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Flamingos (Phoenicopteridae) are gregarious wading birds, usually 3-5 feet in height, found in both the western and eastern hemispheres but more common in the latter. Flamingos live in large flocks in aquatic areas.

The larger species breed and feed in saline or brackish habitats. Nests are made of compacted mud and are in the form of a mound with a concave top. They filter-feed on shellfish and algae. Their oddly-shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they consume, and are uniquely used upside-down.

The young hatch with white plumage, but the feathers of a flamingo in adulthood range from light pink to bright red, due to carotenoids obtained from their food supply.

Flamingos produce a “milk” like pigeon milk (see Columbidae). It contains more fat and less protein than the latter does, and it is produced in glands lining the whole of the upper digestive tract, not just the crop. Young flamingos feed on this milk for about two months until their bills are developed enough to filter feed. The milk also contains red and white blood cells.

The most widespread species is the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), which inhabits parts of Africa, southern Asia and southern Europe.

Lesser Flamingo[?] (Phoenicopterus minor), is found only in southern Africa, but is the most numerous species.

James's Flamingo[?] (Phoenicopterus jamesi), and the Andean Flamingo[?] (Phoenicopterus andinus), are found only in South America, in the northern and southern Andes respectively.

Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis), is the third and most widespread South American flamingo. It is a large species closely related to Greater and Caribbean.

Flamingos asleep.
Larger version

Caribbean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), was until recently considered a subspecies of "Greater Flamingo". It breeds in the Caribbean and once inhabited the state of Florida, but is now extinct there as a wild species.

The name lives on in the small Everglades settlement of Flamingo.

The flamingos are the only birds in the order Phoenicopteriformes and the family Phoenicopteridae. See also Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy.

Flamingos are a model for plastic yard art[?] which is apparently popular in some areas of the USA.

For the seminal American doo-wop group, best known for "I Only Have Eyes for You" (1959), see The Flamingos.

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