Believe It Or Not, Flamingos Wear Makeup, Too

Photo by artmirei/

Makeup is a very common aspect of modern human life and has been for centuries. How it has been used and applied has changed over generations, but it remains a regular, sometimes daily part of many millions of people’s routines.

Believe it or not, flamingos like to wear makeup, too.

Flamingos Wear Makeup, Too

Photo by OlgaBocharnikova/

Now, just because flamingos wear makeup doesn’t mean you can discuss your favorite makeup brands with the next flamingo you come across. Obviously, flamingos aren’t heading to stores and picking up eyeliner and foundation - their version of makeup is a fair bit different from what people apply to themselves, but the concept isn’t too dissimilar.

Fighting the Sun

Flamingos spend a lot of time out in the sun, and they’re often found in hot climates. That means the sun’s rays are beating down on flamingos and their feathers pretty much all the time. The sun doesn’t care much for the flamingo standards for beauty, and it can bleach out the pink coloring the beautiful bird is famous for. But flamingos have discovered a way to fight back.

The pink tint flamingos generally have comes from their diet - much of their food is loaded with a natural pigment called carotenoids, and those dye the bird’s feathers to the pink color what we know them to be. So, flamingos have become innovative with how they utilize all the carotenoids at their disposal (emphasis on disposal).

Flamingos will use their beak and cheeks to collect excretions from their uropygial gland and rub them on their feathers. It does wonders for brightening their plumage back to the vibrant pink they want. To put it in layman’s terms, flamingos spread butt juice on themselves to stay pink.

I never said the process was pleasant.

Photo by Runky96/

Uh, Why?

This is a very reasonable question to ask after learning that flamingos use butt juice as makeup. The answer is pretty simple, though: to attract a mate.


It has been found that flamingos especially lather themselves up their naturally-produced makeup during mating season, one tip off that attracting a partner motivates this behavior. The next is that flamingos’ vibrant pink coloring during mating season dissipate after their chicks are hatched, indicating that after the convincing was concluded, the glamorizing was no longer necessary.

These discoveries were made in 2012 when researchers conducted a study on flamingo feathers.

“These results indicate that exposure to sunlight correlated with the fading of feather color, which suggests that individuals need to regularly apply makeup to be more colorful,” the authors of the study wrote. “These results also reinforce the view that these birds use cosmetic coloration as a signal amplifier of plumage color. This result is consistent with the finding that the more colorful individuals apply cosmetics over their feathers more frequently than the less colorful individuals, which suggests that colorful individuals need to regularly apply makeup to be more colorful.”

So, if you choose to wear makeup the next time you go on a date with the intention of looking more attractive, you’ll know you’re acting in kind with our flamingo friends. However, I would recommend sticking to the cosmetics you can find at stores and online, unless perhaps attracting a flamingo is your aim - most humans don’t have many positive opinions on butt juice makeup. But if you do decide to go the natural route, just know that it won’t turn you pink.