Why Do People Think Flamingos Can’t Fly?

Flamingos are actually skilled fliers in reality. They use their long wings and strong muscles to fly through the skies.

But why do people think flamingos can’t fly? What causes this belief? Let’s discover why people have this idea and know the truth about flamingos and their flying ability.

Why Do People Think Flamingos Can’t Fly?

People think Flamingoes can’t fly for two reasons. One is that they see flamingoes in zoos staying still, and the other is because of their anatomy. Both these reasons are assumptions that lead to misconceptions.

Firstly, the zoo misconception is just an assumption because zoo flamingos often have clipped wings to prevent them from escaping. So, when people see flamingoes in zoos, they watch them with clipped wings.

As for the anatomy misconception, when Flamingoes fly in the wild, their long legs and necks bend during flight, making them look less aerodynamic than they are.

Do Flamingos Actually Fly, and How Often?

Yes, flamingoes can actually fly properly in the air. Their strong wings allow them to handle long flights easily. Even though it’s rare that you will see a flamingo flying, they do love to fly more often than you would think.

Not only flamingos can fly, but they can also fly at exceptionally high speeds. Whenever they are flying, they make necessary adjustments to their bodies so that they don’t hinder flight movement.

If you ever go into the wild, you will frequently see them flying, especially during migration, breeding, or finding new food sources.

Can All Flamingo Species Fly?

A flock of flamingos standing in a shallow pond surrounded by green foliage

Yes, all six flamingo species are capable flyers. Even though anatomical variations exist between the species, they all have capable bone structures and musculature specifically adapted for flight. Therefore, all the flamingo species from different regions can fly.

While all of them can fly, the way different flamingo species fly is a bit different. Depending on the species, you can notice slight differences in flight patterns or preferred altitudes. Also, the body structure each species uses while flying is quite remarkable.

What Physical Adaptations Help Flamingos Fly?

Flamingos make many physical adjustments to fly in the air. According to an article from Sandiegozoo, they take a proper run-up on the ground to gather speed. The run-up has more to do with the air when taking off. Once they are in the air, they tuck their long necks and legs close to their bodies for a proper flying experience.

Flamingoes create a streamlined shape by tucking their body parts, making it easy to flow in the air. Their webbed feet work like little rudders, ensuring proper balance and control while the birds are flying.

How Do Flamingos Take Off?

Flamingos require a running start to gain enough momentum for takeoff. They use their strong legs to propel themselves forward, flapping their wings rapidly to become airborne. Their powerful flight muscles in the chest area help in the propulsion.

This takeoff process usually occurs from shallow water, where they can build up speed with minimal resistance.

How Fast and High Do Flamingos Fly?

Flamingos can surprisingly fly at speeds of around 35 miles per hour and can even reach speeds exceeding 40 miles per hour in optimal conditions and proper flight paths.

As for the altitude, they usually stay within the 10,000 to 13,000 feet range. However, the maximum range recorded for a flamingo was 20,000 feet.

Usually, they can achieve maximum speed with favorable tailwinds during migrations. Flamingo’s physical adaptations while flying are the secret to achieving such high speed. They create such aerodynamics in their body that support quick flying.

How Long Can a Flamingo Fly?

A single flamingo flying across a clear sky

Flamingos are long-distance flyers. They can cover hundreds of miles in a single flight, especially during migrations. With their high endurance, they can travel about 373 miles at a 30 mph speed in a single night. They can cover vast distances without getting tired.

Related: Do Birds Get Tired Of Flying?

While there is no certain period to determine how long a flamingo can fly. But based on their capability of covering distances and their flying speed, it’s easy to estimate that they fly for 8 to 10 hours.

However, it mostly depends on the flying conditions, such as the altitude of their flight and favorable tailwind.

Do Flamingos Fly at Night?

Yes, flamingos often engage in nocturnal flights, especially during migrations. Flying at night offers them several advantages, such as cooler nighttime temperatures, a lower risk of predators, less turbulence, and a calming environment.

Flamingos can easily conserve energy for longer flight hours when the temperature is usually lower at night. They can also fly in lower altitudes due to the reduced risk of encountering predators.

Related: Do Hummingbirds Fly At Night?

Moreover, a calmer environment at night makes them feel less stressed, hence easily covering longer distances.

Do Flamingos Migrate?

Yes, flamingos often migrate at night. They migrate when the weather gets ice-cold, the water level changes and the number of humans and predators increases in the area.

Although flamingos aren’t typically known as migratory birds, they tend to migrate.

They will start the migration process whenever they feel their surroundings are unsatisfactory or unsuitable for their habitat. They also migrate when they can’t find suitable sources of food around them. 

How Far Do Flamingos Fly to Migrate?

Now you know that flamingos migrate and the reasons behind this. But how far do they fly during migration?

Well, they cover about 600 kilometers in one night at speeds of 50 to 60 kilometers per hour when conditions are favorable, like clear skies with tailwinds. When they travel during the day, they go very high up to stay safe from predators. But mostly, you see them migrate at night.

Do Flamingos Fly in Flocks?

Multiple flamingos in flight over water, with some still floating

Flamingos are highly social birds and often fly in large flocks, sometimes numbering in the thousands. The whole group forms a V-shaped formation while flying. Another reason flamingos fly in groups is because they feel more secure when flying together.

Flying in formations like a V-shape offers several advantages. This formation can help them conserve energy by creating lift and reducing wind resistance for birds flying behind.

Additionally, flying in a group may provide a sense of security and make it harder for predators to target individual birds.

Why Don’t Flamingos Fly at Zoos?

According to an article published in the American Birds Conservancy, zoo flamingos can’t fly because their flying features are trimmed and sometimes cut to make them incapable of flying. Even if they didn’t trim the flying features, flamingos would still not fly due to lack of space.

Since flamingos like to fly around a lot and they can fly at very high speeds at higher altitudes, zoos aren’t a suitable location for them to fly.

They don’t have enough space in zoos to do the required run-up before taking off. And most zoos are usually enclosed, so they won’t be able to fly anywhere either.

How Do Zoos Keep Flamingos from Flying Away?

Zoos may employ several methods to prevent flamingos from escaping. The most common method is clipping the wings of flamingos so they lose their flying ability entirely. Other methods are also used to restrict the movement of flamingos in zoos.

The movement restriction usually includes enclosures with high enough walls so that the flamingos get discouraged in their take-off attempts. In some cases, zoos might create netted enclosures that provide a physical barrier against flight.

Can Baby Flamingos Fly?

No, baby flamingos cannot fly.  Their flight feathers haven’t yet developed fully, and their bodies are not strong enough for sustained flight. 

They depend on their parents for food and protection for several weeks after hatching.  It typically takes 11 to 12 weeks for a flamingo chick to develop its flight feathers and become capable of flying.


Many people mistakenly think flamingos can’t fly because they often see them in zoos with clipped wings. They may also misunderstand their anatomy as a limitation.

However, flamingos frequently fly in the wild, especially during migration. Interestingly, they achieve better movement through the air by adjusting their long legs and necks and can reach high speeds.