Flamingos are gregarious wading birds in the genus Phoenicopterus, the only genus in the family Phoenicopteridae.
Flamingos often stand on one leg, the other tucked beneath the body. The reason for this behavior is not fully understood. Some suggest that the flamingo, like some other animals, has the ability to have half of its body go into a state of sleep, and when one side is rested, the flamingo will swap legs and then let the other half sleep, but this has not been proven. Recent research has indicated that standing on one leg may allow the birds to conserve more body heat, given that they spend a significant amount of time wading in cold water. As well as standing in the water, flamingos may stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up food from the bottom.
Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp and blue-green algae. Their beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat, and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering of food items is assisted by hairy structures called lamellae which line the mandibles, and the large rough-surfaced tongue. The pink or reddish color of flamingos comes from carotenoid proteins in their diet of animal and plant plankton.
Flamingos are very social birds that live in colonies that can number in the thousands. These large colonies are believed to serve three purposes for the flamingos: predator avoidance, maximizing food intake, and exploiting scarce suitable nesting sites.
In Ancient Rome, flamingo tongues were considered a delicacy. Also, Andean miners have killed flamingos for their fat, believed to be a cure for tuberculosis.
Ancient Egyptians believed flamingos to be the living representation of the god Ra.
Flamingos are the national bird of The Bahamas.