What’s the deal with Flamingos?

Free stock photo of water, animal, lake, birds

It would seem to make sense to answer the question”Why are flamingos pink?” With”That is just the way it is”. Elephants are gray, canaries are yellow, so why shouldn’t flamingos be pink? Well, there really is a very good reason.

First of all, young flamingos aren’t pink, they are grey (like an elephant) for about the first few decades of life, after which they turn pink. Not all adult flamingos are pink though most are either pink or a shade of red near pink. Of the five species of flamingo in life, the Caribbean flamingo, is actually a very bright crimson red. In general, adult flamingos are either red, pink, or somewhere in between. That still begs the question however, “Why are Flamingos Pink”.

Genetics would seem to be the obvious answer, but it is not the best one. There’s the old expression”You are what you eat”, and flamingos are pink due to their diet. If you place a flamingo in captivity, and give it something to eat rather than its usual diet, the bird will so begin to lose its coloring, and eventually become more white than pink. The fact that we do not see more white flamingos in zoos is because the zookeepers are careful to provide the flamingos a distinctive flamingo food, containing all the nutrients they would get in their natural habitats.

A flamingo’s diet is high in beta-carotene, the same substance we ingest when we eat carrots. Among other things, flamingos eat crustaceans, particularly shrimp. Their natural habitat is in shallow lakes and wetlands, where fish have a tendency to flourish. Flamingos also eat algae, another source of beta-carotine and carotenoid pigments (red). When you think of it, somebody who likes carrots and eats several a day can take on a slightly orange hue to their complexion. That really happens, and is not unhealthy although it may seem so.

, you can honestly say it is because they eat shrimp. You can go into some detail with the cartenoid piece if you desire, but for our purposes, just saying shrimp should suffice. Then if you’re pressed, you can cite cartenoids and beta-carotine, like that’s something everyone should already know!

If the person still does not believe your answer, you can let them know that flamingos also fly and march, two more details about flamingos that definitely are accurate. We’re so used to seeing flamingos from the zoo only standing on one leg (it is the most comfortable way for them to stand), or as lawn ornaments in the neighborhood, we forget they’re quite capable of flight, and actually fly from one place to another in huge flocks. Insofar as marching is concerned, should you see a group (actually a colony) of flamingos on the ground, and watch them over a time period, you will eventually see them march. You’ll know it when you see it.

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