5. There are six flamingo species.
In addition to Caribbean flamingos, there are lesser, greater, James’s (or Puna), Chilean and Andean flamingos. Greater flamingos are found in parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe. They are the largest and tallest flamingo species.
Chilean, Andean, and James’s flamingos are found only in South America. Andean flamingos are the rarest of the six species, with fewer than 40,000 birds. Lesser flamingos are found in parts of Africa and southern Asia. They are the smallest flamingos and the most abundant. There are more than 2 million lesser flamingos brightening skies and shores with their pink plumage.
6. Don’t let your eyes deceive you — a flamingo’s knees don’t bend backward!
Flamingo legs actually bend just like human legs. What looks like a flamingo's knee is really its ankle joint. A flamingo’s knees are located higher up the legs, hidden by the body and feathers. Confused? Think of a flamingo as standing on tiptoe. When the leg bends, it’s the ankle you see hinging.
7. Some flamingos live in extreme environments.
Flamingos are typically found in shallow saltwater or brackish waters (where saltwater and freshwater mix). But some flamingo species breed and raise their young in extremely salty bodies of water, called alkaline or “soda” lakes. The high concentration of carbonate salts in these lakes is so corrosive that it can burn the skin, making the water uninhabitable for most animals.
Researchers are still uncovering the unique aspects of a flamingo’s physiology — like tough leg skin — that help it survive such harsh waters. The high salt can still be deadly for some flamingo chicks if salt rings build up on their legs, making it impossible for them to walk.
8. Flamingo parents feed their chicks a liquid they secrete, called crop milk.
A flamingo’s “milk” is produced in its crop (part of its throat) and then brought up through its mouth. It may sound icky, but a flamingo’s crop milk is chock-full of healthy proteins and fats. Both parents can produce crop milk to feed a flamingo chick until it is old enough to eat on its own.