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Our Favorite Rosy Birds Actually Aren’t Born Pink: Instead, Flamingos Take On This Hue In Adulthood Due To Their Diet Of Brine Shrimp And Blue-Green Algae

KAPhotography - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual flamingos

When you were in elementary and middle school, you may have learned about random and somewhat obscure science facts that blew your mind and piqued your interest in the world around you, like what types of clouds are the fluffiest (cumulus) and what the smallest bone in the human body is (stapes).

But after moving on to high school, which fills your mind with complex knowledge of classic literature and world history, along with dull but necessary concepts such as algebra and calculus, all those fun, intriguing science facts you learned when you were younger become lost in the shuffle.

One of those long-forgotten facts that we’ll be focusing on today is the source of a flamingo’s rosy hue.

Perhaps you might recall that flamingos aren’t naturally pink, but you can’t quite put your finger on how exactly the birds get their color.

So, consider this a refresher (with more extensive detail) on what you learned during your pre-pubescent days in the classroom.

Young flamingos are actually born with gray/white feathers. They only turn pink after eating a diet of brine shrimp and blue-green algae in adulthood. According to Dr. Paul Rose, a zoologist at the University of Exeter, flamingos live in wetland environments with water that has high acidity levels.

The crustaceans and algae they consume are found in these habitats, and they contain chemicals called carotenoids that would be harmful to most other animals. The chemicals have a pinkish-orange pigment, which is what eventually gives flamingos their pink feathers.

Interestingly enough, carotenoids are also found in carrots and pumpkins, so if a human were to eat a significant amount of these foods, they, too, would experience a color-changing effect on their skin.

The flamingo’s pink color may just be a by-product of their diet, but it serves them well during mating season. The pinker a flamingo is, the healthier it looks to the other birds, making it an appealing mate. Bright pinkness is an indication that a flamingo is skilled at foraging for food.

KAPhotography – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual flamingos

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