Caribbean Flamingo – Detail Page

English Name: Caribbean Flamingo

Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus ruber

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Phoenicopteriformes

Family: Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos)

Genus: Phoenicopterus (Greater Flamingos)

Other Names: Chògògò (Papiamentu), American Flamingo

 

Conservation Status: 

  • IUCN Red List: classified as Least Concern.
  • CITES: listed in Appendix II.
  • SPAW: listed in Annex III.

Island Status:

  • Large population on Bonaire (it is Bonaire’s national bird).
  • Curaçao has a small but important colony of 200-300 individuals (mostly in the Jan Kok salt ponds) that arrived from Bonaire in the mid 1980s during a particularly rainy year.

Description

The Caribbean Flamingo has a length of about 120 to 145 cm (~47.2 to 57″) with a wingspan of 140 to 165 cm (~55.1 to 65″), weighing some 2.1 to 4.1 kg (~4.6 to 9 lbs). (Males are slightly larger than females). They have long slender legs, a long thin neck, long pointed wings and a large curved bill. The toes are webbed. They are know especially for their pink and reddish body with lighter feathers on the back. The legs and feet are pink, and the wings are edged with black flight feathers that are only visible in flight. The bill is pink with a black tip and is pale yellow at the base. Juveniles have a gray and brown plumage with traces of pink.

Distinct features: 1) very long legs that bend backwards. The Caribbean Flamingo, along with the Greater Flamingo, has the longest legs in proportion to body size of any bird; 2) very long, slim neck typical of the Flamingo family; and 3) thick, hooked bill.

Life History

The Caribbean Flamingo feeds on a large variety of small prey, including marine snails, small clams, worms, mosquitoes, brine shrimp and brine fly larvae. It stirs up the mud from the bottom of shallow water with its feet, and then plunges its head underwater and filters food out through its bill.

They are sexually mature in about three to five years and generally breed between March and mid-July. On Bonaire, the flamingos breed from January to July (exclusively in the Pekelmeer flamingo sanctuary in the south of the island). They produce one egg every year, which is laid in a volcano-shaped nest built from mud. Both parents incubate the eggs which hatch after 28 to 32 days; the chicks fledge after about 75 days. Their life expectancy is an average of 25 years.

Habitat: 
Caribbean Flamingos live in saline ponds, mudflats and shallow coastal lagoons; mostly coastal.

Distribution: 
They inhabit the Caribbean Islands and the north coast of South America. There is also a small population on the Galapagos Islands. There are no migration patterns, but they will move in response to lack of food and disturbance. On Bonaire and Curaçao, they fly each year to mainland Venezuela once the breeding season is over to feed in lagoons along the coast.

Local Research and Conservation Efforts

STINAPA Bonaire protects the Washington Slagbaai National Park, which is an important habitat for the Caribbean Flamingo. On Curacao, the Jan Kok salt ponds that they inhabit receive special protection.

Did You Know?

  • The carotene in the Brine Shrimp, their favorite food, is what gives their feathers their pink color.
  • Flamingos are very social and live, breed and feed in flocks that can consist of thousands of individuals. One reason they do this is to protect themselves from predators; they are much safer in a large group than alone, especially when feeding with their head in the water.
  • Bonaire is one of the few flamingo breeding sites in the world because it meets all the flamingo’s specific needs: ground that is neither too soft nor too hard, sufficient food with a high salt level, fresh water, and minimal disturbance.

Related Pages:
Species in the Spotlight: Caribbean Flamingo
 
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