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Fire bird of the Tropics
By: psilo 
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I bet there are few of you reading this that cannot conjure up an image of the Flamingo. A tall pink bird with a strange hooked beak and ridiculously thin legs that go on forever. If you havent been fortunate enough to see them in the wild I am sure that you have probably seen them in flocks of thousands strong wading in pools on the tv. I am also certain that few of you have failed to be moved by their elegant beauty. But, how much do you really know about these fascinating and unique birds?

I was first introduced to the Flamingo at the Wetlands and wildfowl Trust centres at Martinmere and Slimbridge. Being an inquisitive kind of soul I just had to learn more.
The name Flamingo actually derives from the spanish 'Flamenco'which means flaming. People may assume that this is because of their fiery red colour but it is also to do with the inhospitable volcanic lakes in which many flamingoes live.

Volcanic lakes are very caustic and hot reaching ph levels of 10.5 Very few species can survive there as contact with such alkaline waters can strip the flesh off bone in seconds. Amazingly the flamingo has adapted to living in such conditions and has no competition for the lakes algal bacteria that it feeds on.
There are six species of Flamingo and they can be found distributed along the tropics of Africa and America. None of the species are threatened but because they are so dependant upon a reliable source of their specialist food in volcanic and saline lakes that they are thought to be very vulnerable to climate change.

Not too long ago, in 1924, the James' flamingo (photo left) was believed to be extinct. This species of flamingo lives in remote salt lagoons of the altiplano (high altitude region of the Andes Mountains in the region of northern Chile). It was rediscovered in 1957!
Although Flamingoes are very social birds they spend alot of their time in noisy squabbles and pecking skirmishes. Arguments include alot of beak duelling and the flapping of wings but birds are hardly ever injured.

At one time Ornithologists couldnt agree whether the flamingo was more closely related to the duck or to the Stork. In the end it was decided that Flamingoes actually belong to a group of their own.

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