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What are Flamingo’s legs protected by?

What are Flamingo’s legs protected by?

Flamingos are tropical birds who are known for their signature posture that is for standing on one leg. You might wonder, or at least once might have a question in your mind about how do they stand on one leg for so long or how their long legs are protected. So, continue reading this article to know more about their legs.

What are flamingo’s legs protected by?

Flamingo’s legs are protected by their tall and thin legs which allow them to stay on single leg in cold temperatures and adjust to temperature. Their legs are also protected by their feathers and other features such as wings and skin.

Let us have a quick look at some more information about its legs and feathers.


  • The legs of the adult Flamingos are longer than their body by about 80 to 125 cm. But the length of their legs differs from species to species.
  • Their ankle is located in halfway of the leg.
  • The knee is located close to the body, and it is not visible easily.


  • The greater, lesser and Chilean Flamingos have three forward pointing toes and a hind toe or hallux.
  • James and Andean Flamingos have three toes and no hind toe.
  • Webbing between the toes helps the birds in swimming and stirring their food.
  • The color of the flamingo’s feet and legs are the same.


  • The wingspan of lesser Flamingos range from 95 cm to 100 cm (I.e 37 – 39 inch) and of greater Flamingos range from 140 cm to 165 cm (I.e 55-65 inch). And the Caribbean flamingo’s wingspan is 150 cm that is 59 inch.
  • Each wing has 12 principal flight feathers. The black feathers are only visible when the wings are extended.


  • The feathers of the adult Flamingos are small, delicate and the accessory feathers arise from the main feather where the quill merges with the shaft. This is known as an aftershaft.
  • Flamingos of every species have 12 to 16 tail feathers.
  • Contour feathers of Flamingos cover all the body parts except the bill and the scaled parts of the feet and legs. These feathers protect their skin and legs from damage and help the Flamingos to streamline for flight.
  • Flamingos shed and replace their body feathers and wings at regular intervals. Some Flamingos shed twice a year while some shed once every 2 years. The shedding of these feathers depends mostly on their breeding cycle. The shredded feathers usually lose their color.

How do the Flamingos stand on one leg in cold temperatures?

Flamingos have resilient skin and scales that protect their legs from cold temperatures and help them to survive in hypersaline lakes. The skin also protects them from the frozen lakes at night by trapping them when they are asleep and helps them withstand subzero temperatures.

Keeping their one leg up under the feathers helps them maintain their body temperature. It is observed that the birds usually lose body heat through their legs. So mostly when they are in water and if the water is cold, they fold their one leg, and if the water is warm, they stand on both their legs.

In fact, when the flamingo’s legs are folded in the upper direction, and the centre of gravity is pushed down to the leg from the front of their body.

Why do the Flamingos stand on one leg?

Flamingos are able to stand on one leg due to their powerful legs. The ligaments and tendons in their legs can be locked in a position that reduces the muscular effort to stay in one place. They raise their one leg below the feathers to conserve their body heat. Like the other birds, Flamingos also have reduced blood vessels in their legs. They have a counter current heat system that means it warms the blood that is returning from the foot to the body, and on the other hand, it cools the blood that is flowing from the body to the foot.

This means that Flamingos have an in-built heat saving mechanism, and that’s why it is more likely that they are looking to save their energy by standing on one leg.

How does each feature of Flamingo help to protect their legs?

  • Skin

Special tough skin and scales on the Flamingo’s legs help them to prevent burn when they can drink hot water, which is nearly at the boiling point. They collect fresh water from the springs and geysers at lake edges. The skin here acts as a guard and prevents burning sensations while protecting the legs.

  • Wings

Flamingos have wide wings of about 100 cm to 145 cm. These wings help them to cover their leg when they keep it up or fold it to maintain the body temperature. Their wings also help them to fly and swim in the water.

  • Feathers

Each wing of the Flamingo has around 16 feathers that help them protect their legs and give them warmness in cold temperatures when they spend most of the time in the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Flamingos legs made of?

Flamingo has an upper leg bone positioned horizontally when it folds its leg. This bone is not visible clearly because it is hidden under the feathers. A knobby bit that is located in the centre of the bone is its ankle.

Why do Flamingos have long legs?

They have long legs so that they can easily get their food. Their long legs help them to get food without being wet in the shallow or deep water.

Why do Flamingos sleep with one leg up?

They sleep with one leg up because the tendons and ligaments can be locked in a position so that the muscular effort to stay in one position can be reduced, and a proper balance can be maintained.

The Bottom Line

Flamingos are one of the unique birds that can be seen standing mostly on one leg. Their legs are very powerful and are protected by their skin and feathers. Their legs help them eat the food from the shallow and the deep water and escape quickly when the predator nearby is observed.

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