No bird is more synonymous with Florida than the long-legged, long-necked, laconic flamingo. See one of these and you know you are in the Sunshine State so we’ve compiled some facts about flamingos and all the different types, including the pink plastic variety.
Story by Guillermo Serrano, Vacay.ca writer
1. Like Canadian snowbirds, flamingos are not actually native to Florida. They migrate in search of food or switch locations because of the effects of drought.
2. Pink plastic flamingos are native to the U.S. The lawn ornament was created by a New England inventor name Donald Featherstone in 1957 whose job was creating 3D plastic animals for a company called Union Products. He created more than 750 different items but became most famous for the pink flamingo. Featherstone kept 57 pink flamingos on his front lawn in Massachusetts.
3. Flamingos are really the embodiment of the adage: you are what you eat. (If that adage applied to me, I would be the colour of bbq potato chips.) Flamingos get their easily identifiable colour based on the reaction of their feathers to the pigment in the food they eat, mostly algae and invertebrates.
4. There are six species of flamingos. Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo, James’s flamingo, American (or Caribbean) flamingo and Greater flamingo ‘and Lesser flamingo. The tallest of them all is the Greater flamingo which averages 110-150 cm in height and weighs 2-4 kilogram. The heaviest one ever found was a male who was 187 cm tall and weighed 4.5 kg.
5. One of the best places to see flamingos in Florida is at the Flamingo Gardens in Davie, about a 25 minute drive from Fort Lauderdale. The garden was initially founded in 1927 by midwest transplants Floyd L. and Jane Wray who purchased 320 acres of land around and including Long Key in the Everglades. They planted the first citrus tree on February 22 and the grove grew to 2000 acres with over 60 varieties of citrus including a 20-acre citrus laboratory. Today, aside from the Caribbean Flamingos, the garden is a lush showcase of 3,000 rare tropical fruit, flowering trees, and shrubs. The property is also a sanctuary for wildlife including native alligators, a black bear name Josh, otters, parrots and bobcats and panthers.
Getting there: Flamingo Gardens, 3750 South Flamingo Road, Davie, FL 33330-1614
Hours: Open: 9:30am to 5 pm Monday to Sunday.