We often see flamingos walking around in the water or standing in their famous flamingo pose, with one leg on the ground and the other up in the air. But flying? Not that much.
So the question is, can flamingos fly?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Flamingoes are perfectly capable of flying. Flamingos can fly up to 400 miles at a speed of 35 mph. What’s more, the flying flamingo flock can fly at an altitude of 10,000 to 13,000 ft, which is quite impressive for such a large bird.
Read on to know many other interesting facts about flamingos, how they fly, and why we don’t see them flying so often.
Other than the pretty pink color and the famous flamingo pose, flamingos are known for their tall legs and neck.
Depending on their species, some flamingos can be as tall as 2.6 ft, while others can grow up to almost 5 ft tall, with a body mass of 4-9 lbs.
With such large bodies, you may assume that flamingoes won’t be able to fly like other relatively small birds do, but they can!
Flamingos are often mistaken to be one of the flightless birds that lost their ability to fly through devolution. An example of such birds would be ostriches. However, flamingoes aren’t related to ostriches in any way.
Even though they tend to spend a lot of time on the ground, flamingos can fly long distances and at high altitudes.
One flamingo species known as James’s flamingo can reach a flying speed of more than 37 mph. And according to reports, some flocks were spotted flying at altitudes of around 15,000 ft.
Author Note: Flamingos prefer to fly at night when the sky is clearer and the tailwinds are more in their favor. This helps them save some energy since they don’t have to flap their wings as hard as they might need in more windy flights. And it’s also a better chance for them to hide from predators.
When most birds with short legs take flight, they tuck their legs closer to their body and under their feathers to minimize the effect of drag while flying.
They also keep their neck in an “S” shape so that their whole body is closer to the center of gravity.
But for the uniquely long flamingo legs and neck, both these techniques would be hard to maintain or even achieve. So, how are they capable of flying that long?
This is how they do it:
- To avoid dragging the weight of their long legs, flamingos fully stretch their neck and legs when they fly making an arrow shape.
- Their arrow-shaped flying positions, coupled with the constant and powerful wing flaps, are what help flamingos maintain their speed and balance.
- Flamingos also like to fly in large flocks close to each other, with all their powerful wing flaps, this lowers the air resistance making it easier for them to fly.
Although we can’t see flying flamingos in the sky, radars are able to spot the large flocks and provide specific information about the altitudes they fly at as well as flying time.
In addition to that, flamingo colonies were found living in high altitudes that they could’ve only reached by flying up there. They were found in places like a lake in Bolivia that’s more than 14,000 ft high.
Yes, all species of flamingo can fly, but not all of them have the same ability to fly as much or as far.
Also, different species can adapt to living under different circumstances, which can cause more or less frequent flying and moving around to find the proper living conditions.
If you’ve seen a bird take off before, you’ve probably noticed that they can easily fly off from the same spot they were standing in. While this is how most birds fly, it isn’t the case for flamingos.
Top Tip: When flamingos want to fly, they need to gain enough initial flying speed to lift their bodies off the ground.
Here’s what you’ll see if you got a chance to observe a flamingo starting to fly:
- First, they start taking some quick running steps if they’re on the ground, or pedaling their feet faster if they’re in the water.
- At the same time, they’ll begin to flap their wings vigorously and stretch their necks.
- When they build up enough momentum to carry off their body weight, that’s when they start to fly to higher altitudes.
Just like how planes take off, flamingos need a little speed push to get them up and flying.
Although their large bodies look like they’d need some good brakes to stop them, there isn’t any body slamming required for flamingos to land.
Once they reach their destination and their flight ends, flamingos break the flock formation, and each looks for a spot to land.
- First, they lower their stretched legs, pointing them to the front of their bodies.
- Then, they start flapping their wings in a way that helps them lower their speed.
- When they reach the lowest speed, they start touching the landing ground or water surface with their feet until they stop.
You’d be surprised with how quire and smooth they can land with no chaos whatsoever!
Flamingos are considered a non-migratory bird species, which means that they can stay in the same location for different seasons with proper living conditions.
However, in some situations, they can relocate to escape harsh conditions that can threaten their well-being or living conditions, such as:
- Freezing winters can affect their breeding spots.
- Rising water levels, since they’re conditioned to feeding from shallow waters.
- Shortages in food or water that would endanger their lives.
And even though they fly regularly, it isn’t normally easy for us to observe the traveling flocks since they fly at higher altitudes.
Author Note: At these heights, flamingo flocks are often not easily visible to the naked eye. It’s possible for you to see a flamingo flock but you probably won’t recognize them from that distance.
You might be wondering, if flamingos are perfectly capable of flying, how come we don’t see zoo flamingos flying around?
Sadly, flamingos that are kept in captivity often get their flying feathers cut off. This is usually done to the flamingos that are kept in open areas of the zoo, such as bonds and exhibits, so they wouldn’t be able to escape.
Moreover, the various types of foods that flamingos usually eat in their natural habitat, which are the reason for their pink color, aren’t always available in zoos. Poor diets that affect their health and weight can also contribute to losing their ability to fly.
Unlike other types of birds that can fly when they’re just a couple of weeks old, baby flamingos don’t start flying shortly after hatching.
The offspring need about 11 weeks for their flying feathers to develop. When their feathers fully develop, after about 3 months, they start attempting to fly.
After baby flamingos gain the ability to properly fly, they can fly in the flock accompanied by older flamingos, but only for short distances. Flying long distances will be possible once they reach their full size.
Flamingos are social birds that like to live within large colonies, and when it’s time for them to migrate, they also migrate in large flocks.
Author Note: A flock of flamingos often forms many shapes based on wind conditions during their flight, but the shape they’re mostly seen flying in is a “V” shape.
This formation helps lower the wind resistance that birds in the back feel. A flock leader is usually the one that takes most of that wind resistance.
When the flock leader gets tired, another one of the flock will take their place until they also get tired and have another takeover, and so on. This way, when flamingos fly in large flocks there’s a chance for each bird to take time to rest.
Flamingos also like to make loud noises while flying to keep their formation organized. These loud noises that sound like geese honking are their special way of communication.
When we think of flamingos, we often picture them walking around on the ground or in water, and we wonder, “Can flamingos fly?”
Well, as it turns out, these admirable birds can do a lot more than just stand on one leg! This includes flying!
Whether they’re pink, red, or orange, bigger or smaller, flamingos are unique creatures. They’re exceptionally beautiful and a delight to look at, and they probably know it!