pale flamingo, however, is usually unhealthy or suffering from a lack of food. Notable exceptions are the flamingos in captivity, many of which turn a pale pink as they are not fed foods containing sufficient amounts of carotene. This is changing as more zoos begin to add shrimp and other supplements to the diets of their flamingos. In summary, flamingos obtain their color from a beta carotene diet.
Flamingos produce a "milk" like pigeon milk due to the action of a hormone called prolactin (see Columbidae). It contains more fat and less protein than the latter does, and it is produced in glands lining the whole of the upper digestive tract, not just the crop. Both parents nurse their chick, and young flamingos feed on this milk, which also contains red and white blood cells, for about two months until their bills are developed enough to filter feed.
Scientists have discovered that birds are dying by the thousands along the Rift Valley lakes of Kenya and Tanzania. However, they are baffled about the reason. Possible causes include avian cholera, botulism, metal pollution, pesticides or poisonous bacteria, say researchers. Also, fears for the future of the Lesser Flamingo ??? Phoeniconaias minor ??? have also been raised by plans to pipe water from one of their key breeding areas, the shores of Lake Natron. The lakes are crucial to the birds' breeding success because the flamingos feed off the blooms of cyanobacteria that thrive there.
Most scientific attention has focused on the environmental changes to the lakes. Water levels have lowered and concentrations of salt in the water have increased. This increases the risk of toxic bacteria growing there.
In Ancient Rome, flamingo tongues were considered a delicacy. Also, Andean miners have killed flamingos for their fat, believed to be a cure for tuberculosis.
The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped nature. They placed emphasis on animals and often depicted flamingos in their art.
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