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flamingo, common name for a large pink or red wading bird, similar to the related heron, stork, and spoonbill but with a longer neck, webbed feet, and a unique down-bent bill. Flamingos are tropical birds, although large colonies have been observed high in the Andes. The American, or greater, flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber, is now rarely seen in Florida, nesting chiefly in the West Indies. Its plumage is vermilion with black-edged wings; a common S Asian and African flamingo is scarlet with black wing feathers. The flamingo scoops its large bill backward through shallow water in marshes and lagoons. When closed, the serrated edges of the bill strain from the muddy water the aquatic plants, shellfish, and frogs on which the bird feeds. The nest is a cone of mud 1 to 2 ft (30–61 cm) high and about 1 ft (30 cm) across with a depression on top. The mates take turns incubating the one or two eggs, sitting astride the nest with their legs folded flat on either side. Flamingos are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Ciconiiformes, family Phoenicopteridae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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