Flamingos are filter feeders that only rarely ingest larger food items. Their bill anatomy is adapted to the suction, filtration, and ejection of a fluid medium. This case report documents a rare case of bill impaction in a group of Caribbean flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) that were kept in a mixed exhibit together with roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) and scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber). The latter species received fatty minced meat as part of their diet, which was also accessible to the flamingos. Weakness and poor body condition of one flamingo were noted. On clinical examination, the animal was emaciated, hypoglycemic, and showed a severe impaction of the bill with a mixture of lard, mud, and sand. This mixture had compressed the tongue and eventually had most likely prevented further food intake. In five additional flamingos, a bulging of the gular area, similar to the extension of this area during the tongue-retraction stage of the feeding cycle, was noted and interpreted as a sign of tongue displacement by similar masses in their bills. All animals were caught and the masses removed. All animals resumed food intake immediately, and the emaciated animal rapidly improved in condition. Food presentation was changed so that the trays for the other species were no longer accessible to the flamingos, and no similar problems have been observed since that time.
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Vol. 38 • No. 3