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Differences between Flamingo and Crane

Differences between Flamingo and Crane

Even though Flamingo and Crane are a part of the same class Aves, they are poles apart.

Flamingoes are known for their big build and distinguished neck, stick-like legs, and pink or reddish feathers. With an average height of 3.9 to 4.7 feet, flamingoes receive their pigment on the feathers from consuming various algae and invertebrates. On the contrary, cranes have heavy bodies and resemble herons. Unlike flamingoes, cranes have long necks and legs and are usually characterized due to their huge bill. Also, they are either brown, gray, or white, however, some species like the African crowned cranes (Balearica pavonina) have a golden shade of feathers on its head.

Belonging to the family Phoenicopteridae, flamingoes are social and often reside in colonies. They are considered as wading birds and are distinguished by their filter-feeding habits on brine shrimps, blue-green algae, etc.

On the contrary, cranes are known to be migratory and are differentiated from the rest due to their long neck and legs.

6 differences between a Flamingo and a Crane

1.   Geography

Cranes are widespread across several continents in the world. Among them, East Asia houses eight species and has the highest crane diversity. Moreover, other places like Africa have five species while Australia, Europe, and North America have two species. Besides, the two genera Grus and Antigone are commonly found in abundance.

Flamingos have a restricted habitat and the four species are distributed across the globe including the Americas, including the Caribbean. Moreover, the continents Africa, Asia, and Europe are home to the other two species of flamingos.

2.   Physical characteristics

One of the most general characteristics of a flamingo is its ability to stand on a single leg, with the other tucked inside. Various speculations suggest that this behavior may be due to multifarious reasons. The most common one is that flamingos stand on one leg to save more body heat while wading in cold waters. They tend to fly, so flamingos in captivity usually undergo wing clipping. While hatching, flamingos usually have grayish-red plumage, however, the adults have bright colors ranging from light pink to bright red due. The change in plumage color is mainly because their diet contains aqueous bacteria and beta-carotene. Vibrant or bright-colored flamingos are often considered to be healthy, while pale flamingos are often weak or malnourished.

Cranes are usually heavier and have a diverse range of sizes. From the demoiselle crane (90cm) to the sarus crane (176 cm), they are considered to be the world’s tallest flying birds. In addition, they have streamlined bodies with rounded appendages. Males are often larger than females. Moreover, many species of crane have patches of bare skin on the face. The skin plays an important part in communication just like the trachea. The skin can be expanded or contracted and is capable of changing the intensity of the color.

3.   Feeding

Flamingos have a special feeding process. They use filter-feeding and consume insect larvae, blue-green algae, mollusks, etc. These omnivorous birds, moreover have bills that are adapted to differentiate mud and silt from their food. The small hairy structures are known as lamellae that surround the mandibles, and the rough tongue help in filtering the food.

Cranes, on the contrary, feed both on animal and plant matters. In addition, their diet on land usually consists of seeds, leaves, nuts and acorns, berries, fruit, insects, snails, etc, while on the wetlands, they usually look for mollusks, small fishes, etc. Their feeding technique usually consists of foraging strategies.

4.   Habitat

The main habitats of cranes are usually wetlands and grasslands. Moreover, some species tend to move their hatchlings to the ground for feeding, while others tend to stay on the wetlands throughout the breeding season. Moreover, some species of crane are sedentary, which means they remain in the same place all around the year, while most of the other species are migratory.

Flamingos, however, are mostly found around large alkaline or saline lakes, estuaries, etc. They are concentrated more towards areas with less fish in the water.

5.   Breeding

Cranes are known to be monogamous. They create pairs that may even last a lifetime. The bonding usually begins during the second or the third year of their life cycles. However, during unsuccessful breeding attempts, the pair tends to dissolve and form new pairs. Apart from being seasonal breeders, cranes are territorial as well.

On the contrary, flamingos are social and often stay in large colonies. Moreover, these contribute to their reproductive behavior as well since, most of the species form pair bonds in large colonies. Flamingos mostly mate while building their nest, however other flamingos often try to hijack the nest. Both the male and the female protect their nest and egg and may even get aggressive in the process. The chicks often feed on crop milk which is produced by their glands and hormones like prolactin is responsible for its stimulation. The milk is mainly composed of fat, protein, red and white blood cells, etc.

6.   Communication

Both cranes and flamingos are vocal in nature. However, both of their vocal patterns differ from each other and have a specific significance. Cranes, upon hatching, give low calls which helps them to maintain contact with their parents. However, cranes are distinguished through their loud duet calls.

Flamingos are considered noisy and have a wide range of vocal patterns starting from grunting to nasal honking. Various calls indicate parent-chick interaction and helping them maintain large flocks together. Moreover, variations in vocals can be observed in different species.


1.   Are flamingos and cranes the same?

Although they belong to the same class, flamingos and cranes are very different from one another. They have different habitats and feeding techniques.

2.   Why are flamingos pink?

Flamingos are born with gray feathers. However, their diet consisting of blue-green algae and several bacteria contribute to vibrant pink or red appendages in adult flamingos.

3.   Which is the rarest crane species?

Whooping cranes are considered to be one of the rarest among the crane species.