Behavior and Reproduction
Caribbean flamingos spend most of their days preening, eating, wading, and resting. They are extremely gregarious birds, living in flocks of up to thousands. The flamingos make similar vocalizations to geese, loudly honking and screeching. During courtship, the call is louder, however it is quieter while feeding.
They put on several synchronized collective displays, like wing salutes, head flagging, head shaking, and marching. These displays are often performed during the breeding season. Caribbean flamingos have four main breeding sites, which are located in the Bahamas, Cuba, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles.
Flamingos first breed at three to six years of age and the breeding season is different for each flock. Flamingos form long-lasting relationships and pairs will breed for many seasons. They make nests out of mud that are formed into truncated cones. Incubation lasts about 28 days, with both male and female taking watch over the single egg that is laid. Upon birth, flamingo parents feed their chick a liquid secreted from their digestive tract that is similar to a mammal’s milk. This is often called “crop milk."
Breeding in colonies, each male and female in the colony can produce the crop milk that comes from their upper digestive tract. This allows chicks that are in the colony without parents to be adopted by parents of other chicks.
When the chicks get old enough, they stick together. The adult birds watch over the little ones. By the time the babies reach three to five years of age they will have gained their adult plumage.