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Adult flamingo feeding is a humorous sight. In search of the
small mollusks that chiefly form their diet, they explore soft mud. Over
go the long necks until the heads rest upside down on the upper surface
of the curved banks. With heads submerged they employ a treading,
dancing motion in their efforts to loosen the firmly embedded shells.
When one comes upon a find, it is snapped up, water, mud and all. The
water and mud, however, run out between the ridges of the bill, while
the mollusk is swallowed whole.
Flamingos in captivity have more varied menus than the free
birds, their diet consisting of dried shrimps, corn, cooked rice, grits,
dried salmon, eggs, dried flies and ant eggs. The last two are imported
by the barrel from South America. Ants as large as bees lay eggs the size
of cooked tapioca grains and these must be collected with care.
Experiments to determine the result of a change of diet on the
color of flamingos' wings have resulted in the belief that shrimps are
more effective than cuttlebone in keeping the plumage a bright rose-red.
Marine vegetation is also necessary for the health of the bird, whose life
span is from 100 to 125 years.
In April the flamingo loses his bright color and becomes faded and
dingy, remaining in this condition through May and June the breeding
season. In colonies or "villages" the temporarily drab birds make tall cone-
shaped nests of marl and sticks. Graduating from a 22-inch