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Flamingos would be nothing without their feathers, an always seen but often overlooked part of what makes this bird tick. A flamingo’s feathers are integral to what it does and how it operates on a daily basis, so we’re diving into some cold, hard facts about the feathers that coat the fabulous fowl!
7 Fascinating Flamingo Feather Facts
Diet Makes Flamingo Feathers Pink
Flamingos are not naturally pink, and neither are their feathers. The pink hue that is so famously associated with flamingos happens because of the food the bird consumes. A standard flamingo diet is rich in organisms that are loaded with beta carotene, which is the same pigment that turns tomatoes red and carrots orange.
If a flamingo were to not eat the shrimp, algae, plankton, and other tasty morsels it typically dines upon, its feathers would lose their shade and drift back to the white and gray color flamingo chicks are born with. Flamingo feathers are only pink because of the food they eat, not because it’s their natural color.
Flamingo’s Get Their Name From Their Pink Feathers
The word “flamingo” is derived from the Spanish and Latin word, “flamenco,” which means fire. Flamingos are mostly pink, but some have more red in them than others, and some can sport a rather fiery red. Those select few whose feathers remind viewers of a classic sports car are the reason for the animal’s namesake.
Photo by BryanNaturePhotography/Shutterstock.com
Flamingo Flight Feathers Grow In About 11 Weeks
Flamingos can fly, but not fresh out of the egg. It takes about 11 weeks for a flamingo chick to grow its flight feathers, and only then can it begin to learn how to take off.
Flamingos Have Black Feathers
That’s right - flamingo feathers aren’t all pink. All flamingos have black flight feathers, though they’re often hidden on the underside of their wings and not easy to spot, especially if the bird isn’t flying through the air. Not all flamingos are the exact same shade of pink, but they all have black flight feathers.
Flamingos Shed Their Feathers
Flamingos don’t keep the same feathers forever. They generally molt their flight feathers over time, keeping enough to maintain the ability to fly while still refreshing their plumage. If a flamingo sheds all of its flight feathers at once, which is more likely to occur in captivity, then it’ll be a few weeks before the bird can reach altitudes again.
Their flight feathers are their key to flying. Without them, flamingos are confined to the land and sea.
Photo by Bob.in/Shutterstock.com
We Don’t Know How Flamingo Feathers Stay Pink
We know that blood doesn’t flow into flamingo feathers once they have finished growing, which makes it slightly confusing how the bird’s diet dyes its feathers so drastically. But it quite clearly does happen, and when a flamingo molts a colorful feather, it loses its color after no longer being attached to its original owner. Somehow, the pigmentation is getting into the feathers, but we’re not yet exactly sure how.
Don Featherstone Is the Man Behind The Lawn Flamingo
Is this fact about literal flamingo feathers? I am mature enough to admit that it is not.
HOWEVER, pretty neat that the guy behind the plastic pink lawn flamingo had “feather” in his name. Don Featherstone is a big reason why flamingos gained major cultural recognition and relevance in the United States, and I think that’s worthy of being a flamingo feather fact, even if it isn’t.
Don Featherstone, creator of the plastic pink flamingo pic.twitter.com/2HT2YTpHB7— ꧁꧂𝐖𝐚𝐡𝐝𝐚𝐝𝐝𝐢𝐧 𝐓𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧’࿆۞ (@Reach4ACopsGun) April 29, 2021