May is a special month for some of our birds here at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. While International Flamingo Day was on April 26, we also celebrate Pink Flamingo Day on May 29. Pink Flamingo Day is typically a day to display those notorious pink flamingo yard ornaments, but we like to celebrate by sharing some fun facts about these special birds.
There are six different species of flamingos in the world, and here at the Zoo you can find two of them: Caribbean flamingos and greater flamingos.
Found in South America, Caribbean flamingos have the brightest pink coloration of the six species. They get their name from a Portuguese word meaning “red goose” due to their formation when they fly and the sounds they make. The flamingos’ color comes from the carotenoid pigments that are consumed in their diet. At the Zoo, they eat a specialized powder diet containing these pigments.
Greater flamingos are found around the salt lakes of Africa and are the most common and widespread of all the species. Greater flamingos are the largest of all the flamingo species, reaching in height up to 5 feet and weighing between 4-8 pounds. Their large size allows them to wade through deeper water allowing them to feed on mollusks, plankton, crabs, tiny fish, and insect larvae.
All flamingos are filter feeders. Within the flamingo’s bill you can find a filter-like structure that removes food from water before the water is fully drained from their mouths. Flamingos will feed with their head completely submerged under water for up to 20 seconds. Their tongues will then move 5-6 times per second to successfully push the water out of their bills. You may even see some flamingos showing off their filtering abilities with krill during early morning training sessions with their keepers.
Our training sessions are for our 10 hand-reared juvenile flamingos. You will see different grouping combinations as some of their personalities get along better with others in a smaller group setting. Since these juveniles were hand reared, they love to interact with keepers and guests. They had their first full guest experience at the Love Birds Dinner in February. You may see our group making some more special appearances throughout the year. We hope to see you soon as you celebrate Pink Flamingo Day with our great birds!