Flamingos are a group made up of six species of colorful water birds, found in South and Central America, Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East and India, with one species occasionally venturing into Florida in the United States. These highly social birds travel in flocks of thousands of individual birds. Their unusual beaks are specialized for filtering out brine shrimp and algae from the water.
The lineage of flamingos is quite complicated, as they have atdifferent times been placed in the orders Ciconiiformes(long-legged birds like storks) and Anseriformes (waterfowl likeducks and geese), before genome studies revealed they are moreclosely related to doves and pigeons. They are now placed in theirown order, Phoenicopteriformes, in the clade Columbea, which alsocontains grebes, pigeons, doves and sandgrouses.
The word flamingo comes from the Spanish word "flamengo" whichmeans "flame-colored" and alludes to their bright reddish pinkcoloration. This color is actually the result of the flamingo'sdiet, as they break down substances called carotenoids in the brineshrimp and algae they consume and turn it into pigment, which showsup in the striking reds and pinks of their feathers.
Though the greater flamingo and American flamingo are species ofLeast Concern according to the IUCN, three other species areconsidered Near Threatened, and one (the Andean flamingo) is listedas Vulnerable.