Interestingly, while Are flamingos pink primarily as a by-product of the flamingo's food, their color takes on a special meaning during mating season. Because flamingo bodies are designed to metabolize pink and red pigments, flamingo feathers also begin to change color. The feathers of flamingo chickens change color as soon as they start growing and follow the same diet as other flamingos. It's only after little fluffy flamingo chicks are put on a stable diet (first by their parents and then by themselves) that they begin to develop that pink color we're all so used to.
Flamingos are naturally grey-grey and gradually turn pink due to their diet, proving that you really are what you eat. Flamingos are born grey-white and turn pink in the first few years of life by eating brine shrimp. When flamingos eat brine shrimp rich in nutrients and antioxidants, they absorb natural red carotenoids and turn pink over time. Flamingos are pink because they eat algae, shrimp, and carotenoid-rich crustaceans, which they filter out of the water with their hooked beaks.
It turns out that flamingos have a bright pink spectrum because flamingos are what they eat, which are shrimp, shellfish, and seaweed. Flamingos get their bright pink color from the pigments in their normal diet. Their characteristic pink color develops over time through the selective feeding of baby flamingos. When it comes to flamingos, you are what you eat, as their special diet from infancy to adulthood is actually what causes their feathers to turn gray and pink.
Their pink pigment comes from what they eat, usually crustaceans and algae. Flamingos usually live around water, so flamingos feed primarily on shrimp, algae, and crustaceans, all of which contain pink-orange pigments called carotenoids. Flamingos that feed primarily on shrimp (and other small algae-eating creatures) tend to be less pink because they receive higher concentrations of canthaxanthin-related carotenoids than other flamingos much lower.
The bright color of flamingo feathers is due to the presence of carotenoid pigments found in the algae and crustaceans that make up the flamingo's diet. The amount of pigment deposited in the feathers depends on the amount of pigment in the flamingo's diet. It all comes from a chemical called beta-carotene, a reddish-orange pigment that is broken down by carotenoids in the flamingo's digestive system and eventually absorbed into body fat, resulting in the pink feathers.
Enzymes in the liver of flamingos break down carotenoids into pink and orange pigment molecules, which are then deposited in the birds' feathers, legs and beak. In the liver, orange and pink pigment molecules are absorbed by fats and then accumulate on the flamingo's body, such as the skin, legs, feathers, and even the flamingo's beak. When brine shrimp enter the flamingo's digestive tract, enzymes break down compounds called carotenoids into pink and orange molecules.
As flamingos age and long-term exposure to canthaxanthin and the carotenoids it contains, their feathers turn pink; flamingo liver contains enzymes that break down carotenoids into pink and orange pigment molecules, which are then absorbed by fats deposited in feathers, beak and legs. Thanks to the special metabolism of flamingos, birds are able to process toxic chemicals called carotenoids in the liver, breaking them down into functional components and pigments. Their fat then seeps into the body, staining the beaks, feathers, and legs of the flamingos.
The fats are then deposited in the new feathers as they grow, and the fluffy gray flamingo chicks gradually change to pink. Once baby flamingos get this curve, young flamingos begin their diet of blue-green algae and brine shrimp, which begin to intensify that pinkish-pink color you would expect to see in flamingo feathers. Gray flamingo chicks gradually turn pink, first from the collected milk fed to them by their parents, and later from a carotenoid-rich diet of algae and crustaceans.
Their bright appearance is due to beta-carotene, a red-orange pigment found in high amounts in algae, larvae, and brine shrimp, which flamingos eat in wetland flamingo environments. Captive flamingos are fed a special diet that includes shrimp (pigmented crustaceans) or supplements such as beta-carotene or canthaxanthin; otherwise, they would be white or pale pink. The carotenoids themselves can turn white in the sun, which the flamingo species Phoenicopterus roseus combats by directly smoothing themselves with pigments secreted by their glands, giving their feathers a brilliant pink sheen.
A species of flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus, secretes pink pigment from the flamingo's glands as it struts around, so even bleached feathers remain a brilliant pink. As shown on the BBC's Life in Color, young flamingos have grey-white feathers and turn pinkish only after deepening their diet of brine shrimp and blue-green algae, a food that is likely to kill other animals. Flamingos turn pink as they age due to feeding on organisms such as shrimp and red algae, which are rich in pigments called carotenoids.