Monday, September 17, 2012

Fascinating Facts About Our Feathery Friends, The Flamingos

As frequent readers of this blog will attest, I am fascinated by unusual animals, and will often spend an entire blog post relaying oddball facts about said animal. Today's post is further proof of that.

When you think of flamingos (yes, the plural is "flamingos", although "flamingoes" is also correct), what's the first thing that comes to your mind? For many of us – myself included – the first image that we think about might be of the tacky plastic flamingos that adorn the yards of people with questionable taste.

Well, it's my aim to give you a few other things to think about in regards to flamingos. And here we go...

1)  There are six known species of flamingos in the world today.  The Greater Flamingo is the most widespread, dwelling in parts of Africa, Southern Europe, Southern Asia, and Southwest Asia. The Lesser Flamingo is found from the Great Rift Valley in Africa to Northwest India, and is the most numerous species of flamingos. The Chilean Flamingo is most commonly found in the temperate southernmost regions of South America. Both the James's and Andean Flamingos are found in the High Andes in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. The Caribbean Flamingo dwells in the Caribbean and Galapagos Islands.

American Flamingos

2)  No one's really sure why flamingos stand on one leg with the other leg tucked beneath the body.  Some researchers think that standing on one leg may allow the flamingos to conserve body heat, since they spend a significant amount of time wading in cold water. Some flamingos have the ability to have half their bodies go into a state of sleep; when one side is rested, the flamingo will swap legs and let the other half sleep – though this has not been proven.

I'll bet flamingos would be good at playing "Twister."

3)  Flamingos get their vibrant coloring from the beta carotene in their diet.  Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp and blue-green algae. This food is full of aqueous bacteria and beta carotene (the same substance that gives carrots their bright orange color).

Their future's so bright, you gotta wear shades.

4)  Pale flamingos don't date much.  A well-fed, healthy flamingo is more brightly colored and is thus a more desirable mate. A white or pale flamingo is usually unhealthy or malnourished, and is thereby considered less likely to make a good mate.

They never call, they never text, they won't even follow
me on Twitter. Oh, woe is me and my pale exterior!

5)  Flamingos are extremely social creatures, living in colonies that can number in the thousands.  These large colonies are believed to serve three major purposes for the flamingos:  avoidance of predators, maximized food intake, and the exploitation of suitable nesting sites (which can be quite scarce). Flamingos' most basic and stable social unit are pair bonds, which are made up of one male and one female.

Birds with pink feathers, flock to....well, you know the rest.

6)  Flamingos feed their young by vomiting in their mouths.  Or something like that. Flamingos produce crop milk (a secretion from the glands lining the upper digestive tract) and regurgitate it into the mouths of their eager chicks. This crop milk – which, incidentally, is nothing like mammals' milk – contains lots of fat, some protein, and red and white blood cells which help nourish the young birds.

7)  Ancient Egyptians used to worship flamingos.  The Egyptians considered the flamingo to be the living representation of the god Ra. Go figure!

Doesn't look much like a flamingo to me.
I dunno, maybe a little bit around the eyes?

8)  In Ancient Rome, flamingo tongue was considered a delicacy.  Indeed, the tongue of a flamingo was a highly prized dish for Caesars and other toga-wearing freaks. But, thankfully, this is a thing of the past – no modern culture is known to eat the tongue of the flamingo these days.

Open up and say AHHH...wait, what are you doing with that knife?

9a)  The flamingo is the national bird of The Bahamas.  This stands to reason, since American Flamingos are known to thrive in that island nation. They even put them on their coins.


9b)  The plastic flamingo is the official city bird of Madison, Wisconsin.  Seriously. You can't make this stuff up! I guess the city of Madison has collectively realized that the first step to conquering a serious problem like terminal tackiness is to admit that you have a problem.

Some random lady at the University of Wisconsin campus posing with fake birds.

10)  Andean miners think that flamingo fat holds the cure for tuberculosis.  It doesn't, by the way. The thing is, to get to this fat, they're killing the flamingos. Wouldn't it save everyone – the flamingos included – a lot of trouble if the tubercular miners just cautiously approached the birds, and allowed the flamingos to barf in their mouths? Makes sense to me.

¿Crees que realmente permitir√° un flamenco 
de vomitar en mi boca? ¡No lo creo!

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