Flamingos
 

Flamingos are tall, graceful and beautifully colored birds that live and feed in shallow waters. The name flamingo is derived from the flaming red color of the bird’s feathers, which is like the blazing color of the sunset sky. Some birds, however, have lovely pink or rose-colored feathers.

Flamingos are social birds that live in flocks, sometimes numbering thousands of birds. Like other wading birds, a flamingo has webbed feet (see picture), which help it wade through swamps and marshes in search of food. Its tall thin legs enable it to keep its body dry in shallow waters, while its long swan-like neck bends all the way downward, with its head and bill easily reaching the muddy bottom of the shallows.

 

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward: The flamingo has a very distinctive way of feeding – it eats upside down! When feeding, the flamingo thrusts its head into the water in an upside down position. This helps the bent upper part of the bill (see interesting facts) scoop into the mud, picking up beak-fulls of mud. Then the bird forces out the mud and water through the comb-like arrangement in its bill called lamellae, retaining anything that is edible.

Our soul, according to Judaism, also bends over backwards: it came from heaven where it was near G-d and descended into a ‘shallow’ physical body where G-dliness is concealed. But the trip is promising: through Torah and mitzvot, our soul can achieve great “profits”, and reach levels that are only a dream beforehand. Let’s make sure the trip is worth it!

Watch Your Tongue: As incredible as it sounds, emperors in ancient Rome served at their banquets plates heaped with flamingo tongues. Unlike most other birds, the flamingo has a large, soft, fleshy tongue. The flamingo’s tongue serves as a powerful pump, moving rapidly back and forth drawing water on the backward pull and expelling it on the forward drive. In this way the flamingo strains its food through the beak’s filters, as mentioned above.

In the animal world the tongue has a vitally important function in the feeding process. In the human race, the tongue is primarily identified with speech. A human being is expected to use this great Divine gift wisely and carefully – to speak only what is true and kind, while guarding it from -- "filtering" out -- speaking falsehoods, unkind words and idle gossip. G-d has given us a very special tongue that is capable of doing its job perfectly well. Let’s use it to our advantage.

 
 

 

Listen to a group of happy flamingos

Watch a video of Flamingos

 



Flamingos’ legs bend backwards

A flamingo’s bill is roomy and is several inches long. Its upper part, or mandible, is hooked sharply, almost as if broken. This is the movable part of the bill. This is different than most birds, whose lower mandible is the one that moves up and down against the larger upper beak.

Flamingos have been widely hunted for their eggs and flesh. As a result, flamingos, once widespread, now survive in large flocks mainly in inhospitable corners of the earth.

Parent's Tip: Ask your child to try and see how long he can stand on one foot. Point out that the flamingo can stand on one foot for more than four hours, and even sleep while standing on one foot!

 

Flamingos get their famous pink or orange color from the food they eat, which contains carotene. (When we eat carrots, we are eating carotene too.) If a flamingo is in a zoo, the zoo-keepers must make sure to give it food that contains carotene or it will lose its color. This shows us that truly, “you are what you eat!” When we eat kosher food, we are not only doing a mitzvah, we are building our bodies out of mitzvah-material.


The flamingo, by eating blue-green algae, helps keep the algae level down in their areas. They also help control the number of small crustaceans and molluscs.