Fascinating Flamingo Facts: Can Flamingos Fly? How Far Can They Go?

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Mar 05, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
Pink big birds Greater Flamingos.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.2 Min

A flamingo is a tall, pink, wading bird with lean and long legs, long necks, huge wings, small tails, and scaly feathers.

Primarily, you can find six flamingo species. These are namely, greater flamingo, lesser flamingo, Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo, Puna flamingo, and Caribbean flamingo.

Out of all the flamingo species, four species of flamingos can be found in the Americas, especially South America and the Caribbean. The remaining two species of flamingos are natives of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

They belong to the family of Phoenicopteridae, and these are the sole surviving birds from the order of Phoenicopteriformes. Flamingos are one of those kinds of birds that can stand on one leg.

The exact reason for standing on one leg is still not known.

But few researchers claim that their reason for standing like this is to conserve their body heat. The reason to conserve their body heat is that these pink birds tend to spend quite an amount of time wading in cold waters.

As far as their eating habits are concerned, a flamingo's diet mainly includes red, blue, and green algae.

Moreover, their food consists of larvae and adult forms of insects, various crustaceans, small fishes, and mollusks. There are a certain amount of predators who prefer to hunt flamingos, and these animals can include cheetah, leopards, jackals, and lions who tend to eat flamingos as their food.

Flamingo's reddish or pinkish feathers, legs, and facial colors happen due to its diet which is rich in alpha carotenoid pigments and beta carotenoid pigments that include canthaxanthin as well.

If you found this article interesting, why not also read about how fast do hummingbirds fly and are birds warm blooded?

Why do flamingos not fly in zoos?

In a zoo, flamingos fall into the trap of captivity, separating them from the rest of the world. Zoos have been confining flamingos successfully for decades, however, there are also exhibits that keep flamingos in open habitations.

That means they need to pinion these flamingos to prevent them from flying away. Hence, if you are pinioning flamingos, they will potentially get injured by flying.

Flamingos can fly to pretty long distances with a flying altitude of 15,000 feet (4.5 km). Thus these pink birds have wings of untamed fury.

Flying at a maximum speed of 35 mph (56 km/h), flamingos gain momentum while crossing a long distance. Thus, flamingos make their destiny bright, and as a result, these factors make flamingos one of the best migratory birds in their family.

They create flocks of themselves during winters and surround themselves into such united formations that no predators can hunt them.

Since flamingos cannot eat their preferred food in zoos, that is, algae of different colors, their color starts to become whitish. Additionally, they tend to gain a lot of weight sometimes because they consume a lot of water.

Moreover, they need something called "wing clipping", which essentially prevents flamingos from flying. Since flamingos are social and fun-loving birds who prefer to stay in-ground, it becomes extremely difficult for them to cope with the environment.

In fact, their formations can even cross thousands! As a result, it becomes difficult for them to get confined in zoos.

There must be strict laws to stop this practice of pinioning. These migratory birds need to move forward in the wild from their confinement.

How far do flamingos fly?

Flamingos can fly and migrate at long distances, ranging up to 373 miles (600 km) ceaselessly in the air within one night. Moreover, flamingos fly at high altitudes that can go up to 15,000 feet (4.5 km) above sea level.

Moreover, flamingos can attain a maximum speed of around 35 mph (56 km/h). These pink birds migrate as a flock in the winter season, and flamingos prefer to fly at high altitudes when they take a flight during the daytime.

These birds need to fly at a high altitude to conserve energy during longer flight distances in the sky. It's the same way an airplane saves energy by flying high above the sky in higher altitudes.

While flamingos fly, the dorsal part of their wing is exposed. Thus, people can see them from the ground themselves.

The dorsal part of their feathers is black! Thus, flamingos create a beautiful color contrast with their pink body when they fly in the air in flocks. Since they travel long distances, their flock organizes itself to some unusual formations where these birds fly close to each other.

Flamingos are in constant need of flapping their wings every time while they fly during the winter season. If flamingos flap close to one another, it gives them the confidence to overcome the air resistance.

While this bird is in the wild, the average speed for their whole flock depends on the wind, and it ranges within 30-40 mph, that is, 50-65 km/h. Flamingos always prefer clear weather along with some fast tailwind.

If flamingos change the entire formation of flying, the entire flock will be able to use several wind patterns since it will benefit them for flying. They are typically found flying in a V formation. Other than that, they fly in some irregular formations as well.

It depends on the flow of the wind. We often picturize flamingos as graceful birds walking with their long necks and tall legs. As a result, we can understand the greatness and elegance of this bird.

Flying flamingo in lake nakuru.

Take Off And Landing Of The Flamingos

Have you ever thought about how flamingos can fly and how this tall and graceful bird can take off or land on the ground? Well, read on further to find out.

Flamingos tend to take off by commencing to flap their wings vigorously. This bird flaps its wings and pedals its feet to get that initial speed for taking off.

They take immediate steps to the ground using their feet for gaining their initial speed for a successful flight. Additionally, they need to continuously flap their wings and keep pedaling their feet till they are airborne.

Flamingos require a runway, a short one, to reach the optimum speed below their wings so that they can carry their weight. Sometimes, it seems an easy task for them when they take off on the opposite side of the flowing wind.

Similarly, flamingos land in a very smooth manner. Moreover, they promptly stand to their mesmerizing straight position after they land on the ground. When flamingos are in a flying position, they have a tendency of flapping their wings in a vigorous approach.

Flamingos also forward their neck and their elongated feet in a backward direction. They fully extend their wings sideways and keep flapping when their flight is in progress.

When flamingos fly, they make loud noises, like geese. This awkward way of communication helps these creatures to organize properly in their respective flying formation.

Few people also claim that flamingos have the capability to commute to their exact locations. Moreover, they can also sense probable dangers and they possess some innate abilities like calling and responding to sounds so that they can locate the parents and partners.

When flamingos commence to land, their formation gets scattered. As a result, the landing procedure becomes a beautiful concoction of chaos in which flamingos hunt for a spot to land.

Can flamingos fly without wings?

While flying, flamingos need wings. Rather each and every bird needs wings to fly. It is obvious that no bird can fly without wings. But then, flamingos aren't flightless birds.

Rather, they do not have any direct relation or bloodline with chickens, turkeys, or peacocks which generally dwell on the ground with a capability of minimum flight. Flamingos hail from the family of Phoenicopteridae. Moreover, they are the sole surviving member of this lineage.

Since flamingos wade, other birds that wade don't have any direct relation with flamingos as such. Birds such as roseate spoonbill, which might have an uncanny resemblance to that of a flamingo, are not related to flamingos as well. In fact, the closest relative to the flamingo is none other than grebe, which doesn't similar to them.

Just a fun fact! Thousands of flamingos flock to the Rann of Kutch region in India for the purpose of breeding every year. In many cases, the overall scene gets overcrowded with elongated necks in the wild. The salty white desert filled by rains makes a salty lagoon with shallow water.

This essentially becomes a favorable and ideal breeding place for the flamingos. 60 percent of the visitors gather at the Rann Utsav that takes place in Kutch. After that, they proceed towards the city of flamingos.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestion for how can flamingos fly then why not take a look at how do owls sleep, or flamingo facts.

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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Fact-checked by Niyati Parab

Bachelor of Commerce

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Niyati ParabBachelor of Commerce

With a background in digital marketing, Niyati brings her expertise to ensure accuracy and authenticity in every piece of content. She has previously written articles for MuseumFacts, a history web magazine, while also handling its digital marketing. In addition to her marketing skills, Niyati is fluent in six languages and has a Commerce degree from Savitribai Phule Pune University. She has also been recognized for her public speaking abilities, holding the position of Vice President of Education at the Toastmasters Club of Pune, where she won several awards and represented the club in writing and speech contests at the area level.

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