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The Zoo has a flock of 17 flamingos. There are eight males and nine females. The oldest flamingo in the flock is a male that arrived at the Zoo on October 25, 1972 and is estimated to have hatched in 1965.
On colder days, look through the windows of their enclosure.
The Flamingo Exhibit
Flamingos can be found around shallow saltwater lagoons and lakes. The Caribbean flamingo and Greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) are the most brightly colored and largest of all flamingos and sometimes considered subspecies of one species. They are a scarlet pink color overall and have black primary feathers with large bodies and flexible long necks topped with a small head. The flamingo's long legs and feet are bare, and their toes are webbed. Young birds are mostly grey and do not develop their characteristic pink until after the first year. The sexes are similar in appearance although males tend to be larger than the females.
Although flamingo chicks can have high mortality in the wild, adults can be fairly long-lived. Flamingos typically live 20 to 30 years. In captivity, flamingos often live beyond 30.
Caribbean flamingos nest in huge colonies on truncated cones that they form out of mud. A single white egg is laid in the slightly concave top of the mud cone. Both female and male share in incubation that lasts about 28 days. The chick is covered with white down at hatching which turns to gray within about 3 weeks. Unlike the downcurved shape of the adult bill, the bill of the chick is straight. Flamingo parents feed their chicks with a liquid secreted from the upper digestive tract that is similar to pigeon "milk" and has a very high nutritional value. It is similar in fat and protein content to mammal milk. Flamingos do not turn their characteristic pink color until their second year.
Caribbean flamingos are extremely gregarious and live in huge colonies. These social birds are known for their collective displays which can be carried out by hundreds of birds together. Displays include "head-flagging", "marching" and "wing salutes" performed in different combinations. These communal displays serve to synchronize hormonal cycling for breeding.
Uniquely among birds, the flamingo is a filter feeder, like the baleen whales. The downward curved bill allows feeding on the lake bottom where much of their prey resides in the mud. The bird takes in a quantity of water, which is then expelled through comb-like filtering structures in the bill called "lamellae". Shrimp and other invertebrates get trapped inside.
47 to 55 inches tall
Weigh between 4.5 and 9 lbs
In the wild, Caribbean flamingos primarily eat algae, crustaceans and tiny mollusks. The pink plumage color comes from the carotenoids in their food. Without these, the flamingo's feathers would be white. In the Zoo, they eat scientifically formulated commercial flamingo feed.
This flamingo is found in the Caribbean, part of Central America, northeastern South America and in the Galapagos Islands.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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