Photos by HennerDamke/Shutterstock.com
Flamingos are full of surprises, and this might be one of the biggest for you to learn: flamingos produce milk.
Yep, that’s right, it turns out flamingos might be more like you than you thought. Though they don’t get tax credits for their children and can’t buy baby food in a store, flamingos are one of three birds - along with pigeons and Emperor penguins - that have the ability to produce crop-milk to feed their young. Mammals aren’t the only ones in the animal kingdom making milk!
But how does it work, and why does it happen? Let’s explain.
Flamingos Produce Milk? Yep, And This Is How & Why
Flamingos have very unique beaks. The upper part is smaller and the portion that moves, which is the opposite of most birds on earth. This helps them find food when searching for tasty morsels in the water, because they dip their head in upside down to filter out the nutrients from the water.
However, this makes it difficult for the bird to handle food when it’s at its youngest. Flamingo chicks need liquid food during the first few months of their lives. That’s where milk comes in.
For roughly the first two months of a young flamingo’s life, its beak is forming and growing into the oddity adult flamingos flaunt. The chicks need their parents to feed them, and they do.
Adult flamingos use fat and protein rich liquid that comes from special glands in the bird’s upper digestive tract, aided on by the hormone prolactin. This is the same hormone that brings about milk production in mammals, but in the case of flamingos, both males and females produce prolactin.
No they are not fighting. This is one of the most amazing thing in nature. Parent flamingos produce crop milk in their digestive tracts & regurgitate it to feed young ones. See how together they are doing it. Source: Science Channel. pic.twitter.com/GrJr4irGox— Parveen Kaswan, IFS (@ParveenKaswan) February 20, 2020
Flamingo milk is similar to the milk we know in the nutrition it provides. But the big difference in what flamingos produce is the red color of the milk. This is because flamingo milk is loaded with red blood cells and includes the same pigment that gives the fowl a pink or reddish tint. It seems that there is nothing a flamingo does that doesn’t revolve around the color pink!
So, the next time you see flamingos crowding around a chick and you see what looks like blood dripping everywhere, you can rest assured knowing that likely no flamingo was harmed - they’re merely making sure their offspring have the necessary nutrition required for survival!