While flamingoes do feed on crustaceans (such as brine shrimp), their pink color comes from their diet of plankton. A specific protein in this plankton is broken down into pigment by liver enzymes. Depending on species, this will have a varying effect on the color and pigment of the flamingo itself.
From everything I can find, it is actually an effect of crustaceans. While they do eat plankton, it does not seem this is the primary cause of their color. Shrimp and other small crustaceans are rich in alpha and beta carotenoid pigments. After being digested, these pigments dissolve in fats which are deposited into growing feathers. This is what causes the orange or pink color in the feathers. The amount of pigment in the feathers depends on the quality of the pigments in the flamingo’s diet.
Flamingos are well-known pink birds who are found in warm and watery regions. These beautiful birds prefer estuaries, saline lakes, and alkaline lakes. Flamingos are omnivores and are usually 36 to 50 inches with a wingspan of 60 inches. They also typically weigh about 9 pounds. They have bent bills which allows them efficiently catch and eat plankton, tiny fish, fly larvae and crustaceans. They eat by burying their bill and often their whole heads and swallowing the water and mud and sucking up the morsels. Its beak has a filtering ability that removes food from the water before the liquid is expelled.
It is the shrimp-like crustaceans the flamingos eat that causes the flamingo to turn pink or orange depending on what they eat. They eat algae and crustaceans that contain carotenoids. The pigment is found in brine shrimp and in blue-green algae.The enzymes in the flamingo’s liver break down the carotenoids into pink and orange pigment molecules and deposit it in their feathers, bill and legs. Young flamingos are gray and turn orange or pink depending on their diet. Flamingos that eat algae are a deeper color than those who eat the smaller animals.
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