Why are Flamingos pink?

Flamingo, Water, Wing, Bird, Animal

With”That is just the way it is”. Elephants are gray, canaries are yellow, so why shouldn’t flamingos be pink? Well, there actually is an excellent reason.

First of all, young flamingos are not pink, they are gray (like an elephant) for about the first three years of life, and 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 existence, the Caribbean flamingo, is truly a very bright red red. Generally speaking, adult flamingos are either red, pink, or someplace in between. That still begs the question however, “Why are Flamingos Pink”.

Genetics would appear to be the obvious answer, but it is not the best one. There is the old expression”You are what you eat”, and flamingos are pink because of their diet. If you put a flamingo in captivity, and give it something to eat rather than its usual diet, the bird will so start 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 special 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. Their natural habitat is in shallow lakes and wetlands, where shrimp tend to flourish. When you think of it, somebody who likes carrots and eats a few a day can take on a slightly orange color to their complexion. That actually happens, and isn’t 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 bit 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 response, you can tell them that flamingos also fly and march, two more details about flamingos that definitely are true. We are so used to seeing flamingos from the zoo only standing on one leg (it’s the most comfortable way for them to stand), or as lawn ornaments in the neighborhood, we forget that they are quite capable of flight, and in fact fly from one place to another in enormous flocks. Insofar as marching is concerned, should you see a group (really a colony) of flamingos on the ground, and watch them over a period of time, you will eventually see them march.

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