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.