Why Do Flamingos Stink?

Why Do Flamingos Stink?
Photo by MomentumFotograh/Shutterstock.com

Flamingos have the reputation of being one of the most beautiful birds in all of nature, but they’re not perfect - flamingos are known to have quite the stink.

Have you ever been close enough to a flamboyance of flamingos to smell them? Their grace and majesty are worth it, but be prepared for a possible assault on your nostrils.

So, what gives flamingos such a strong odor?

Why Do Flamingos Stink?

dirty flamingo
Flamingo Walking on Mud - Photo by AgamiPhotoAgency/Shutterstock.com

There can be a few reasons for why flamingos carry around a quality stink with them.

First, their living conditions. For a flamingo, brackish water full of tasty algae and other filling nutrients that make for wonderful meals is heaven on earth. For humans, it’s a deadly combination of smells that attack our noses in a very unpleasant way. If you hung out in lagoons all day and played in the mud to make your nests, you’d probably smell pretty bad, too.

Second, and perhaps more damning, flamingos practice something called urohydrosis (also spelled urohidrosis). That is the habit of urinating on their own legs in an attempt to cool down and serve as a sunscreen to protect their skin from the sun.

I realize that sounds insane, and I can’t disagree. I’m a human, after all, and when I don’t want my legs to be exposed to the sun, I apply sunscreen. But if I was a flamingo without opposable thumbs or money to purchase sunscreen, maybe I’d also pee on my legs for protection.

Let’s hope it never comes to that.

Flamingos are one of many birds that are known to engage in urohydrosis. Various species of storks, vultures, condors, and other large birds use urohydrosis to control their body temperatures and gain protection from the sun.

stork flamingos
Stork and Flamingos - Photo by imageBROKER.com/Shutterstock.com

So, the next time you’re near a flamingo and smell that awful smell, you’ll know that you’re probably not just smelling the smells of their habitat - you’re also getting a nice whiff of dried urine caked on their legs!

Now, please don’t blame flamingos for their poor hygiene. Flamingos don’t have a good sense of smell, and even if they did, would they care? At the end of the day, they’re just animals doing their best to survive in nature - they have bigger things to worry about than whether or not their smell is inviting to humans, like whether or not their body temperature is cool enough.

Flamingos are quite the creature, huh?