Do Flamingos Migrate?
You Won’t Believe It, But It’s True!

Flamingos, like most bird species, have unique migration patterns. To know more about them, keep on reading!

Iñigo Navarro Profile Picture

Iñigo Navarro

August 01, 2021


Do Flamingos Migrate? You Won’t Believe It, But It’s True! Thumbnail

What’s This Post About?

With their bright pink plumage and substantial downward bills, flamingos can easily be recognized from a distance. These water birds are very social and tend to live together in a single colony. There are six species of flamingos present in regions including the Caribbean, South America, Africa, Mediterranean, and India.

Some bird species migrate in the breeding seasons, such as the common blackbird, American robin, and goose. At the same time, some species do not migrate, such as the Turkey vulture and European starlings. This post talks about whether flamingos fall under the migrating species or non-migrating species.

Flamingos are non-migratory birds, but due to weather or water changes in their breeding grounds, they may be forced to move to a different place. In the case of climate change, flamingos in Asia tend to migrate to warmer regions.

undefined

What Are Flamingos?

All you need to know about flamingos.

Flamingos are one of the oldest bird species known to exist. They are attractive, brightly colored birds with stick-thin legs and a solid hook-shaped bill. They are usually found in tropical and sub-tropical latitudes.

The flamingos are large water birds identified through their long bendable necks. The pinkish plumage that they get comes from the pigments found in their diet: invertebrates and algae.

undefined

There are six species within the flamingo family, known as:

  • Lesser Flamingo
  • Greater Flamingo
  • Chilean Flamingo
  • Andean Flamingo
  • American Flamingo
  • James’ Flamingo

FUN FACT

The greater flamingo is the largest species.

Habitat

Since flamingos are water birds, they are generally found near large saline or alkaline lakes covered with less vegetation. Flamingos are found in multiple habitats: tidal flats, sandy islands, mangrove swamps, and the intertidal zone.

Different flamingo species have different preferences. For example, Chilean flamingos are rarely found in lakes with fish. Similarly, the greater and Caribbean flamingos also prefer to settle in lakes with less fish as they feed mainly on invertebrates.

Population

The lesser flamingos are the most abundant species found across the globe. They range from approximately 1.5 to 2.5 million in number. Then comes the greater flamingos found in wide ranges and are also known to migrate during the breeding seasons.

The James flamingos are not that common; they are estimated to be a population of 64,000 birds, whereas it is estimated that there are 38,675 Andean flamingos. Furthermore, it has been reported that the Andean flamingos are decreasing with time and may even become extinct.

Coming towards the Chilean species, there are around 200,000 birds, which is the most significant number of flamingos in South America. Lastly, the Caribbean flamingos exist in the range of 800,000 to 850,000 birds.

INTERESTING FACT

Flamingos are found in colonies ranging from 50 flamingos to 1 million flamingo members.

Diet

undefined

Flamingos can consume both meat and vegetation, which makes them omnivores. They prefer foraging on several items, such as:

  • Small insects
  • Mollusks
  • Small Fish
  • Larva
  • Blue-green algae
  • Crustaceans
  • Red algae

The pink plumage these birds get is due to the diet they intake. The algae consumed consists of an organic chemical known as beta carotene. This chemical contains an orange-red pigment that gives the flamingos its attractive shade.

Beta carotene is also present in plants, specifically pumpkins, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potato, and carrots. Another chemical that supports the pink plumage is carotenoid. Carotenoids are pigments found in crustaceans and mollusks, which is also a flamingo’s favorite treat.

The difference is that diet is what contributes to the difference in shades of a flamingo. Hence, if you notice, you will observe that an American flamingo is usually brighter than the lesser flamingos.

FUN FACT

Flamingos eat food with their heads tilted upside-down.

Mating Habits

undefined

Flamingos move around in groups or flocks. They take care of each other and protect the colony from any potential predators.

These birds stick to one mate throughout their life. The whole group will mate together so that their babies hatch together and stick to this timeline that they have created. The mating pairs make their nests together with the help of wet mud.

The female flamingo only lays one egg, and both parents incubate it for up to 30 days. The egg they lay is slightly bigger than a chicken’s egg. An average flamingo egg may have the following:

Egg Length 3 – 3.5 inches
Egg Weight 115 – 140 grams
Hatching Period 27 – 31 days
Chick Weight 73 – 90 grams

The young take 3 to 5 years to reach maturity. Babies are not pink when born; they are of a grayish-white shade. They turn pink when they start consuming an adult diet.

INTERESTING FACT

Flamingos live up to 20 to 30 years in the wild and 50 years if captured.

Do Flamingos Migrate?

Let’s study the migration patterns of these mesmerizing birds.

Flamingos are non-migratory birds but may sometimes migrate due to climate changes in their breeding areas. They analyze the water levels and the availability of food sources in an area before planning their migrating decision.

There are many reasons why a flamingo might migrate:

  • High altitude lakes might freeze in the winter season, so flamingos may have to move to warmer regions for breeding.
  • The occurrence of a drought may force flamingos to look for other places.
  • A rise in the water levels may drive flamingos towards areas with low water levels.
  • Shortage of food and water, along with harsh living conditions, may lead to migration.
  • Threats from predators or humans may push flamingos to migrate to secure regions.

Flamingos mainly migrate during the nighttime. They prefer flying in a clear, cloudless sky with stable tailwinds, making their journey easier. Most migrating flamingos shift back to their native colonies, but they may relocate to a neighboring colony in rare cases.

The flamingos can travel 373 miles per hour at the rate of 31 to 37 mph per night. If a set of flamingos plans to take flight during the day, they move towards high altitudes to avoid predators such as eagles.

INTERESTING FACT

The migration journey of flamingos depends on the direction of the prevailing winds.

Where And When Do Flamingos Migrate?

Insights on the flamingo’s migration pattern.

Flamingos migrate during the winter season between October and March. They migrate during the non-breeding periods so that they have a secure and favorable place to breed later.

These birds like to migrate to places with favorable living conditions with an ample supply of food and water. The birds do not migrate to faraway regions: they look for wetlands around the subcontinent where they are present.

The difference in places is also a result of different species. Each flamingo breed has a separate criterion. Various colonies may migrate to other locations, while some colonies may plan to stay in the same place throughout the year.

Caribbean Flamingos

undefined

This breed tends to migrate for short distances. Flamingos in the Caribbean mainly move to Cuba during the migration season. Caribbean flamingos, during the non-breeding period, immigrate to Hispaniola.

Additionally, those Caribbean flamingos living in South America may move to a close place known as Bonaire.

INTERESTING FACT

Caribbean flamingos are the brightest breed of all flamingos.

Greater Flamingos

This breed has a very distinct and diverse migration pattern. The flamingos staying in the northern regions move to warmer places during the winter season.

Greater flamingos that reside in northern Asia, Africa, or the Middle East region migrate to Iran or India during the non-breeding period.

These species are always searching for freshwater habitats, which is why those greater flamingos found in northern Europe migrate either to the southeast or the southwest regions in the winters. As the ecological imbalance grows, the migration patterns get short.

FUN FACT

Greater flamingos have a wingspan of about 1.4 to 1.7 meters.

Lesser Flamingos

The lesser flamingos are nomadic and migrate to areas that change with the weather conditions. Most lesser flamingos do not migrate, but the ones that do move from East to Southern Africa.

In southern Africa, they occupy areas such as the Soda lakes, Etosha pans, and Makgadikgadi.

FUN FACT

Lesser flamingos are 80 to 90 cm tall.

Andean Flamingos

undefined

This flamingo breed is migratory. They can fly up to 700 miles per day. The aridity in their habitats forces them to migrate to lower wetlands in the winters. During the non-breeding seasons, Andean flamingos will be found in the marshes of western and central Argentina or Southern Peru.

INTERESTING FACT

Amongst all flamingo breeds, Andean flamingos are the only ones with yellow legs and feet.

James’ Flamingos

These rare birds do not migrate that often. Some James’ flamingos have been reportedly seen migrating from higher altitudes to lower altitude areas within Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.

The flamingos that stay in the same place try to keep themselves warm with the hot springs available.

FUN FACT

James’ flamingos are commonly known as ‘puna.’

Chilean Flamingos

undefined

Chilean breeds migrate during the winters to enjoy the seasonal changes in different locations. They migrate to areas with a milder Atlantic climate.

FUN FACT

Flamingos do not have teeth.

Do Flamingos Migrate in Colonies?

Flamingos might live in colonies, but do they travel together?

Flamingos are social birds and migrate in flocks because they are prone to living in groups. The group may be as small as 50 flamingos or as big as 1 million.

During migration to long distances, the birds try to arrange themselves in various formations, flying close to each other. This pattern helps the birds to fly smoothly through air resistance.

They constantly change their shape or formation while flying to take advantage of the different wind patterns. The flapping of their wings together also assists these birds in their smooth flight.

FUN FACT

Flamingos are milk-producing mammals.

Keep Reading!

Flamingos have a distinct personality from other bird species. They portray different behaviors and patterns that make them recognizable even from a distance. These birds are non-migratory but are seen migrating on rare occasions.

The factors that make them migrate are mentioned in this post above. In addition, different species migrate to other locations as the birds are distributed widely across the globe.

If you want to learn more about the migration patterns of other birds, read this interesting post highlighting whether sparrows migrate or not.

Do Sparrows Migrate? You Won’t Believe It But It’s True

Are you particularly intrigued by these little dusty birds’ migration plans? Then, read the post below for some amazing and interesting facts.

Iñigo Navarro Picture

By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

Posted in:

Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

Newsletter

Recommended:

You may also like:

Keep Learning!

Our latest tutorials, guides & bird watching tips straight to your inbox! You can unsubscribe at any time, but almost everybody stays. We must be doing something right!