Photo: Pretty in pink

177 of 1159
Flamingo feeding

credit: macadmer/Flickr

177 of 1159

Flamingos are exotic, there's no two ways about it – and many a lawn ornament can attest to their popularity. But most of us are likely pretty accustomed to just how strange they are. Take for instance, their bills. They look like ... flamingo bills! But they don't look a lot like the bills of other birds – as can be seen in this wonderful photo by macadamer – and there's a good reason.

Flamingos are filter feeders, and because of that they feed more like whales and oysters than most other birds. Except, upside down, of course. As Stanford University explains: "Flamingos feed with their heads down, and their bills are adapted accordingly. In most birds a smaller lower beak works against a larger upper one. In flamingos this is reversed; the lower bill is much larger and stronger, and the fat tongue runs within the bill's deep central groove. To complete the jaw reversal, unlike other birds (and mammals) the upper jaw is not rigidly fixed to the skull. Consequently, with the bird's head upside down during feeding the upper bill moves up and down, permitting the flamingo's jaws to work 'normally.'"

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