Wild Encounters: Flamingos

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COLUMBIA S.C. (WJBF) – Welcome to another edition of Wild Encounters. We’re here at Riverbanks Zoo, and we’re talking about everybody’s favorite pink bird. That’s right, we’re talking flamingos.

So, we’re here with Samantha, one of the bird keepers here at Riverbanks Zoo. Let’s talk about some of our feathered friends behind us.

Samantha Amstutz |Bird Keeper, Riverbanks Zoo: For sure. We have 46 American flamingos here on our habitat. We do have river water as our primary water source, and flamingos love water. I mean, we have some curious ones getting a little bit close. You can see they’re nice and pink.

So, let me ask you this: so, they’re not pink always. What color are they at first and when does the transition happen?

Samantha: So, when they’re born they’re actually pure white. They’re little white, fuzzy chicks and they’ll eventually turn gray when they’re a couple of weeks old. Then when they’re close to a year old, they turn that pink color. So, we have our chicks from last year, if you remember those five chicks, I wanna see if I can see any, I think one is right behind me. They have a little bit of gray still, but they are turning mostly pink. You can see those gray flecks in them.

Alright, so now I have a question for you — and it’s something that’s been on my mind ever since I saw a flamingo. What’s the deal with them standing on one leg?

Samantha: That’s a good question. We do get that a lot. All of our flamingos have two legs, don’t worry, you might not see them every time; but they do have a good sense of balance and it’s for energy conservation. So, they do that to conserve their energy. Sometimes if they’re cold during the winter they’ll keep warm that way. In the summer they will stand in the pond if they do want to cool off, ’cause the water cools them off. But they actually don’t use any muscle at all when they stand on one leg. They lock all of those joints into place and they save energy that way.

Well, let’s talk about the diet plan here at Riverbanks Zoo. What are these birds eating? What’s the meal plan like?

Samantha: So, they do get a special chow made just for flamingos from Missouri. It does smell quite pungent. If you do notice that fish smell in our habitat, and that has all the nutrients they need, so it’s quite healthy for them. It does rotate based on the season, so right now we’re ending the breeding season and they’re gonna go to their maintenance diet, and that gives them a little extra boost to help them when they are molting those feathers. So, if you come this time of the year, you may see a lot of those feathers around our habitat. They are completely losing all their feathers and getting new feathers in. It’s totally normal, but you might see those feathers in the pond or on the ground.

Well, hey, I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve learned a lot about flamingos that I had no idea about. And guess what? If you want to see these guys, you don’t have to go far. You can have your own Wild Encounter. All you have to do is come out here to Riverbanks Zoo.


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