Is there a reason flamingos pink?

Is there a reason flamingos pink?

Orange Flamingo

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

First of all, young flamingos aren’t pink, they are gray (such as an elephant) for about the first few decades of life, and they turn pink. Not all adult flamingos are pink though most are either pink or a shade of red close to pink. Of the five species of flamingo in life, the Caribbean flamingo, is truly a very bright crimson red. Generally speaking, adult flamingos are red, pink, or somewhere in between. That still begs the question however, “Why are Flamingos Pink”.

Genetics would appear to be the obvious answer, but it’s not the best one. There’s the old saying”You are what you eat”, and flamingos are pink because of their diet. If you place 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. Among other things, flamingos eat crustaceans, particularly shrimp. Their normal habitat is in shallow lakes and wetlands, where fish have a tendency to thrive. When you think of it, somebody who likes carrots and eats several a day can take on a slightly orange color to their complexion. That really happens, and is not unhealthy although it may seem so.

Now when someone asks you “Why are flamingos pink?” , you can truthfully say that it is because they eat shrimp. You can go into some detail with the cartenoid piece if you desire, but for our purposes, just saying shrimp should suffice. Then if you’re pressed, you can cite cartenoids and beta-carotine, as if that’s something everyone should already know!

If the person still doesn’t believe your answer, you can tell them that flamingos also fly and march, two more facts about flamingos that definitely are accurate. We’re so used to seeing flamingos from the zoo only standing on one leg (it is the most comfortable way for them to stand), or as lawn ornaments in the area, we forget that they are quite capable of flight, and actually fly from one place to another in huge flocks. Insofar as marching is concerned, should you find a group (really a colony) of flamingos on the ground, and watch them over a period of time, you’ll eventually see them march. You will know it when you see it.


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