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Zach at the Zoo: Meet the American Flamingo

One of the most eye-popping birds in the animal kingdom
Posted at 6:18 AM, Jun 06, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — In this week's edition of Zach at the Zoo, we are better introduced to Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium's 27 American flamingos. These birds are some of the most unique in the world.

  • VIDEO: Watch the flamingos chow down during feeding time.
  • Flamingos are similar to whales in that they are filter eaters.
  • You can see them for yourself in the recently reopened Simmons Aviary


They are one of the most eye-popping birds in the animal kingdom.

“American, or they’re also known as the Caribbean, flamingos,” Lead Bird Keeper Tim Shaw tell us.

There’s 27 of these 3-to- 4-foot-tall birds in the flock – or check that –

“A group of flamingos is called a flamboyance,” Shaw corrected me.

The number of flamingos here is pretty typical for a flamboyance.

“They’re like two-year-olds. They fight constantly with each other, and you would think, ‘well why don’t they get away from each other?’ But they don’t like to be alone,” Shaw said. “So, they stay packed together. You will see them biting at each other, honking at each other, all day long.”

“Interesting beaks compared to a normal bird,” I said.

“They have very unique beaks. On the inside of the lower mandibles, they have what’s called lamellate. It’s almost like a hair comb and they’re filter eaters, like whales,” Shaw explained.

“They will go out and will start to kick their feet, and stir up the mud, and stick their head upside down and filter feed anything that’s in that mud. They like shrimp, small insects, algae.”

Not quite as elegant as they appear.

“Anything dirty they love. I guess they’re dirty birds.”

Shaw says UV light is very important for feather quality – but their diet is what makes them pop.

“Their coloration is actually determined by their food. Shrimp, the pinkish shrimp, has keratin in it,” he told us. “The more of the keratin they take up, the brighter the feather quality is.”

Though flamingos are usually on the ground – they are capable of taking to the skies.

“They need a long runway, and they actually run on top of the water, and then they are able to get airborne.”

But when they are standing around – they commonly do so on one leg. Something they can do for hours and hours.

“They can actually lock a leg, and they can conserve energy and pull up a leg. The other thing is with long-legged birds, that’s where they lose a lot of heat. So, if it’s colder out, they can tuck that foot up and get it in under their feathers, and it conserves a lot of heat.”

You can see this flamboyance for yourself in the recently reopened Simmons Aviary.