Do Flamingos Eat Fish? Facts About Fish And Flamingos

Flamingos are stunning birds with striking pink plumage and long curved beaks. They are usually found wading in shallow water in flocks with anywhere between a few dozen and a few thousand birds. 

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Intro Video - Backtobirds

Since they spend a large part of their time in and around water, it is safe to assume that they find their food in the water. But what exactly do flamingos eat? Do they eat fish? 

These birds have interesting feeding habits which are quite different from those of other birds!

What do flamingos eat?

Flamingos tend to live near water, specifically lakes and swamps. This means that most of their food comes from the water. Interestingly, flamingos are omnivores, because they eat both animals and plant matter. 

Flamingos primarily eat blue-green algae, red algae, fish, mollusks, insect larvae, and small crustaceans like shrimp. They also eat small fish. 

Different species of flamingos have different food preferences and this is based on their beak types. Some species have shallow-keeled beaks and feed on insects, aquatic invertebrates, and small fish. Others have deep-keeled beaks and eat brine shrimp and slightly larger organisms. 

Related Read: Do Flamingos Eat Shrimp? Are Shrimps Good And Safe For Them?

What fish do flamingos eat?

Flamingos eat any small fish available in the water where they live. They prefer blue-green algae and brine shrimp in particular. 

How do flamingos hunt fish?

Flamingos have an interesting way of catching their food from the water. Since they mostly stand in shallow water, they lower their long necks and hang their heads near the water such that their bills hang upside down in the water. 

These birds then move their heads from side to side so that they can catch any fish or crustaceans that may be present in the water. Since water and mud also enter their mouth, they have to filter it out. This is done using their tongue which acts as a piston. 

The tongue pushes the food past the lamellae and the water goes back into the bill. The flamingos can throw this water out from their bills.

Often, when food is scarce of hiding, flamingos stamp their feet in the mud and water to stir up food that they can catch. 

Related Read: How Do Flamingos Turn Pink? | Do Flamingos Turn Pink From Eating Shrimp?

Why do flamingos eat upside down?

First of all, this view is slightly inaccurate. Flamingos do not eat upside down. It is only their bills which they hold upside down.

It is important to understand that flamingos are filter feeders. This means that they take in large amounts of water and then filter out their food from this. 

Flamingos have structures called lamellae which help them to filter out food and drain out the water and mud. The strong tongue is covered in bristle-like structures and it pushes out and pulls in water.

The beak is held upside down in the water so the flamingo can take in a larger quantity of water and food and then easily drain the excess water or food which may be too large or too small for it. 

Most birds have a fixed upper, but flamingos don’t. They have a fixed lower beak instead and so the top beak functions as the bottom beak. 

What do baby flamingos eat?

Like all baby birds, flamingo chicks are very small and they have a grey or white color. They are dependent on their parents for food in the initial weeks/

Flamingo parents produce a sort of ‘crop milk’ in their bodies. This milk is bright red in color, much like blood, and is made especially for the chicks. This milk is rich in proteins and fats, which are incredibly important for quick growth. 

This milk gives flamingos a light pink color which gets darker with time. After a few weeks, the baby flamingos are ready to leave their nest and start feeding with the group as adults.

Related Read: Can You Overfeed A Baby Bird? How To Feed A Baby Bird

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Interesting facts about flamingos and fish as food.

What are flamingos fed in zoos?

In zoos, flamingos are fed special pellets which have all the nutrients flamingos need to stay healthy. It is ensured that they consume optimal amounts of beta-carotene so they retain their lovely pink coloration. 

Fun facts:

1. Flamingos are pink because of their food

Believe it or not, flamingos are not born naturally pink. They are pink because of the food they consume. 

Baby flamingos are actually grey or white.. They start getting a pink coloration when they start eating. The foods flamingos eat are rich in carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, which gives them their pink coloration. 

Beta-carotene is actually toxic for most living beings but flamingos have special digestive features which help them break down this compound safely. This pigment then gives color to their feathers. 

A similar phenomenon is observed in salmon and shrimp, which are also a part of the diet of a flamingo. 

2. Some flamingo species are less pink than others

This is also because of their food. Species like the Chilean flamingo are less pink than the Caribbean flamingo because their diet has a lower concentration of beta-carotene.

Conclusion

Flamingos get their food from the water they live in. They eat various things including fish, shrimp, mollusks like snails, insect larvae, and more.

These birds use the process of filter-feeding to get their food. It is called so because they use special structures to filter out things they do not need to eat.

Additionally, the sticking pink color of flamingos is actually due to the food they eat. A compound called beta-carotene is responsible for this color.

Baby Flamingos growing up