Why Are Flamingos Pink?

Have You Ever Wondered…

  • Why are flamingos pink?
  • What do flamingos eat?
  • What are carotenoids?

Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by “why are flamingos pink” Thanks for Interest.

We were hanging out on the Wonderopolis seashore the other day when we overheard an interesting conversation between a seagull and a pelican:

Seagull: Hey Pete! What are you doing?

Pelican: Howdy Steve! I was just watching Frank the flamingo fishing over there.

Seagull: He must not be catching many fish.

Pelican: Why do you say that?

Seagull: Look at his face. It’s pink! He must be embarrassed to be such a bad fisher.

Pelican: Actually, he’s pink because he’s a really good fisher! Although he’s not necessarily catching fish…

Seagull: How so?

Pelican: Let me explain…

The pelican went on to explain why flamingos are pink to the seagull. We’ll summarize what we learned for you here.

With vibrant pink and orange plumage that seems sunset-inspired, flamingos are some of the best dressed birds in the avian world. They weren’t born that way, though! Baby flamingos are actually born with gray feathers.

Their distinctive pink color develops over time thanks to their selective diet. What do flamingos eat? A flamingo’s diet primarily consists of aquatic organisms — such as shrimp and algae — high in pigments called carotenoids.

Carotenoids are the same pigments that cause shrimp to turn from gray to pink when they’re boiled. 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, its 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 vegetables that we love, 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.

Try It Out

We hope you enjoyed our IMP of the Day! Be sure to check out the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Have you ever heard someone say that you are what you eat? If that was true, what would you be? A pizza? Some crackers? Chicken nuggets? Or would you be an apple or some broccoli? Let your imagination run wild and think about what life would be like if you were similar to a flamingo. If your diet affected your skin color, what color would you be? Write a short poem or story that explains how life would be different if your diet made you change colors!
  •  Check out the Houston Zoo’s Flamingo Cam to see what the aquatic avians are 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 flamingo flock in real-time!
  • Put yourself in the feathers of a young flamingo. You were born with gray feathers. But as you get older, you see your feathers being replaced with a light shade of pink feathers. What’s going on? Is this natural? Are you worried? Or do you prefer your pink feathers? Write a short story from the perspective of a young flamingo just growing into its pink feathers. How do you feel about your changing color? Share your story with a friend or family member. How do they think a young flamingo would feel about its changing plumage?


  • http://www.sciencefocus.com/qa/why-are-flamingos-pink (accessed 16 Jan. 2020)
  • http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingswork/f/why-are-flamingos-pink.htm (accessed 16 Jan. 2020)
You might also like

Comments are closed.