- Shallow ponds or pools are necessary. Sand can be overly drying on feet. Sod can work. Mats are needed if they are bed-roomed on concrete.
- Commercial flamingo diet, dry or wet.
- Bumblefoot (generalized foot lesions) is very common among captive flamingos. The best way to prevent it is to make sure that their feet are kept moist as much as possible. Cracks should be treated as soon as possible with a daily application of lanolin and/or A&D ointment. Keep the environment as clean as possible also.
- Be careful of blood feathers, lest they break.
Notes on Enrichment & Training
- Soaked dog kibble is a preferred training treat.
- Flamingos really like to stand on small pieces of mat (sort of like cats like to sit on newspapers), or rubber tubs with water in them, or a scale with a mat on it. It’s an easy way to scale-train them. The hardest part is getting the dominant bird to get off the scale. Providing several mats can help. Putting out mats or tubs is good enrichment at any time. Flamingos also like misters or being gently watered with a hose.
Colony or Breeding Management
Tips on Presentation
- Hand-raised flamingos are more trainable and less fearful or aggressive than parent-raised birds.
- Flamingos can be trained to come over and eat soaked dog kibble out of a cup. Allowing visitors to hold the cup while seated is a great experience. Visitors should stay seated so they don’t accidentally step on any birds, since flamingos tend to mill around a lot and come up behind people. Flamingos will often nibble at or groom guests’ hair, shoelaces, clothes, or skin.It is not painful and people really get a kick out of it. Be aware that some people are terrified of birds. Flamingos are loud, big, and bold, and are not a good interaction for any aviophobes.
Tips on Handling
- You have to be careful of their legs. Restrain lower legs in one hand and hug the body and wings with the other arm to pick up. Legs will flail around – make sure hocks do not scrape together and legs do not get caught at a strange angle. If foot checks are needed, it it much easier for one person to hold the flamingo still while it is standing and shift the weight to one side, while the other person lifts the opposite foot, supporting the lower leg with both hands.
- Presentation flamingos do best unrestrained, as above.
Comments from the Rating System
Natural History Information
Range and Habitat
Caribbean flamingos range in size from 5 to 9 pounds. Males are larger on average than females, but there is some overlap. When they stretch up as tall as possible, they can get over five feet tall. Most of the feathers are colored some shade of salmon, as long as they get the proper diet. The flight feathers on the wings are black. The bill has a black distal half, and the legs range from pink to black.
Flamingos take 3-4 years to reach maturity. They can live over 50 years in captivity, and reproduce until they die. The oldest Carribean flamingo on record died at the Adelaide (Australia) Zoo in 2014 at the age of 83.
Displays include marching or parading all together, flagging the head back and forth while standing tall, snapping open the wings while standing up (“wing salute”), opening the wings in a bow, ritualized “twist-preening,” walking on tiptoes with head stretched high, and lots and lots of vocalizing.
Threats and Conservation Status
Did you know…
While some guests are intimidated by their noise and size, most guests enjoy feeding flamingos. (Photo: Susan Patch)While some guests are intimidated by their noise and size, most guests enjoy feeding flamingos. (Photo: Susan Patch)
During spring and early summer (breeding season), flamingos can be very boisterous and argumentative, though they do not display aggression towards guests. In the winter, they are usually more calm and quiet. (Photo: Susan Patch)
Contributors and Citations
- San Diego Zoo; Flamingo
Top Photo Credit: By Adrian Pingstone (Own work by Adrian Pingstone) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons