Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Uncover the secrets of the stunning pink birds that stand on 1 leg—fabulous flamingos!
Look in the right places, on almost every continent in the world, and you’ll find them!
Flamingos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
See the largest flamingo species, greater flamingos, while on the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction, Wild Africa Trek and Savor the Savanna at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. Or visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to spot greater flamingos roaming the savanna near Jambo House. To catch a glimpse of the smaller flamingo species, lesser flamingos, take a look around the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.
Flamingos in the Wild
There are 6 species of flamingos: greater, lesser, American, Andean, Chilean and Puna. They can be found on every continent in the world except Antarctica. Flamingos live near large bodies of water, like shallow lakes and lagoons.
Threats to Flamingos
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identifies the lesser, Chilean and Puna flamingo as “near threatened.” The Andean flamingo species is identified as “vulnerable.” The status for each flamingo species is influenced by the threats facing that particular flamingo species. Threats to flamingos include habitat disturbance, water pollution, lowering water levels, human activity, egg collection and hunting.
Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is passionately committed to the protection of flamingos and their natural habitats. Find out what Disney is doing for these incredible creatures and how you can help!
“Disney and nature go hand in hand all the way back to the days of Walt Disney, who was really ahead of his time where it relates to nature and conservation. Nature is very important to Disney.” – Melissa Valiquette, VP Epcot
The habitats that flamingos depend on are under threat and flamingos need our help.
Flamingos depend on their water habitat for everything they need to survive. They are sensitive to environmental changes in the water and the impact of human activity. For instance, mining on the shores that flamingos use for breeding are becoming a more common threat. Mining activities can pollute the water and disrupt migration, food availability and breeding habitats, which in turn negatively impact flamingo populations. Other activities that affect water levels, like hydroelectric power, can interfere with the salt levels and the amount of habitat available for flamingos.
Rainfall and storms can provide flamingos with adequate water levels, but they can also flood their nesting areas and hinder their flying abilities. Strong wind and rain will often force flamingos to change their flight course, which may cause them to extend their migration.
During the 20th century, people extensively collected flamingo eggs to sell as food. Thousands of flamingo eggs were taken from their colonies on a yearly basis which greatly contributed to flamingo population decline. Over the past few years, egg collection has been controlled in protected areas.
Disney Is Helping Flamingos in the Wild
Since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) has contributed more than $45 million dollars to support conservation programs in 115 countries. DCF has supported projects in several countries to help research and protect flamingo populations.
Tracking Their Movements
Flamingo habitats are changing and their migration patterns are not consistent, so tracking their numbers has proven difficult. It’s important to monitor flamingo numbers to know if their population is increasing or decreasing. Disney Conservation Fund has supported projects in recent years that are working to monitor flamingo distribution. One such project tracked the migration route of lesser flamingo breeding populations to determine where they originated, particularly during years of major flooding.
Involving the Community
Involving local communities in the conservation efforts of flamingos can make a big difference for the animals. Disney Conservation Fund has supported projects that focus on using annual waterfowl counts to engage and inspire local communities to become stewards of their natural resources. One project focused on a wildlife reserve area where the threat of flamingo harassment is being combated by engaging the local communities through educational programs, materials and exhibits.
Discover how animal care experts, at the Walt Disney World Resort, cater to the unique needs of flamingos.
Animal care experts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge provide different forms of enrichment to engage flamingos with their environment and encourage natural behaviors. Animal enrichment is an integral part of flamingo care as it stimulates the flamingos both physically and mentally. Animal care experts will moisten the mud near nesting locations during breeding season, as flamingos will only build their nests using wet soil. In the lesser flamingo exhibits, mirrors are added to create the illusion of a larger flock, imitating the large social groups they have in the wild. Small crustaceans, called krill, are scattered throughout the shallow water to encourage feeding behavior of the greater flamingos—it’s like a buffet dinner.
Not Tickled Pink
Flamingos are known for their pink plumage, but they are not born pink. Flamingos are born a light gray color. Their feathers begin to turn pink during the second year of their lives. The food they eat changes the color of their feathers. In the wild, flamingos eat blue-green algae and crustaceans containing a carotenoid pigment. This pigment is what gives adult flamingos their famous pink color. The flamingos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge receive this pigment in pelleted food designed specifically for them.
Surprise yourself with some fascinating facts about these iconic birds.
A Leg to Stand on
Why do flamingos stand on one leg? Scientists have several theories. The most widely accepted theory is to regulate body temperature. Flamingos prevent loss of body heat by standing on one leg when in cooler water. Another theory is for comfort. Due to the body shape of flamingos, it’s easier for them to balance on one leg than both, while standing still. It also gives their legs a rest, the same reason we shift our weight from leg to leg while standing. A third theory is that it is easier to escape predators from a standing position. So, being able to rest while standing gives flamingos an advantage.
Birds of a Feather Flock Together
Flamingos are social birds that live in large groups. It’s common for flamingos to form huge flocks of 10,000 birds or more. Their numbers add to the impressiveness of various social displays like head flagging and marching.
Flamingos do many things together, including some unique breeding behaviors. These breeding behaviors are synchronized within the group and triggered by hormones, which allow the entire group to make the most of suitable nesting conditions, particularly water levels and food availability. Flamingos will head flag (stretching the neck and turning the head quickly from side to side), wing salute (leaning forward and stretching out their wings, showing off their contrasting colors), twist-preen (twisting the neck back to groom their feathers with their bill) and march (large, tightly packed flock walks together, before switching direction abruptly).
There’s No Place Like Mud
A flamingo nest consists of a large pile of mud. The nest is about 12 inches (30 cm) high so the chick is protected from flooding water and the intense heat at ground level. The male and female build their nest by scraping mud into a pile with their bills. This mud pile is hardened by the sun; then both parents incubate their egg on top of the nest.
Flamingos are filter feeders. They hold their bill upside down in the water and then suck water into the front of their bill and pump it out at the sides. Hard ridges in their beaks act like tiny filters to trap algae and small aquatic invertebrates for the flamingos to eat.
What can a single person or family do to protect flamingos and their habitats? A lot more than you think!
Join a beach, river or lake clean-up to keep wetland habitats healthy for wildlife. Trash and other debris in waterways can pose a huge threat to the many animals that call wetlands home. With your friends or family, participate in or organize a clean-up to make a difference for these animals.
Get Outdoors and Go Bird Watching
Though you may not find flamingos in your backyard, you will probably see many other bird species. Take a field guide with you so you can learn more about the birds that live near your home. Invite your friends to come along, too.
Keep Learning About Flamingos
Visit your local accredited zoo to see these amazing creatures in person and to observe their natural behaviors. You can also watch the Disneynature film The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos which tells the story of flamingos and their interesting behaviors observed in the wild. Then, spread the word about threats to flamingos and their habitats by creating an infographic, blog or website.
You can make a big difference for flamingos by contributing to organizations―like the Disney Conservation Fund―that support research and conservation efforts.
Visit the Websites Below
The Walt Disney Company is committed to protecting the planet and using resources wisely. We conserve nature and inspire kids and families to join us in caring for the planet. Explore the websites below to see how Disney is helping to make the world a better place—and learn about the many creative ways you can make a difference, too!
“Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people; it’s a matter that concerns all of us. If we will use our riches wisely, if we will protect our wildlife, and preserve our lakes and streams, these things will last us for generations to come.” – Walt Disney