Flamingo Symbolism: What the Beautiful Bird Represents

Photo by PrashantMehta/Shutterstock.com

Flamingo symbolism has been around for centuries. The fabulous fowl is no spring chicken, and its unique characteristics have catapulted the creature into the cradle of human culture across the globe.

Human communication is much deeper than written language and spoken word. We have come to understand concepts through images, signs, and associations that allow us access well below the surface of existence. We don’t usually have formal introductions of these things. They aren’t often taught in a classroom or announced by the government. It’s spontaneous order, and there are a near-infinite number of examples of such things. That list includes flamingos.

Let’s check out what flamingos have come to mean to people all throughout the planet.

Flamingo Symbolism Around the World

Grace & Elegance

This is one of the most common associations for flamingos in our human world. Flamingos often come in various stunning shades of red, pink, and sometimes orange. People are quite unanimous in their awe of flamingo plumage. Their outstanding nature precedes them.

Flamingos are more than beautiful, though; they’re elegant and graceful, which are distinct. Yes, flamingos are beautiful. But standing on one leg, calmly wading in shallow waters, unified dances to facilitate mating, flying through the skies in flamboyances of thousands - flamingos have more to offer than just a pretty face.

Also, flamingos aren’t vicious, flesh-eating predators. They eat tiny crustaceans that hang out in mud that we as humans have zero personal connection to. They might as well be completely harmless, as far as we’re concerned.

Put it all together, and you have one of the greatest symbols for grace and elegance in our society.

Balance & Tranquility

Remember everything we just said about flamingos’ grace and elegance, especially the part about standing on one leg? That’s all intertwined with balance.

Some of the same qualities that make flamingos a symbol of visual appeal equate them to balance and tranquility, too. You won’t often see flamingos in much of a rush. Beyond the occasional squawks - which can become boisterous if done as a group - they don’t make too much noise. Flamingos are gangly and built a bit awkwardly, but they maintain a captivating poise. Human associations with flamingos are generally in calm waters in tropical scenes, and it doesn’t get a whole lot more tranquil than that.

If you want to symbolize balance and tranquility, a flamingo will get that message across, loud and clear.

Photo by Kues/Shutterstock.com

Flamingos in Dreams

In fairness, I don’t know how much I buy the common interpretations of flamingos in dreams. I think dreams are highly specific to their owners and sweeping generalizations about their meanings aren’t inherently helpful in aiding an individual in interpreting their private nighttime movies. That said, some people have tried to assign meanings to flamingos in dreams, and it’s good to pass that information along regardless of what I think.

There are ideas that flamingos enter our dreams as messengers. That message is not the same for everyone, but the thought is that the bird is coming to tell or show you something notable. The fowl is also considered a symbol of transformation.

If flamingos appear in your dreams, try to think about why. In what context did they appear? If they were flying above your head, maybe you’re searching for more freedom and independence in your life. If you see two flamingos whose body language displays love, then maybe you are feeling isolated in your life and need more intimacy with others. Dreams are not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing, but if flamingos show up in your dreams, then there could be a code to decipher within.

Love & Monogamy

Flamingos are not like most creatures in the animal kingdom - they sometimes form monogamous relationships with a fellow flamingo and stick with their partner until the bitter end. This is not always the case, though. Sometimes, flamingos will mate with a partner one year and not do the same with them the following year. 

Still, they tend to stay around to raise the chick and don’t bounce until that job is done. This is not universally done by living things on earth, and it is something that sets flamingos apart. It’s a big part of where their associations with love, monogamy, and dedication come from.

Flamingo Symbolism Beyond the Modern U.S.

Over the centuries, flamingos have held different meanings in different civilizations.

In ancient Egypt, flamingos were believed to be akin to Ra, a god with a human body and falcon, and Isis, a goddess with a flamingo-modeled headdress. This made flamingos sacred to the ancient Egyptians, which helps explain why they can be found in hieroglyphics and other Egyptian art from the time.

Photo by FotografodelosAndes/Shutterstock.com

Ancient Rome had a place for flamingos, too. They thought the birds fit all the descriptions from earlier in this article - grateful, elegant, beautiful - so they came to be pets of the rich and powerful, literally and in spirit. The Romans also used to eat flamingos. Their tongues were considered a special delicacy.

The Aztecs viewed the vibrant colors of flamingos as symbols of love and passion. 

Some Native American tribes have attributed balance and cooperation to the birds thanks to how its body all works together. Their lengthy necks coincide with staying close to your community, and their adaptability provides hope and a promise of new beginnings.

Flamingos play a role in Christianity, too. The birds are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, but they are implied to represent love, beauty, devotion, and truth. Their rough tongues are used to filter through water to find food, and that process is extrapolated to express the necessity for Christians to filter out lies and deceptions and be truthful in their words and actions.

In Hinduism, a religion rich in symbolism, flamingos are prominent. They are the embodiment of the “hamsa,” an aquatic bird. Metaphorically, this gives flamingos the ability to dictate good from evil, which comes from a mythical power to pull milk from a milk-water mix. Flamingos are not the only “hamsa” - geese and swans can also fit the bill. It’s more about being a bird of the water than specifically being a flamingo, but the fabulous fowl is included in the symbolism. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see flamingos decorate scenes in India and Southeast Asia. It doesn’t hurt flamingos’ reputation when they continue to come to India in droves.

This is the tip of the iceberg for the meanings that flamingos have held around the world in various cultures. Flamingos have had an important role in human history for thousands of years.

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