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The Kid Should See This

Flamingos feed underwater and upside down

What’s going on when flamingos dip their heads under the water to eat? This surprising underwater footage from the San Diego Zoo reveals how these long-legged, long-necked pink birds eat their food underwater and upside down:

Flamingos feed by sucking water and mud in at the front of the bill and then pumping it out again at the sides. Here, briny plates called lamellae act like tiny filters, trapping shrimp and other small water creatures for the flamingo to eat.

flamingos filter feeding

The smaller puna, Andean, and lesser flamingos have deeper bills and stiff lamellae. This helps them filter very fine particles, such as algae, through their bill and keep bigger particles out. Greater and Chilean flamingos are larger and feed mostly on invertebrates such as brine flies, shrimps, and mollusks. They get these food items from the bottom mud by wading in shallow water. Sometimes they swim to get their food and sometimes by “upending” (tail feathers in the air, head underwater) like ducks.

At the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the flamingos are fed a special pellet diet that is made for zoo flamingos. This food has all the nutrients the flamingos need and a pigment that helps keep them “in the pink.” To allow the flamingos to eat in their normal way (taking in water and then pumping it back out), a water source just for feeding is near their food so they can get a “beakful” of water and then food—just like they would in the wild.

filter-feeding flamingos
flamingos filter feeding
Watch more videos about filter feeders, including this one.

Then learn more about flamingos with these videos:
• How do baby flamingos become pink?
• The lesser flamingo swarms of Lake Bogoria
• Running baby flamingos

via Laughing Squid.

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