Can Flamingos Swim?

Posted by Monica VanHarn July 2016 on Sep 12th 2017

Chilean Flamingo - John Ball Zoo Grand Rapids, Michigan photo MV2016

While more commonly seen wading, flamingos do swim. They have webbed feet to help them swim out to reach food, as well as support them while standing in soft mud. What appear to be bright pink knobby knees on the Chilean Flamingo are actually ankles. This is why they seem to bend the wrong way. Those are very long feet with webbing between the toes. The knees are much higher up the leg, usually hidden by feathers.

Posing & Chatter photo MV2016

Flamingos communicate just like humans with vocalizations and gestures. Their sounds are similar to geese sometimes with deeper growls. While feeding, they will often chatter to each other as if sharing the news of the day. Parents can locate their chicks among thousands simply by a unique call. They have very good hearing, like most parents. You will also see preening, stretching, and beak snapping used to get a message across.

Pretty in Pink Plumage photo MV2016

Flamingos are born white or light grey. They achieve their pink tinged feathers by eating algae and crustaceans that contain carotenoids. And, the more the better to attract a mate. Males dance in a group and show off their health by the color of their feathers. Unfortunately, humans are attracted to the feathers too. We are the main predators of flamingos.

At Rest But Always Aware photo MV2016

Flamingos can live 40-50 years and have been around for nearly 30,000. They are considered vulnerable due to illegal feather and egg collecting as well as habitat loss. Let's give these beauties the space they need and keep them around for millennia more.

For more information:
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
John Ball Zoo