Flamingos are highly discernible birds best known for their bright pink appearance and long, thin legs. But have you ever wondered why these birds are the pinkish color they are?
Flamingos get their pink appearance from the pigments found in their routine diets. Many believe that the pink comes from the shrimp they eat, but this is only part of the story. Albeit factual, these birds also enjoy eating blue-green algae that blooms when available. Both the algae and shrimp are rich in pigments called carotenoids, and these carotenoids are what is responsible for the pink coloration.
Notably, flamingos’ liver breaks down these carotenoids into both orange and pink molecules that are later absorbed by their fat. This colored fat then works its way through the body, coloring the birds’ beaks, feathers, and legs in the process.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the quantity of carotenoids that flamingos eat determines how pink the bird will be. Some birds are darker pink than others, with some being almost entirely white.