How Do Flamingos Turn Pink? | Do Flamingos Turn Pink From Eating Shrimp?

With long legs and pink feathers, Flamingos are known for their vibrant and striking pink appearance. This makes us wonder- are flamingos born pink? Well, they aren’t born pink but in fact, a dull grey. So, if it’s not genetic, how do flamingos turn pink?

How do flamingos turn pink?

Flamingos consume a diet that consists mainly of aquatic plants and insects that are rich in certain pigments. When the pigment gets extracted and broken down by their liver, it gets absorbed in fats. The fats are then stored in feathers which turn the dull grey flamingos pink.

Their food mainly consists of blue-green algae, smaller insects, and crustaceans which they found in pools’ bottom. The coloring pigment present in them dissolves in fats. Further the colored fat colors their beaks, legs, and feathers in the whole process. 

The process repeats each time they ingest pigment-containing food. The deposition of the fats containing pigment molecules gradually turns their color. It takes the first couple of years of flamingos’ life to turn their color from grey to pink.

When flamingos ingest food that contains large amounts of pigment for a long duration of time, not only their body but even their internal organs and excreta turns pink.

Why do flamingos turn pink?

Flamingos are pink because they consume food that contains pigments called carotenoids. The carotenoids contain beta carotene which is responsible for the flamingo’s pink color. It is a red-orange pigment found in high amounts within blue-green algae, and crustaceans.

These wading birds live in wetland habitats like lakes, swamps, and tidal flats. Thus, their food sources are limited to aquatic plants and insects which contain carotenoids.

Feeding on high amounts of the diet containing beta carotene results in a change of their color. So, if wondering what gives the flamingo its distinctive pink/orange color? The beta carotene is the answer.

The carotenoids are linked to protein molecules. The number of carotenoids consumed by flamingos determines the shade of the color. Therefore, flamingos can be seen in different shades like orange, dark pink, and even entirely white.

Many other animals and birds cannot feed on the crustaceans and algae due to the presence of toxic pigments called carotenoids in them. But due to the ability of flamingos to metabolize the carotenoids, they can consume the food rich in them. 

Related Read: Do Flamingos Attack or Kill Humans? | Flamingos Behavior | Are They Dangerous?

Do flamingos turn pink from eating shrimp?

Flamingos turn pink from eating shrimp and many other dietary sources such as blue-green algae and mollusk. This happens because shrimp contains the pigment called beta carotene which is responsible for the change in coloration. 

The young grey/white flamingos when delving into a diet containing brine shrimps and other food sources, they develop pink hues.

Shrimps are very common and easily accessible in the wetlands which makes it appropriate for flamingos to feed on them. Being toxic to other predators, shrimps are available in abundance. Therefore, they are the food option that flamingos are left with. 

Many believe that shrimps are the favorite dietary source of flamingos as they mostly feast on these tiny creatures. Hence, the most credit for the color change is given to shrimps.

The Flamingo feed on the shrimps by stirring up the mud present at the bottom of the lake because shrimps usually hide there. The birds reach down, take a beakful of water and mud, and strain the shrimps out of the mud. The remaining muddy water is thrown out.

Interesting Facts about Flamingo Colors

Flamingos are always liked and adored for their pinkish hues as it makes them even more spectacular and exotic. These birds are considered interesting because they change color. Here are some of the facts that are related to the Flamingos’ colors.

  • The pink color of Flamingos plays a special role during the mating season. These birds use their color to attract mates in a courtship ritual. The pinkier the flamingo is, the more are the chances of attracting a mate easily. 
  • The color of the flamingo determines the state of their health. The darker shades of pink are attained by the healthiest flamingos. This is because the color reciprocates the amount and quality of diet they ingest.
  • Both male and female flamingos can lose their pink hues during the breeding season as a large amount of their food is used for feeding their chicks. The breeding season is usually intensive and keeps the birds busy and exhausted. They are not in their good state of health during this time.
  • The difference in the color of flamingos is based on the location they are inhabited and the food available to them.
  • Young flamingos are not born with pink color but dull grey. But the other thing they get later is the curved bills. The bill of young flamingos gets curved later after a few months.
  • There are six species of the flamingo in which the American flamingo are more brightly colored. They are the only species that are native to North America. The other five species are found in other parts of the world including Africa and Asia.
  • The color of the whole body of flamingos turns pink but the feathers under their wings usually remain black. Their color black is only visible when they are flying.
  • In some of the cases, it has been seen that the flamingo egg yolks have a pinkish hue. However, in general, their egg yolks are similar to that of the chicken’s egg containing only white and yellow color. 
  • The word ‘flamingo’ is derived from the Latin word ‘flamenco’ which means flame-colored. Their orange-pink appearance is similar to the color of the flame. Therefore, flamingos are named after it.

Related Read: Bird Poop | Is Bird Poop Good Luck? Benefits, Pro’s & Cons With Interesting Facts

Conclusion 

Flamingos have their unique features but the most noticeable and fascinating one is their pink appearance that they get later after two to three years from birth. The diet plays a crucial role in deciding their hues. People admire flamingos because of their serene appearance and interesting facts

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