Our Stunning National Bird
Vibrant Colours Reflect Bahamian Pride
The Caribbean flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber) is a perfect fit to represent The Bahamas as its national bird. Many of its behavioral and physical characteristics correspond with the qualities of the country. For example, the vibrant vermilion hue of both males and females constitutes the brightest coloration of any flamingo species; this reflects the cultural vibrancy of The Bahamas, as well as gender equality of men and women. Flamingo parents sacrifice for their children, actually transferring pigment to their offspring; this might be compared to Bahamian parents transmitting their renowned culture to their children.
Flamingos are extremely social, with flocks of as many as 340 birds, and with some colonies reaching tens of thousands of birds. They spend a large amount of time in collective displays: instinctual rituals performed before, during, and after mating. This roughly corresponds to dynamic Bahamian traditions such as the famous Junkanoo parades of The Bahamas. Flamingos are tolerant and multiple species can inhabit the same territory; this reflects the history of The Bahamas, where African and European cultures have merged into a fantastic society that is tremendous fun!
In the entire world, there are only four main breeding sites: Great Inagua, The Bahamas; Archipelago de Camaguey, Cuba; Yucatan, Mexico; and Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. Today, Inagua wilderness boasts of more than 50,000 of these birds, inhabiting 743 square kilometers. This pristine nature preserve is protected by the wardens of the Society for the Protection of the Flamingo in The Bahamas.
Interesting Flamingo Facts
Flamingos emerged early on after the extinction of the dinosaurs, with their cousin or possible ancestor, Juncitarsus, appearing in the fossil record about fifty million years ago. What appears to be the flamingo knee — half-way down the leg — is actually an ankle. What appears to be the ankle is actually where the toe starts. These birds prefer the salt life, whether it’s saline lagoons, muddy flats, or shallow coastal lakes. They are tough creatures, able to tolerate two times the salinity of sea water and alkalinity up to pH 10.5, which would dissolve human skin.