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.