Why Are Flamingos Pink?

Why are flamingos pink, anyway? Most scientists say flamingos are pink because of the food they eat. The various types of flamingos range from light pink to a dark orange-reddish color. These striking pink birds live in the Carribean, Andes Mountains, Europe, Asia and Africa. Let's explore why are flamingos pink.

Crop Milk When flamingo chicks hatch, they are gray or white with pinkish legs. They stay gray or white for about three years and then they turn pink! What do they eat during this time? Something called crop milk, which comes from either the mother or father flamingo. This crop milk substance may answer part of the question about why flamingos are pink. Crop milk is dark red in color. Both mother and father flamingos feed rich, dark red crop milk from their upper digestive tracts to baby flamingos.

Alpha and Beta Carotene The flamingo diet consists of lots of alpha and beta carotenes. They stir up mud in shallow water and strain it with their beaks to get the food out of it. Most flamingos eat blue-green algae, crustaceans, mollusks, seeds and diatoms. Some eat shrimp and even small fish. The carotenes in the food are digested and deposited in the feathers. By then, the carotenes have a pink color, thus answering why are flamingos pink.

In Captivity Flamingo colors fade unless they are fed a natural diet quite rich in alpha and beta carotenes. Zoos get special pellets to supplement the diets of captive flamingos with carotenes. This keeps the captive birds feathers, faces and legs rosy flamingos pink.

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