The Peculiar Case of Hong Kong's Flightless Flamingos


Where to Find Flamingos in Hong Kong

Flamingos can be found in three main locations in Hong Kong - Kowloon Park, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden and Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Garden.

Kowloon Park, located in the heart of the Kowloon peninsula, is home to a thriving flock of flamingos that are now one of the prime reasons people visit the park.

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Garden in Central keeps a small group of flamingos that the public can see.

Meanwhile, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, situated in the New Territories, also houses a small flock of flamingos that were donated. While it's unclear exactly when the flamingos were donated, they're currently well over 25 years old, according to Kadoorie Farm's official website.

Why Do the Flamingos in Kadoorie Farm, Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens and Kowloon Park Look so Different?

Three different species of flamingos can be found in Hong Kong. The first is the Caribbean flamingo, which can be seen in Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden and in Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. The second and third species are the Greater flamingo and Lesser flamingo, which you can witness in Kowloon Park.


  • Caribbean flamingos have a brighter, more vibrant pink plumage compared to the paler pink of the Greater flamingo.
  • Caribbean flamingos have a more extensive black tip on their beak, while the Greater flamingo has a more restrictive black tip.
  • The Lesser flamingo looks similar in color to the Greater flamingo. The greatest difference between the two (apart from size) is that the Lesser Flamingo's bill is black with a pink tip rather than Pink with a Black tip for Greater flamingos.


  • The Greater flamingo is the tallest species of flamingo, standing between1.2 to 1.5 meters and weighing up to 4 kg
  • The Caribbean flamingo is smaller, standing 1.2 to 1.45 meters tall and weighs up to 3 kg.
  • The Lesser flamingo is smaller in stature (as its name suggests), standing between 0.8 and 0.9 meters tall. The maximum weight these birds reach is 2.7 kg.

Habitat and Distribution

  • Caribbean flamingos are native to Mexico, the Caribbean, and the northernmost tip of South America.
  • Meanwhile, Greater flamingos are found in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and in the Mediterranean.
  • Lesser flamingos are native to Africa and parts of South Asia.

Cool Flamingo Facts!

  1. Flamingos are born with grey or white feathers and only develop their iconic pink color as they mature, due to the carotenoid pigments in the algae and shrimp they eat.
  2. There are six species of flamingos, and they are found on different continents - the Caribbean, South America, Africa, and parts of Europe and Asia.
  3. Flamingos use their long, curved beaks to filter water and mud for food, eating shrimp, algae, and other small creatures found in shallow waters.
  4. Flamingos are very social birds and often gather in large flocks, called "flamboyances", for protection and breeding purposes. They use a variety of vocalizations to communicate with each other.
  5. Flamingos have the unique ability to sleep while standing on one leg, which may help them conserve body heat since their long, thin legs lack insulating feathers.
  6. During courtship, flamingos perform elaborate mating rituals, including opening their wings, pretending to preen, bowing, and marching in groups.
  7. Flamingos build their nests out of mud and sticks in shallow water or on islands. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks.
  8. Despite their large size, flamingos are able to fly long distances when they need to, reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
  9. Flamingos have a unique way of feeding their chicks - they produce a nutritious "crop milk" from a specialized pouch in their digestive system.
  10. The collective term for a group of flamingos is a "flamboyance", which is a fitting name for these vibrant, eye-catching birds.

How Did Caribbean Flamingos End Up in Kadoorie Farm?

The flamingos in Kadoorie Farm are part of the Wildlife Walkthrough exhibit. When I visited I saw around 10 birds, though I wasn't keeping count. The flamingos can't escape their enclosures because their wings are clipped and they can no longer fly.

According to Kadoorie Farm's official website, the Caribbean flamingos housed there are not rescued animals, but rather were gifted to the farm many years ago. A sign by the exhibit also claims that the flamingos are now over 25 years old!

Caribbean flamingos live around 30 years in the wild, but this number increases in captivity (some flamingos have lived up to the ripe old age of 50!), so here's to hoping the Kadoorie Farm flamingos have plenty more years left in them!

How Did Caribbean Flamingos End Up in Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens?

I saw just over ten flamingos in the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. It is unclear how the flamingos were brought here and from where.

None of the flamingos seemed to be stressed and their enclosure was really clean and well maintained.

While this enclosure was pretty meticulous, it was also the only flamingo enclosure in Hong Kong that was fully sealed. I doubt the flamingos here have the ability to fly though, since it would be damaging to them to hit the hard cage mesh at speed. It's more likely that some of the other smaller birds that share the enclosure with them can fly, and the sealed enclosure is designed to keep them from escaping.

If you want a better look at these flamingos, arrive before 4:30pm before the main viewing deck closes. I arrived too late and took my photos from outside the cage mesh.

How Did Greater and Lesser Flamingos End Up In Kowloon Park?

Currently, there is no record of how long the flamingos have been in Kowloon Park for. However, there is a breeding program that has been very successful. There are currently a reported 130 flamingos in Kowloon Park, which includes both Greater and Lesser flamingos.

All flamingos in the park have their wings clipped and can't fly. I witnessed several of them trying to take off to no avail, which is pretty unpleasant.

That being said, I didn't see any flamingos behaving in a distressed manner. The success of the breeding program also suggests that the population (or at least certain individuals within it) are comfortable breeding, which wouldn't happen in a stressed population.

For a glimpse into what it takes to keep a flamboyance (flock) of flamingos healthy, check out the below video!

Is It Ethical to Keep Flamingos in Hong Kong?

The ethics of keeping flamingos in captivity with clipped wings is a complex and debated topic. Proponents argue that captivity can provide protection for these birds from natural threats such as predators and habitat destruction. It also allows for educational opportunities and research that can contribute to conservation efforts.

Surgical procedures to limit or prevent flight in captive birds, such as pinioning (amputating the last section of the wing) or tenectomy (severing the supracoracoideus muscle), can result in chronic pain and distress for the birds. Flamingos are predominantly ground-walking and ground-foraging birds, so they are not the best species to use for evaluating the impact of flight restriction. Studies have shown that clipping flamingos' wings may not significantly raise their corticosterone (stress hormone) levels since the birds are "reluctant flyers" and usually prefer to walk.

However, opponents raise concerns about the impact on the birds' physical and psychological well-being. Keeping flamingos in captivity with clipped wings deprives them of the ability to engage in their natural behaviors, such as relocating to different salt lakes, mating rituals and (obviously) flight, which are all important parts of their daily routine. This can lead to stress, frustration, and decreased quality of life.

Sadly, these flamingos would no longer survive in the wild if relocated and released due to their inability to fly. What doesn't sit well with me is that babies will also have their wings clipped so they can remain in captivity for the rest of their lives. I find this somewhat distasteful - even though the birds are treated well.

Beyond this, the breeding program at Kowloon Park may be successful, but to what end? Greater flamingos are listed as 'Least Concern' by CITES, which means there is no considerable shortage of them globally.

It should be noted that there is no breeding program in Kadoorie Farm that I am aware of and the birds there are not growing in number, unlike in Kowloon Park.

I believe the same can be said for the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, whereby there doesn't seem to be a breeding program.