Why are flamingos pink

Flamingos are social birds found mainly in the American Continents, but there are two species of flamingos that are also found outside the continent in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. Flamingos are white, pink or orange in color, but unlike most creatures, their color is more a result of their food habit rather than just genetics. In fact, a young flamingo exhibits only gray feathers until of course it begins its typical diet that causes the color to change into shades of pink or orange over time.

Flamingos diet on blue-green algae, shrimps and other crustaceans which is the prime reason for the color that they develop as they mature. These algae and small life forms contain the pigment carotenoid, which is broken into orange and pink pigment molecules by the action of the liver within the bird’s body. As time passes by, these pigments are deposited regularly on the beak, legs and plumage of the flamingo, thus giving it the pink or orange color that they are famous for. The shade of the color however, depends on whether the bird is taking in the carotenoid directly from the algae or from smaller beings that live off the algae. If the flamingos of a particular area feeds mainly on algae, then it will develop a much darker shade of pink or orange than flamingos that feed chiefly on crustaceans like shrimps and prawn. the pink color of the flamingo specifically develops due to astaxanthine molecules within their diet.

Flamingos brought up in captivity would mostly be white unless they are fed with a diet that consists of carotenoid-rich crustaceans or algae. Earlier it was believed that orange salmons, being rich in carotenoids themselves, would be a good substitute for the natural diet of the flamingos, but it has been observed that salmons bred under artificial conditions do not get to feed on the crustaceans that make them rich in carotenoids in the first place, therefore rendering it an ineffective diet to make flamingos pink. In zoos and animal protection centers, flamingos are also directly supplemented with canthaxanthin and beta-carotene along their diet to keep them as colorful as their wild counterparts.