Why Are Flamingos Pink?

Birds are one of the the most colorful creatures in the animal kingdom. But when you think of birds with an unusual color you probably think of the flamingo. Flamingo’s are most known for their pink hue.  But where exactly do they get this unique color from?

Flamingo’s are the perfect example of the saying, you are what you eat. When flamingo’s are first born, they do not automatically have the pink hue we are so familiar with. Baby flamingo’s are born with grey feathers which color to pink as they grow older due to their diet.

But pink is not the only color flamingos can come in. Some flamingos can be orange or white depending on what they eat and how much of it.

The most popular pink color is due to the brine shrimp and blue-green algae that flamingo’s commonly eat. Once eaten, the liver will break down the organic pigments, or carotenoids, into pink and orange pigment molecules. These molecules will then be absorbed in fat and distributed to the feathers, face and legs of the flamingos to give off that pink hue.

Carotenoids are mainly found in algae so flamingo’s who eat more algae will be brighter in pink than those that may eat shrimp, insects, and small fish where the pigments can be diluted.

Another animal you may see this in is with salmon which is also known for its pink color due to its diet of shrimp and krill.

But don’t use this as an excuse to not eat your brussel sprouts in fear of turning green. Although we may eat the same items, our diets are more balanced and consist of a wider variety so there is no worry of our skin or hair turning a different shade.  

So that’s why Flamingos are pink, that took some thinking!

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