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There are plenty of remarkable things about flamingos, but little is as famous as the bird’s pink coloring. It’s unusual to see a pink animal on planet earth, and that’s one of the many reasons flamingo fans love their favorite fowl. But why are flamingos pink?
Why Are Flamingos Pink?
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Flamingos’ pink shine comes from something simple: their diet. Some of the common features on the flamingo menu include blue-green algae, red algae, diatoms, insects, insect larvae, small crustaceans and molluscs, and shrimp. Not all species of flamingo eat the exact same, but their meals are similar enough. Inside many of these tasty morsels is beta carotene, a red-orange pigment also known as carotenoids. When flamingos eat some of their favorite foods, they’re collecting tons of beta carotene into their system.
When a flamingo consumes its lunches and dinners, an enzyme in its digestive system breaks down the beta carotene, and the red-orange pigments are absorbed into the fats in the animal’s liver. Flamingos deposit these fats into their feathers and skin, bringing to life that fabulous pink color we all know and love!
Is That Why Flamingos Aren’t All the Same Pink?
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Yes. Because flamingos in different parts of the world have varying diets, they aren’t all the same shade of pink, nor do they all have the same amount of pink in their coloring. Some flamingos have a brighter pink, others have a duller or darker pink tint. You’ve likely seen flamingos with hints of orange or red, too, and fully white flamingos even exist. It’s all down to what food is available to that flamingo.
So, Are Flamingos Born Pink?
No, flamingos are not born pink. The bird’s pink color comes from the mass amounts of carotenoids it consumes in its life, and newborn flamingos haven’t had the months and years of loading up on beta carotene.
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Flamingos are naturally white or gray, and the conversion to pink doesn’t happen overnight. It can take a couple of years for the fowl to transform into the beautiful pink creature it’s known as.
Could a Human Change Colors If It Ate Enough Carotenoids?
Theoretically, a human could change colors if it ate enough carotenoids, like flamingos do, but it would be quite the undertaking in practice. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach all have carotenoids in them, so a person could safely eat a few common foods with plenty of the pigment in them. But the amount of carrots, sweet potatoes, or spinach someone would have to ingest to turn their skin orange would be a lot.
If you made it your life’s mission to turn your skin orange, shoveling carrots down your piehole for days on end would get the job done, like it did for this person's daughter. But that’s not something I would recommend trying at home, or anywhere for that matter.