Also called Caribbean flamingo
The American flamingo is one of the largest species of flamingo, averaging up to 5 feet tall thanks to long legs and an elongated neck. Average weights are between 4-8 pounds. They get their mostly pink to red plumage color from pigment in their food, including aquatic invertebrates such as shrimp. Flamingos also have black feathers at the edge of their wings. They have webbed feet for wading in shallow water and a distinctive black tip on their bills.
Globally, the American flamingo is widely distributed throughout the Caribbean, with breeding populations found in Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. A small disjunct breeding population also occurs in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador and a breeding colony of birds that were originally imported and kept captive via pinioning occurs in Florida. There has been some evidence of recent breeding in the Dominican Republic and potential breeding sites also may exist in Colombia, Curaçao and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The American flamingo is generally considered to be non-migratory but is a strong flier that can move large distances in search of food or reproductive opportunities and as such can be found in additional countries throughout the Caribbean.
In Florida, American flamingos have been observed along much of the state’s coast; however, outside of Hialeah, more than 95% of observations have occurred within the Everglades, Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys. In addition, flamingos are increasingly being reported in the shallow treatment wetlands created along the northern fringe of the Everglades.
American flamingos are social birds, often congregating in large flocks that can range from several pairs to groups numbering in the thousands. They are considered non-migratory but can easily fly large distances. American flamingos communicate through a variety of vocalizations and body displays.
Conservation and Management
The FWC considers flamingos native to Florida and this is not a new determination. Flamingos were native to Florida but disappeared from the state around the turn of the 20th century. After about 1925, people started captive colonies of flamingos in South Florida, including a breeding colony at Hialeah Park Race Track in the 1930s, which still remains. A growing body of evidence over the years suggests that at least some American flamingos in Florida have arrived on their own from outside of the state. The FWC treats flamingos as native species protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The IUCN estimates the global population to be 260,000-330,000 mature individuals. Survey efforts are inconsistent across the range of the flamingo and recent data are lacking from some locations, but available information indicates that regional long-term population trends are stable or positive. Florida’s population is estimated to be a fraction of 1% of the global population of this species.
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