Has your little one ever wondered what makes a flamingo pink? Get ready to share a colorful lesson in ornithology.

With vibrant pink and orange plumage that seems sunset-inspired, flamingos may very well win the “best dressed” award of the avian world, but did you know that baby flamingos are actually born with gray feathers? The distinctive pink flamingo color develops thanks to their selective diet, which primarily consists of organisms — such as shrimp and algae — high in pigments called carotenoids. These carotenoids are the same pigments that cause shrimp to turn from gray to pink when we boil them!

Carotenoids are essential to maintaining the flamingo’s signature color. If a flamingo were to adopt a meal plan similar to other birds who feast on insects, seeds or berries, his feathers would eventually become white or a faded pale pink.

Though algae may not be at the top of your family’s grocery list, humans also eat foods rich in carotenoids. These pigments are responsible for many of the red, yellow and orange fruits and veggies that find their way to our dinner plates and lunchboxes, including carrots, apricots, squash, mangoes and sweet potatoes. Thanks to a varied and balanced diet, however, we can enjoy these carotenoid-filled foods without having to worry that our skin will change color overnight.

 

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    • Karina, thanks for visiting Wonderopolis. Flamingo feather color varies, ranging from pale pink to reddish pink or orangish red. So maybe you have seen a reddish Flamingo in a zoo.

  1. This is a “wonderful” opportunity for parents and kids to have exciting conversations about the many adventures that await the curious mind. There are so many positive conversations that can take place after reading just a paragraph when it is presented in a way to inspire curiosity. Kids need our time and we need to inspire their need to explore and wonder…. Keep it coming.

  2. Love this idea of a Daily Wonder and the combination of video with reading! Congratulations on launching this.

    One request: Can you write future text in very simple English? Using simple English will help adults who are in both ABE and ESL adult education. For example, the following quote from the flamingo article uses difficult vocabulary and a complex structure and sounds geared for college-educated parents rather than adults with low literacy skills: “With vibrant pink and orange plumage that seems sunset-inspired, flamingos may very well win the “best dressed” award of the avian world, but did you know that baby flamingos are actually born with gray feathers?”

    • Betsy, Thanks for your feedback on Wonderopolis! We are glad you like how the Wonder of the Day is presented.

      There are many factors considered for writing the Wonders of the Day and one of them is reading level. Currently, of all the Wonders produced the range based on Flesch-Kincaid is from 5.9 to 9.3 with an average of 7.7. Many of the Wonders at the higher reading level are those that include content-specific vocabulary related to disciplines such as science and history. This type of vocabulary pushes the reading level higher although it might be written for a mid-level reader. A second consideration is that we want to promote rich, conversational language for all families. Along with the story nature of the Wonders of the Day is the desire, on our part, to increase vocabulary, which is essential to comprehending ideas and building background knowledge. We will be developing functions for the site that assist users with words they are not familiar with and for which they need definitions. Watch for those in the near future.

      We will continue to keep an eye on reading level and hope you return to experience more Wonders of the Day soon!

  3. Thanks so much for the information and the video. We are homeschooling this year and are finishing up the animal portion of science. This information delighted my daughter and she loved the flamingos.

    She’s at a wonderful age of curiosity and we are looking forward for more to explore on your website!

    • Amber, we are so glad you stopped by Wonderopolis, and we would love to hear how you turn your home into a Wonderopolis.

  4. I agree that it would help to keep the reading level basic to include many families and parents who are not college educated. All children should have the opportunity to explore
    literacy and adventure with their parents. Let’s hope this can become a real treat on a regular basis. The topics are endless. Keep them coming.

  5. I’m Wills. My mom showed me Wonderopolis. I’m 13 years old. I all ready knew that flamingos were pink because of what they eat – BUT – I didn’t know what Carotenoids were. Now I do! Thank you for telling me that. Your Friend, Wills

  6. Thanks for your reply regarding reading level. It’s not just a question of vocabulary, but also of *complexity* of sentence structure … and background information. For example, even though the words “best” and “dressed” are easy words, a low-level reader may not know what “a best dressed award” is, expecially when the context they are picturing is the zoo. The piece on flamingos would be too difficult for any of my own ABE or ESL adult learners to comprehend. It would be nice if sentences could be simple,direct, and concrete, and include explanations of difficult vocabulary. e.g.”Flamingos have bright pink and orange plumage (feathers), so you may be surprised to know that baby flamingos are born with gray feathers!”

    • Hi, Grace!

      We thought that was an interesting fact, too! Those special carotenoids sure keep flamingos “in the pink!” :-)

    • You made our day with your comment today, Joe! We’re glad you think Wonderopolis is fun and interesting…we hope you visit us again soon! :-)

  7. Hey, this is Betty from MC. I thought this wonder was wonderful! I learned that baby flamingos were born pink. I also used my background knowledge by thinking of what I knew before, because I like to be smarter then the computer like Mrs.Caplin does. I thought this wonder was fantastic like summer!

    • We really enjoyed your comment, Betty! We also like that you said you like to be smarter than the computer! Mrs. Caplin is a super smart and super awesome teacher! You are really lucky! :-)

  8. Hi!
    I’m Leah and I’m from Mrs. Caplin’s class.
    I learned what a flamingo eats is the color of their feathers. I thought that was very cool.
    One time I was at the zoo and I saw white flamingos!!!
    I thought it was the weirdest thing, but now I know they probably ate something
    that was the color white.
    I was just wondering – do flamingos fly?
    I mean they have feathers so they probably do, but I’ve never seen a flamingo in the air.
    Have to go but I’ll try to comment again soon!

  9. WOW. That was my favorite wonder yet. It is cool that human food contains carotenoids. I’m glad that I don’t change colors from Carotenoids. I never knew that the diet of the flamingo has to do with it’s color. Before this wonder, I only knew that flamingos stand on one leg when they sleep. I’ve seen them do that at my local zoo. I wonder how they balance that easily.

    • You know, we’ve wondered the same thing about how flamingos balance on one leg, Alex! Their legs are so long and skinny…how do they support their bodies? Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Hi, Max! Flamingos get their pink color from eating organisms, such as shrimp and algae, that contain high amounts of certain pigments called carotenoids. You can read all about carotenoids in this Wonder of the Day®! It’s the very first Wonder of the Day® ever explored in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Hello, Vikkie! Thanks for visiting our very first Wonder of the Day®! We hope you learned some “colorful” new things about flamingos! :-)

    • Hello, Jackson! Wonderopolis was created by some super AWESOME folks who wanted to give Wonder Friends of all ages from all over the world a FUN place to learn new things! There is a new, different, exciting Wonder of the Day® to explore each and every day! We’re glad you visited our very FIRST Wonder about flamingos and left us this comment to let us know you were here! :-)

  10. Hi I am Evan. I am Autistic and I am having Someone help me type. I like wonderopolis cause
    it has cool wonders. Is Santa real? I am 8 years old. Oh, here is a joke, Why Was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9! Ha Ha Ha Ha! I love that joke.

    • That is one of our favorite jokes, Evan! Thank you for making us laugh today and for letting us know you like hanging out in Wonderopolis! Lots of Wonder Friends believe Santa is real, but some others don’t. We know one thing’s for sure…the laughter of the holidays and spirit of caring for others is a GREAT gift we can give each other throughout the year! :-)

  11. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I never knew that flamingos are pink just because of their diet! If we don’t change color from our food that contains carotenoids
    then why do flamingos? I also wonder if a flamingo were to eat lettuce would it turn green? This wonder was phenomenal!

    • Hi, Sarah! Thank you for leaving us this PHENOMENAL comment! We appreciate your questions, too! As humans, we eat a varied diet. That means that we eat lots of different foods throughout the day (vegetables, carbohydrates, proteins). Because we eat a combination of foods, the concentration of carotenoids and carotene-rich foods is spread out among the other foods and we’re not usually affected.

      Did you know that sometimes a baby’s nose and face can temporarily turn orange if his/her parents feed him/her too many types of baby foods that are rich in carotene (like carrots, squash, spinach and sweet potatoes)? It’s a condition known as “carotenemia,” and It’s kind of like the flamingo factor! :-)

  12. I love wonderopolis and I just keep reading wonders and I am the same Hannah from wonder #3! Wonderopolis is cool, awesome, smart, big, awesome +100, and the best website in the history of websites!!!!!!!!!!! :)

    Love,
    Hannah Kern:) :) :) :) :) :) :)

    • WOW, Hannah! We REALLY appreciate all the great things you said about Wonderopolis! It makes us super happy to know that you like exploring past Wonders and learning, learning, learning! You’re our kind of Wonder Friend! :-)

    • WOW! Thanks for sharing another GREAT comment with us today, Hannah! Wonder of the Day® #1 is a favorite of MANY Wonder Friends…thanks for exploring it. It’s the Wonder that started it all! :-)

    • Hi, Mrs. Armfelt’s third grade class! We did a little extra WONDERing after we got your flamingo question, and found out that, according to Seaworld.org, scientists don’t have a definite answer about how long flamingos live. One flamingo at the Philadelphia Zoo lived to be 44 years old, though! We think that’s a really long time! :-)

  13. Why are flamingos pink? How are flamingos pink? How did they get there name? I liked this wonder. It is cool. How long have they been alive? You guys are cool doing this on wonderopolis. When did you guys start? Is there more than one person doing wonderopolis?

    • GREAT questions, Caleb! Did you know that we surprise our Wonder Friends with a new, exciting Wonder of the Day® each day? Today (2/8/12), the Wonder of the Day® is #493, so that means that Wonderopolis has been around for 493 days! Isn’t that cool? There are LOTS of awesome people who work hard to make Wonderopolis a super fun place for learners of all ages to visit! :-)

    • You’re RIGHT about that, Taylor! Way to go! We really like your question about elephants, too! We think it would make a GREAT idea for a future Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We think that question ROCKS, Taylor! Wonderopolis was created as a FUN place where learners of all ages could visit, explore, and learn something new EVERY single day! :-)

  14. Flamingos are pink because of what they eat, like shrimp. Some shrimp are reddish because shrimp can be reddish or pink.

    • Hi, Maggie! We like your comment very much! Thanks for sharing some of the things you learned by exploring this Wonder of the Day® about flamingos! :-)

    • Well, we think YOU rock for saying such nice things about Wonderopolis, Dustin, and we think your teacher ROCKS for sharing Wonderopolis with you and your classmates! We hope you ALL have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • That’s an AWESOME question, Dustin! Flamingos can be different shades of pink, depending on their species and the amount of carotene-rich foods they have in their diets! Some flamingos are almost white, and some are super bright pink! You can see two different shades of flamingo pink and learn more about flamingos by visiting this GREAT page on the San Diego Zoo’s website: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-flamingo.html

      We haven’t seen any blue, green, or purple flamingos yet, but we will be on the lookout! :-)

    • We’re so happy to hear that you went exploring in Wonderopolis today, Clayton, and that you found this AMAZING Wonder that started it all! Wonder of the Day® #1 holds a super special place in our hearts! :-)

    • We think your comment is AMAZING, Kassi! We’re glad you learned some cool facts about flamingos by exploring Wonder of the Day® #1…the Wonder that started it all! :-)

  15. Hi Wonderopolis, it’s me again and I hope you still remember me from a while ago but I was wondering if one of the next wonders could be like how does a phone ring or something funny so my class have a laugh if you don’t want to, then please tell me!
    Love,
    Hannah Kern

    P.S. I STILL LOVE WONDEROPOLIS!

  16. Hi Wonderopolis People!
    XD
    First I’d like to tell you that this article was very interesting! learned some interesting words like, orthinology & pigment. I thought it was interesting that flamingos are born with gray feathers. I’d think that old flamingos had gray feathers! I also thought that it was cool that cartenoids are in algae and our many vegetables that we eat today! Also had a question. If a flamingo had a diet of blueberries would they turn blue???? That would be hilarious to see a blue flamingo walking inside the flamingo exhibit at the zoo and the rest of the flamingos would be pink!!! I also have a fact for you guys at wonderopolis. Did you know their are 6 types of flamingos? Their are Chilean Flamingos, Andean Flamingos, Greater Flamingos, Lesser Flamingos, American Flamingos, and James’ Flamingos. Thats kind of a lot of flamingos if you think about it. Well it was a great topic!

    sincerely,
    Team McNeil 6 :D

    • We think it would be VERY interesting to see if a flamingo would turn blue (or purple) from eating blueberries, Team McNeil 6! We’ll have to do some more WONDERing to find out if that has ever happened before! Thanks so much for sharing all those types of flamingos with everyone here in Wonderopolis! We like learning new things, too! :-)

  17. I have always wondered why, and now I know! I love flamingos and now I can tell people why they are pink! I LOVE WONDEROPOLIS!!!!!!!!!

    • That’s so GREAT, Emma! We ALWAYS love hearing when our Wonder Friends (like YOU!) learn cool new things in Wonderopolis! Thank you for visiting the Wonder that started it all…Wonder of the Day® #1! :-)

    • We’re so happy you found the Wonder that started it all, Mushkale! We hope you had a WONDERful time learning what gives flamingos their signature pink color! You are an AMAZING Wonder Friend and we really appreciate your enthusiasm for learning! :-)

    • Hi, Wonder Friend, “A!” Wonderopolis is a SUPER SPECIAL place, but it’s also the name we use to collectively represent all the AWESOME folks who live and work here! Thanks so much for leaving us this really cool comment today! :-)

    • Hi, “A!” Thanks for leaving us another comment today! We’re glad you stopped by today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  18. I knew that flamingos were pink because they eat shrimp, but it’s still cool to read about it! Wonderopolis is so fun!!!!:))

    • We really appreciate hearing that, Liam! Wonderopolis sure is a FUN place to learn, share and WONDER, isn’t it? :-)

    • Hi, Autumn School Girl! It’s great to hear from you again…we hope you are doing GREAT! What other things are you WONDERing about flamingos? :-)

    • That’s right, Rithik! We like to call this Wonder of the Day® the “Wonder that started it all!” Thanks so much for visiting it today and WONDERing about flamingos with us! :-)

    • Hi there, Micah! We are so glad that you now know why flamingos are pink– we think it’s very cool to learn about different animals together! While we don’t have a game to guess this Wonder, you can always guess the next day’s Wonder by using the clues at the bottom of the page.

      Can you take a guess for tomorrow’s Wonder based on these clues?

      “Wonder what’s next? Tomorrow’s delicious Wonder of the Day has a lot in common with the turtle!” :)

    • We’re thrilled to hear that, Rashma! It’s cool that you checked out our very first Wonder, too! We have a special place in our hearts for all the Wonders, too! Do you have a favorite, or a Wonder of your own to share? :)

  19. Dear Wonderopolis, this is really cool. I’ve been reading wonders for about a year now and decided to read the very first one….. THANKS!!! :)

    • We’re so glad you went back to the very first Wonder, Opinion_girl13! Thanks for telling us how long you’ve been WONDERing with us– we are so lucky to have a great Wonder Friend like you! Have a SUPER weekend! :)

    • What a SUPER question, Ethan! While flamingos are often found in zoos or in warm, watery climates all over the world… they may not be best as pets. Unless you live in a warm, swampy area, flamingos live best outdoors. However, we bet you’ll enjoy learning all about animals and pets– check out Wonder #794– Do You Have an Unusual Pet? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/do-you-have-an-unusual-pet/ :)

    • We bet some people turn pink when they blush, but we guess we’ll have to wait until Halloween to turn as pink as a flamingo (by dressing up, of course)! Thanks for visiting us, Ran! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Kim! We are so glad you learned all about flamingos– thank you for visiting our very first Wonder! :) We Wonder if you enjoy eating shrimp as much as flamingos do? :)

    • Way to go, Wonder Friend Elly! We are glad you had already been WONDERing about flamingos– you know so much! Thanks for visiting us, and we hope to Wonder with you again soon! :)

    • We’re telling the truth, Wonder Friend Brittany! Thanks for sharing your comment and learning something new about those cool, pink flamingos! :)

  20. Sooooooooooooooo they’re Pink Why???

    HAY its Max!!! I Just Wanted To Know Why are Flamingos Pink
    And If You Would Answer To This Comment, Because I Went Back About
    1000 Wonders! :D How Would You Know If It Was Here?
    :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

    • Hey there, Max! Thanks for saying hello today! We look forward to answering comments from our Wonder Friends each and every day. We’ve got so many Wonders to share that we are glad to know that you have visited the very first Wonder! Flamingos are so much fun! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How the saying “you are what you eat” might be true in understanding that our daily diet affects our physical characteristics
  • That where we live — our habitat — often dictates the foods that make up our diet
  • The importance of maintaining a balanced diet for optimal health

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

The National Zoo is home to hundreds of birds from all over the world, including about 60 flamingos. Some of the flamingos at The National Zoo have been living there since 1965! Check out The National Zoo’s Flamingo Cam to see what they’re up to right now.

Keep a watchful eye out, and you may even spot other types of birds. No need to bring binoculars. Just spread your wings and click to watch The National Zoo’s flamingo flock in real-time!

 

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