Flamingos pink is well known but it is not the color these birds are born with. They begin life with light gray feather and the coral pink is something they acquire later, but why?

Gaining Their Iconic Color: Flamingos Pink

These long-legged birds live in wetland areas and consume two things that produce the pigment that changes their appearance. Small crustaceans, like shrimp and mollusks contain carotenoids that are rich in reddish-orange pigments. The red and green algae they eat is also packed with pigment-rich beta carotene.

These carotenoids and beta carotene are broken down by the liver, then deposited in their feathers and all over their body including their legs and bill. The more of these foods the flamingo take in the stronger the color on the outside. Now you know how the iconic pink flamingos get their bright color.

Pink Flamingos Go Kitsch

The coral pink is the color that Don Featherstone was inspired to duplicate in 3-D plastic in for the Union Products company in 1957. The pink flamingos, once only seen in Florida, from that time forward would now be seen on lawns across America.

I think you will also enjoy and article the Smithsonian Magazine put together -- The Tacky History of the Pink Flamingo -- all about the Pink Flamingo plastic yard ornaments.

Feature Image Credit: Gwen Weustink on Unsplash

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  • David Thometz says:

    Yes! The same carotenoid pigments in the diet of the Roseate Spoonbill also gives that bird its breathtakingly vivid rosy hue.

    • Kate Smith says:

      Oh, that is news to me. Thanks for sharing. I must find some pictures and learn more about the Roseate Spoonbill.

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