Are There Flamingos in the United States?
Where You Might See a Flamingo in the United States
By Lauren Cancelmo
Few birds are more recognizable than the vibrant flamingo. Their long necks and legs and striking colors are hard to miss. Are they really pink and where might you see one of these unique birds?
The American Flamingos Habitat
So will you find a flamingo in the United States other than in the form of a lawn ornament in your neighbor’s yard? You may have seen live flamingos at the zoo, at a Vegas casino, or on your Mexican or Caribbean vacation. Could you see a flamingo in the wild in the United States? The answer might surprise you!
The American or Caribbean flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is native to North America. The American flamingo habitat is wetlands. They thrive on saltwater coastlines and marshes. Some flamingos may migrate to the southeastern United States, like Florida. (National Geographic) The American Flamingo population primarily lives in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. Of all flamingo species, it is the only one native to North America. (Kaufman)
How Does the American Flamingo Get Its Color?
Yes. Flamingos are pink! If you’ve heard anyone say “you are what you eat”, in this case, there is quite a bit of truth to it. The American Flamingo is actually more brightly colored than other flamingo species.
These brilliant birds consume a diet rich in pink foods. The red, pink, and orange coloring is from the pigment beta-carotene. Flamingos eat algae and small crustaceans readily available in their salty habitat. The brighter the flamingo, the more pigment it consumed.
Flamingos are not born pink and would be gray if they did not eat pink foods like shrimp (Langley, 2018). When they shed feathers, the feathers lose their pink color. Also, when flamingo parents feed their baby chicks milk, parents will lose some of their color. The pigments replenish once the chicks stop feeding.
American Flamingo Predators
These cool birds prefer habitats like wetlands. There are few American flamingo predators that pose a threat in those spots. Many animals avoid the shallow, salty bodies of water where American flamingos live. In fact, flamingos can live 20-30 years in the wild (San Diego Zoo).
Flamingos are also social and travel in groups called colonies. Staying in such large groups may also help keep them safe from predators. Hawks and eagles may hunt flamingo eggs or chicks but generally humans pose a bigger threat to flamingos. Humans take over or destroy these areas with construction and development. (National Geographic)
Protecting Flamingos and Other Animals
There are many ways you can contribute to a safer and cleaner environment for flamingos and other wildlife. Be mindful to only leave trash in designated receptacles. Volunteering for community cleanup can also make a big impact. Follow Ocean Blue Project to learn more about cleanup and other ways to help. You can take it a step further by hosting your own cleanup.
Author Bio: Lauren Cancelmo is a communications professional who enjoys spending time at the beach, in the sunshine, and with her pets.