A flamingo feeds with its head upside down in the water. It sweeps its bill from side to side. The outer edges of both the upper and lower part of its bill are lined with two rows of comblike bristles called lamellae (luh-MEL-ee). As the bird sucks water into its mouth, the lamellae keeps large sea creatures from going in, while letting the foods it eats get through. Flamingos pump the water in and out with their tongues as they swallow their food. The lamellae on the smaller flamingo species are close together, and they keep out everything except algae (AL-jee), diatoms, and other very tiny organisms. The larger flamingo species have fewer lamellae and they eat a more varied diet including insects, snails, and brine shrimp.
WHY DO FLAMINGOS FLOCK?
Flamingos gather in enormous flocks for several reasons, the most important being protection from enemies. An eagle has a hard time sneaking up on them with two million eyes on the lookout. When flamingos eat together, they keep the food stirred up and moving around where the birds can easily suck it in. Because they lay their eggs at the same time, they can put their chicks in a big flock with a few adult "babysitters." Then the rest of the parents can fly off to eat. Flamingos sleep, fly to new places, and do practically everything else at the same time as the other flamingos.
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