Exploring the Surprising World of Baby Flamingos
Flamingos are one of the most social birds you will find anywhere in the world. This sense of community comes in handy when it comes to raising their young in the safety of a flock, and teaching the skills they will need to look after themselves as they grow up.
Baby flamingos have some really interesting properties. They have a really interesting name and a fascinating way of developing pigmentation to name a couple. In this post we take a look at some really interesting baby flamingo facts, as well as a series of some of the most frequently asked questions. Let’s get started!
Baby Flamingo Facts
Baby Flamingos Are Called Flaminglets
Baby flamingos are often called ‘chicks‘ or ‘chicklets‘, as with many baby birds, for example baby turkeys and baby pigeons. However, unlike any other bird, baby flamingos are also uniquely known as ‘flaminglets‘.
Flaminglets are born in a type of mounded ‘nest‘ made out of soft mud along water courses. As they grow up, male flamingos are known as ‘cobs‘ and females are called ‘pens‘. Both are involved in the upbringing of their babies, including incubation, feeding and protection.
While flamingos usually arrive as single births, they are very social, spending much time with other young birds. A group of baby flamingos may be known as a ‘creche‘ of flamingos. Other collective nouns for non age specific groups of flamingos include a ‘flock‘ or far more interestingly a ‘flamboyance‘ of flamingos.
Baby Flamingos Are A Different Color
Baby flamingos look very different to their adult forms when they arrive in the world. For a start, they are a completely different color. They start to get the chemical that will change their skin pigmentation when they start drinking their mothers crop milk.
Flamingo crop milk is dyed a vibrant red by the presence of the pigment canthaxanthin, which chicks store in their livers until they reach maturity. As they grow and begin to form their flight feathers, this pigment is released from the liver into the stems of their feathers – creating an iconic rose-hued shade of pink.
Over a two or three year period, chicks shed their juvenile white or grey feathers to reveal their adult pink plumage.
There are a few species of flamingo, and while all have distinctive pink, they all have differences in their plumage that tell them apart. The american and Galapagos flamingos have the most ‘classically’ recognizable coats.
Mothers Recognize Their Babies Through Sight And Sound
In addition to using smell to identify her young, a mother flamingo can also recognize her babies by sight and sound. This comes in very handy, because from a very young age, young flamingos are left together in young ‘creche’ flocks to get to grips with their environment, while their parents get food. They are not the only animal that does this, in fact baby penguins are also often left in creches while their parents get food.
These creches can be very large, so for a parent to find and recognize her chick it’s important that they can identify their distinct call and feathers.
The reason they can recognize their own offspring call so definitively, is that the chick starts to vocalize hours before it has even left the egg. This gives the parent time to familiarize itself with their own chicks specific voice.
Baby Flamingos Learn To Swim Very Early
It’s only a few days after hatching that a baby flamingo learns to swim. They can generally do this not long after they have started walking and leaving the nest for short periods. They are able to swim competently long before they leave the nest area for good. They will generally fledge at around 12 weeks old.
Baby Flamingos Are Very Social
They might be born without any siblings, but baby flamingos are very social. Once they are able to walk and leave the nest – around 5 to 7 days, they are introduced to other baby flamingos in large groups.
These groups can range in flock size from a few birds, to thousands of birds and they love to be in larger flocks. There is safety in numbers and the young are left together in the care of a few adults. It’s only a matter of weeks until they are integrated from these creches into the larger group.
They will learn from their parents and from each other through mimicry. They observe, and then copy hunting behaviours, learning skills very early on.
Baby Flamingo FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Flamingo?
The flamingo starts out its life in an egg, where it incubates for around 30 days before hatching. Parents take turns sitting on what is usually a single egg, to keep it warm and protected during the incubation process. Hatching takes between 24-36 hours on average. Once they hatch, baby flamingo chicks then remain in their nest mound for the first few days of their life.
After a few days they will start to walk and venture out of the nest to socialise with other youngsters, under the protective, watchful eye of their protective parents.
After a few more days, usually around 2 weeks, they will be more comfortable on their feet, and only returning to the nest to rest and feed. Between 4 to 6 weeks they will be weaned off their mothers crop milk, and onto their solid, omnivorous diet.
Across the species, they generally get their flight feathers around 11 – 12 weeks of age, and can fledge shortly after. As they mature, their bill also starts to curve downwards.
Even once they get their first flight feathers, juveniles keep their grey coloration for between 1 and two years. At that time, their adult coloration will come in, as they reach adulthood. They will become sexually mature between 3 to 5 years, with some species developing quicker than others generally.
Flamingos have been known to live for up to 50 years exceptionally, but more commonly live between 20 – 30 years in the wild.
How Many Flamingos Are Born In A Litter?
Flamingos usually lay one egg at a time, and they generally do this only once per year. There are know occurrences of twin eggs being laid in a clutch, but this is very rare.
What Do Baby Flamingos Eat?
Parent flamingos produce a unique type of milk known as crop milk. This substance is formed out of protein- and fat-filled cells that line the alimentary canal, which is where food temporarily rests before digestion begins. The parents then regurgitate this crop milk to nourish their offspring.
For the first 4 to 6 weeks of life, baby flamingos live on this crop milk produced by their mother pen. They may move onto solid food earlier or later than this depending on when their beaks have developed enough to grab their own solid food.
Once they move on from crop milk, baby flamingos mainly feed on plankton, which is a general term for microscopic aquatic organisms. As they mature, their diet expands to include algae, insects, shrimp, snails and other crustaceans and small aquatic animals.
How Big Do Baby Flamingos Grow?
Baby flamingos typically reach full size within a year of hatching from the egg. Hatchling Flaminglets are incredibly small, starting out at a mere 115-140 grams and measuring 49 – 55 millimeters in length.
By the time they reach adulthood, flamingos can grow up to 3-5 feet tall and weigh between 4 and 8 pounds depending on the species. American flamingos and greater flamingos are toward the larger end of the scale, often reaching toward the 5 feet range and around 8 lbs in weight.
Where Do Baby Flamingos Live?
Flamingo chicks live in the nest mounds, for around the first 7-12 days. Once they are able to walk, around 5-7 days, they will start to venture out of the nest and get familiar with other young flamingos, returning later to feed and rest with their parents in the nest.
Living together in large flocks, baby flamingos enjoy the safety and protection of living in numbers. The parents remain close to the chicks to guard against predators, while other members of the group often form a circle around them to ward off danger.
The ideal home for these birds is an expansive wetland, such as a lake, lagoon, or marsh, where they can mingle with other waterfowl. In particular, baby flamingos tend to live near the edges of the wetland, where there is plenty of food and protection from predators.
Natural Predators Of Baby Flamingoes
Baby flamingos are beautiful but delicate creatures that naturally fall prey to a variety of predators. Depending on the species and where they live, the predators vary.
Greater flamingo babies for example, are prey for marabou stork birds. Other land predators find it difficult to get to their remote nesting grounds, but will make the attempt when the water is low.
Andean flamingo babies are hunted by two local predators, the Andean fox and Geoffrey’s cat. and in the Caribbean, wild pigs are known to be aggressive predators of flamingos.
Lesser flamingo babies and eggs are prey to many more animals, particularly birds of prey. These include several vultures, particularly the lappet-faced and white-headed vultures. The Egyptian vulture will also take advantage of any flamingo eggs left unattended in a nest. Tawny Eagles will also prey on the eggs and young lesser flamingo chicks.
Humans are also a major threat to flamingos, both through predation and through expansion of industry, settlement and climate change.