Why are flamingos pink?
The color of the flamingo is explained by its diet.
Perched on their tall stilts, flamingos aren’t just impressive for their stature. Its incredible pink color is eye-catching too. But where does it come from?
Full of wonder, nature offers countless shows to those who take the time to visit it. Like the colorful fireworks on the wings of some butterflies, the shells of some insects, the scales of some fish or even the feathers of some birds such as flamingos.
Flamingo, a species of flamingo family
The flamingo, known as Phoenicopterus roseus, is a bird in the Phoenicopteridae (or Phoenicopteridae) family. It is made up of 6 species: Lesser Flamingo, James Flamingo, Caribbean Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo, Andean Flamingo and of course the Flamingo.
These large water birds with long legs and long necks live in colonies in moist, shallow and salty areas: ponds, estuaries, sand banks, lagoons, salt lakes …
So they are found on different continents: Central and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe. Flamingos, on the other hand, live mainly in southern Spain and southern France, but also in Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia.
And if not all flamingos are named after flamingos, they all have the distinction of being pink. Their plumage is pink, their beak is pink, and even their feet are pink.
A diet like no other
Flamingos are not born pink, they are. In fact, when a flamingo is born it is white or grey, not pink. It only gradually colors as it grows.
If genetics doesn’t explain its unique aspect, it is diet! Because in their diet we find the pigment responsible for this famous pink color. Diet consisting mainly of insects, fish, aquatic plants and crustaceans.
Thanks to its hooked beak and with the help of its tongue, the flamingo is able to filter salt water and repel the mud that has penetrated its beak only to catch its prey.
Among them: a pink seaweed and a type of shrimp called Artemia salina.
This pink algae, called Dunaliella salina, grows in lagoons and sandbanks and contains so-called photosynthetic pigments. Carotenoid pigments, similar to carrots, but also of Artemia salina shrimp. These pigments settle on the skin and feathers as they are digested by flamingos – as well as other flamingo species.
Flamingos can be gray
The pink color of the flamingo can range from pinkish white to very dark pink or even orange. It all depends on the environment in which flamingos live and how much food they can get.
For this reason, some of them, born in captivity and deprived of their natural habitat, turn gray or are deprived forever, never turning pink.