So, what do flamingos eat?  The answer may be slightly obvious by their fabulous color but their feeding habits can be a bit peculiar.  Flamingos basically come in five species although some say there are only four and others claim there are six.  One resides in Africa, three live in South and Central America and then there is one species that is native to Southern areas of the United States as well as the Caribbean.  All five of these species mature to be around four feet or sometimes a bit taller.  Generally when you view a colony of these beautiful birds they are standing on one leg, eating and preening themselves.

If you have the opportunity to observe a flamingo colony for an extended period of time, you might have the delightful treat of seeing them march.  No one knows why flamingos suddenly start moving around in a synchronized way like a well trained marching band, but they do.  An even more captivating site is having the privilege of seeing this colorful colony in flight.

So, what do flamingos eat?  Well, they absolutely love shrimp and it is the shrimp that gives flamingos their beautiful color.  Flamingos are born as a pale shade of gray and they stay that color until they are around three years old.  As the flamingo eats a diet of shrimp it turns to a soft pink shade, then red and as they get older and consume more shrimp they can end up a deep crimson shade.  Shrimp are extremely high in beta-carotene causing the color change.  If a young flamingo does not get enough shrimp they end up staying white as an adult.  Once up a time, many flamingos would turn from pink to white when being transferred to zoos until zookeepers were educated enough to know that the flamingos required an abundance of shrimp to maintain their magical color.

When flamingos are not dining on their favorite shrimp meal, they also enjoy red and blue-green algae, small insects, molluscs, crustaceans and other small fish.

Why Are They Always Upside Down?

Looking at how the animal eats is equally intriguing.  Their bill has a boomerang shape to it and when their heads are upside down in the water, the flat surface of the bill skims the shallow water back and forth to stir up the water and collect food.  Algae floats on the top and the bottom and the flamingo's bill strains the water and leaves behind the nutrients.  It is interesting to know that they feed primarily in salt water and then go to seek out freshwater for drinking purposes.

Interesting Information

Flamingos produce a type of substance that is very similar to pigeon milk except that it has a higher fat content.  They have a hormone that is called prolactin that is created in their upper digestive tract glands.  Young females feed on this milk from both their mother and their father.  The milk also has important white and red blood cells that the young flamingo needs for growth until their bills have fully developed to filter their own food.

It is suggested that flamingos stand on one foot to conserve body heat.  It is believed that when one leg is tucked under their body then half of their body goes into a sleep state and it allows them to conserve their body heat when they are in cold weather.  This however is only a theory and no one has been able to prove it.  They also have webbed feed that they often use to stir up the mud for feeding purposes.

Flamingos are stunning birds that have many mysterious and unexplainable characteristics.  The fact that they change their outward appearance based on the food they eat is truly remarkable making them a very interesting bird to study.


 

 


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