Flamingo Facts: Food Turns Feathers Pink


Flamingos are big birds, which can be identified by their long necks, sticklike legs and reddish or pink feathers. Flamingos are a living example of the expression “you’re what you eat.” The colors of red and pink of a flamingo’s feathers result from eating pigments found in algae and invertebrates.

There are six species of flamingos according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Greater flamingo lesser flamingo Chilean flamingo Andean flamingo, James’ (or puna) the flamingo, and American (or Caribbean) flamingo.

The greater flamingo is the tallest species. It can be 3.9 feet to 4.7 feet (1.25 to 1.45 meters) tall and weigh up to 7.7 pounds. According to Sea World, it weighs around 3.5 kilograms. The smallest species is the lesser flamingo that is 2.6 feet (80 cm) and weighs 5.5 pounds. (2.5 kg). The wingspan of flamingos ranges from 37 inches (95 cm) to 59 inches (150 cm).


American flamingos reside in the West Indies, Yucatan, in the northern part of South America and along the Galapagos Islands. Chilean, Andean, and James’ flamingos can be found in South America. The greater and lesser flamingos, however, live in Africa. Greater flamingos are also located in the Middle East and India.


According to Sea World, Flamingos eat small fish and larvae, as well as red and blue-green algae, blue-green and roe algae and crustaceans. Their tendency to eat both meat and vegetation makes them an omnivore.

Flamingos are pink because the algae they consume are awash in beta carotene, an organic chemical that is a reddish orange pigment. (Beta carotene can be found in many plants, but is most prominently found in spinach, tomatoes pumpkins, sweet potato and carrots, obviously.) Similar carotenoids with pigments are found in the crustaceans and mollusks that flamingos eat.

Carotenoid levels in their diets vary across regions of the globe This is the reason American Flamingos tend to be bright red and orange however, flamingos from the drought-plagued Lake Nakuru in central Kenya tend to be paler pink.

If a flamingo stopped eating carotenoids-rich foods and its feathers begin to grow in with a paler shade and eventually the feathers that are reddish are likely to molt. Feathers that have molted lose their pinkish hue.

The type of beak that a the flamingo’s has will determine what it consumes. The bill of Andean, James’, and Lesser flamingos are known as”deep-keeled. “deep-keeled” bill. They consume a lot of algae. The American, Chilean, and Chilean flamingos are larger and have deeper-keeled bill, which allows them to consume small fish, invertebrates and even insects.

For food, flamingos shake into the bottom of the lake by dragging their feet across the water and then dip their beaks through the mud and water to catch their dinner.



Colonies are groups of Flamingos. The colonies work together to shield one another from predators and to care for the young.

The Flamingos are monogamous, as per to Sea World. They will usually stay with their mate once they have met. A group of flamingos will have a mate at the same time so that all of the eggs hatch simultaneously. The pair will build nests of mounds of mud and females will lay one egg at a given time, according to Smithsonian National Zoo.

The eggs are a little larger than the eggs of large chickens that measure 3 to 3.5 inches (78-90 millimeters) and 4 to 5 pounds (115-140 grams). The egg takes between 27 and 31 days for hatching, and the chick that emerges will only be 2.5 to 3.2 pounds (73 to 90 grams). Young chicks reach maturity between 3 to five years old.

Baby flamingos can be either gray or white. In the early years of their lives, they’ll become pink. Flamingos can live up to 50 years in wild setting or 20-30 years at the Zoo.

Additional facts

Fossil evidence indicates that the group from which flamingos evolved is extremely old and was present around 30 million years ago, long before the other avian orders evolved, according to Sea World.

Although it is not known the reason why flamingos sit on one foot however, it is suggested that they do so to conserve heat. They also consider it to be a comfortable position to rest in.

While it is widely believed that Flamingos are a tropical bird, they are also able to live and thrive in cold climates as long as they have access to plenty of food and water.

More than 1,000,000 flamingos have been known to gather in East Africa, creating the largest known flock.


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