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Flamingos are any of five species of tall wading birds (family Phoenicopteridae, order Ciconiiformes), which also includes the herons, bitterns, and storks. They are considered by some authorities to warrant separation as a distinct order, Phoenicopteriformes. Flamingos have webbed feet, slender bodies, long, thin necks, large wings, and short tails. They range from about 90 to 150 cm (3 to 5 feet) tall. The pink colour of their plumage is produced by their consumption of Spirulina, a blue-green algae, and other sources of carotenoids.
Flamingos are gregarious birds; flocks numbering hundreds may be seen in long, curving flight formations and in wading groups along the shore. In feeding, the flamingo tramps the shallows, stirring up organic matter, especially minute mollusks and crustaceans, which it strains from the muddy water by means of its sieve like lamellate bill. The nest is a truncated cone of clayey mud piled up a few inches in a shallow lagoon; both parents share the month of incubation of the one or two chalky-white eggs that are laid in the hollow of the cone. Downy white young leave the nest in two or three days and are fed by regurgitation of partly digested food by the adults.
Two geographically separated, distinct subspecies compose Phoenicopterus ruber: the Caribbean, or American, flamingo, which breeds in large colonies on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and islands of tropical and subtropical America; and the greater flamingo, found in Africa, southern Europe, and southern Asia. ♣
Ngorongoro Conservation Area / Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
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