Flamingos are some of the most beautiful and interesting birds in the world, and those found in the Galapagos Islands are among the most brilliantly colored. These exquisite birds provide the islands with vibrant pink color, and observing the curious behavior of these aquatic Galapagos flamingos is a popular activity throughout the islands.
In the bird world, the flamingo has the longest neck and longest legs in comparison to its body size. Adults are 31 to 57 inches in length and weigh about 6 pounds with a wingspan of 55 to 65 inches. Nicknamed the Rosy Flamingo, most of their plumage is bright pink in contrast to the paler European or African species. The primary and secondary flight feathers of the Galapagos flamingos are black, and the wing coverts are red. The legs of the flamingos are all pink, and they make a honking sound similar to a goose.
The Galapagos flamingo feeds on small crustaceans and tiny water plants. Their distinctive crooked beaks are pink with a black tip, which are used to separate mud and silt from their food. One interesting fact is that flamingos can only eat with their heads upside down. Their beaks have thin, flat membranes known as lamellae that act as filters for food. Flamingos are known to stomp their feet in the water to stir up food from the bottom.
The brilliant pink coloring of Galapagos flamingos comes from their diet. Their primary food source is crustaceans, which contain carotenoids, a pigment that causes the flamingos to maintain their bright pink color.
Galapagos flamingos often stand on one leg. It is theorized that this a resting position used to conserve body heat or reduce cardiac effort. They may also be found resting in a seated position with their legs tucked under them. Flamingos appear to have good hearing but little or no sense of smell.
These flamingos live and nest in colonies and interact socially with each other, but they can be pretty shy around humans, so the viewing of these amazing birds is best done from a distance. Colonies of several hundred Galapagos flamingos are not unusual; they work in concert with each other for protection and to care for their young in a type of flamingo “daycare” known as a crèche.
Mating and Breeding
The Galapagos flamingo is believed to be monogamous and tends to stay with the same mate for a lifetime. These flamingos participate in group mating rituals, which includes a courtship. Group courting behaviors include displays and parading and require the participation of many as opposed to just one pair. Nesting is done in colonies, and breeding season is from July to March.
Galapagos flamingos show no difference between the sexes in appearance or coloring. Both female and male flamingos participate in building the nests, sitting on the eggs and nursing the baby chicks for an incubation period of 21 to 36 days. Both males and females produce milk, and the baby chicks nurse for about two months after birth.
Newly hatched chicks have gray or white down feathers and straight, red beaks. Their feathers turn pink at around 2 to 3 years old. Flamingos in the Galapagos Islands do not mate until about 6 years of age.
Both the male and female Galapagos flamingo participate in building nests with the use of their beaks. Nests are made from mud, small stones, straw and feathers. The flamingos build a tall mound for the nest up to 12 inches high in order to protect the offspring from heat and flooding. The female flamingo usually lays only one egg at a time, and both parents sit on the nest. Nesting is done in colonies with large numbers of chicks born within the same time period. The colonies are stable and tend to return to the same nesting location year after year unless the habitat is disturbed by a natural occurrence or human encroachment.
Where and When to See the Galapagos Flamingos
Galapagos flamingos live in large colonies in the brackish, shallow waters of this archipelago off the coast of Ecuador. They can be found in the shallow waters as the flamingos are waders. The flamingos can be found throughout the islands, but larger colonies are visible in Floreana Island, Isabela Island, Santiago, Rabida Island and Santa Cruz. Check our Galapagos islands map and learn where these islands are located.
If you want to see interesting courtship behavior and young flamingo babies, time your visit to the Galapagos in spring or summer. The flamingos generally breed from March through July, but flamingo activity can be observed year round.