Flamingos in the Rainforest

Written by allison edrington
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Flamingos in the Rainforest
Flamingos live near large, shallow lakes or lagoons. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Flamingos are one of the most ancient species of bird still living. Their bright colours and plumage along with their odd feeding habits distinguish them from other tropical species. A staple of zoos across the world, wild flamingos can be found in tropical and temperate regions near bodies of water and often near rainforests.

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Flamingos can be found living in tropical and temperate regions of Africa, the Mediterranean region, India, Caribbean coasts, the highlands of the Andes in South America and on the Galapagos Islands. The six types of flamingos -- Caribbean, greater, Chilean, lesser, Andean and James' -- congregate near shallow salt lakes or lagoons, whether it is near the coast, connected to the sea or far inland. Lesser flamingos can even live in volcanic soda lakes, which are considered inhospitable to most animal life.

Diet and Feeding

In the rainforest, flamingos feast primarily on algae or invertebrates, such as mollusks. Flamingos' long legs allow them to tread into deeper water in search of food. To find a meal, a flamingo dips its bill upside down under the water and sucks both water and mud through the front and then gushes any unwanted particles out the sides. According to the San Diego Zoo, the bird's lamellae, which are briny plates on the sides of the bill, act as a filter to keep the edible portions in the bill. The food flamingos eat, such as shrimp and blue-green algae, are what give it the bright pink, red and orange colours.

Standing on One Leg

One of the quirks scientists and observers have noted about flamingos is the birds often stand on only one leg while in the water. Researchers at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia have suggested that the birds do this as a way to conserve body heat, according to a 2009 BBC article. Having both legs in the water could lower the bird's body temperature to an unhealthy level, even in temperate or tropical climates.


Flamingos are social creatures; they flock in colonies and form bonds in pairs. The uncertain nature of the rainforest and other regions where flamingos live makes the bird's mating season irregular, as resources and weather can vary. Rainfall is thought to trigger displays and coupling, according to a 2007 project at Davidson College. One unique trait flamingos have is they are monogamous and the male and female birds take turns protecting the egg and maintaining the nest.

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