When it comes to the state of Florida, no bird species is more synonymous with the culture of the state than the flamingo. Somewhat stereotypically associated with Miami, flamingos are among three species of pink bird native to the state.
Here is our list of the three pink bird species that inhabit Florida.
1. American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus Ruber)
This pink bird is a member of the flamingo family, Phoenicopteridae, found in North and South America.
In the United States, flamingos were first released at Yellowstone National Park in 1903. By the 1920s, there were over 300 flamingos living in the park. Today, there are more than 2 million.
The flamingo has long legs with webbed feet, and their bill is very thin and pointed, with a 45-degree curve to allow them to scoop algae, molluscs, plants, worms, insect larvae, small crustaceans, and shrimp; a key staple of their diet, and the thing that gives them their red/pink colouring.
With a distinctive red head and neck, they can commonly be seen standing on their long legs whilst fishing in shallow water, which is where they’re predominantly found.
They feed by picking up food from the bottom of the water using their bills. They also eat insects that fall into the water.
Flamingos are large birds, standing usually about 3 to 4 feet tall. Like other birds they have feathers for protection, and with two toes on each foot, making balance an occasional issue when walking.
This led to their distinctive walk, wherein they move forward first with one leg, then the other, to help them balance.
Loyal birds who mate for life, the male will stay with his partner for years, offering support and protection against predators, often only moving on when the partner dies.
Flamingos lay eggs in nests made out of sticks and mud. Each nest holds between 6-10 eggs.
A baby flamingo hatches after about 27 days. It has a fluffy tail and it looks like a little chick. After hatching it stays in its nest for about three weeks.
Then it goes outside. At this time it is called a “calf”. Its parents teach it how to swim. Once it learns how to swim it leaves home.
2. Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea Ajaja)
Roseate spoonbills are medium-sized wading birds, similar to storks but smaller.
They have black bodies and white faces, with long necks, tails, legs and long curved bills.
Whilst these birds are native to Africa, they are seen in the southern United States, most notably Florida, where they are known for their beautiful plumage.
They are sometimes mistaken for herons because they look similar, but keen ornithologists will notice herons have shorter bills and longer legs.
Preferring freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and estuaries, Roseates spend most of their lives in the water.
They usually build nests near the shoreline, often in trees, which provides them with clear lines of sight for hunting prey.
When they find food, they dive straight down into the water, coming up again right away in an urgent pattern.
They tend to focus on small creatures, eating small crustaceans, insects, worms, snails, frogs, fish and mollusks.
Breeding every year, they start nesting around March.
Their nests are built by piling up sticks and grass, ultimately containing around 5 to 7 eggs, which both parents take turns to incubate.
Once the chicks hatch after about 21 days, feeding responsibilities are shared, feeding the chicks by regurgitating food into the young’s mouths.
This continues until the chicks are old enough to leave the nest and hunt for themselves.
Roseates live in tropical regions of Africa. They migrate north when the weather gets colder. African species generally migrate during the winter, settling in southern Europe and Asia.
3. Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus Ruber)
Scarlet ibises are large birds, about 1 meter tall, and with a weight of about 25 kilograms.
They have long legs, short beaks and long pointed wings, with a dark brown head and neck, bright red backs, yellowish-orange underwings, with gray upper wings.
Despite being mostly native to Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean islands, these birds are in fact found in North America, where they can be most notably seen along the Gulf Coast of Texas, and southwestern Florida.
Scarlet ibises live in groups, forming loose colonies that suit their sociable, gregarious natures.
Oddly enough, they may even join other species such as egrets or herons that also call the areas their home.
It prefers habitats that have lots of vegetation. It likes swamps, marshes, mangroves, forests, savannas and prairies.
Staying local, roosting together for warmth at night, and not flying very far or long, these birds live off a steady diet of insects and small water-born creatures.
Usually building their nest in a tree hole, both birds in a pair combine their efforts, using twigs, leaves, moss and mud to make it strong and defendable for the arrival of their young.
A male scarlet ibis will defend a territory against other males, chasing them off if he sees them trying to mate with any female under his watch.
This protective nature extends to the offspring too, with both sexes taking care of the young, feeding them, protecting them, and teaching them how to swim and hunt for food.
And there we have it, the three species of pink birds found in the state of Florida.
Thanks to the tropical climate, proximity to the Bahamas and Cuba, as well as a series of imports over the years, Florida now boasts a wealth of exotic birds that have settled in the area, only helping to reinforce the lavish, care-free image that the state purveys.
Why not check it out, and see how many of these beautiful creatures you can spot?