Carotene puts the flame in flamingos!

Flamingo Elegance

We visited the Birmingham Zoo yesterday. My favorite thing: Flamingos. Their flaming coral color made me laugh - and it comes from carotene! According to a little teaching tidbit posted near these beauties, their color comes from their food supply. Did you know this??

Wild sources of carotene include brine shrimps and blue-green algae. In zoos, according to the Wikipedia entry, flamingos may be fed a chemical coloring agent, just as farmed salmon are.

Both parents have glands in their upper digestive tracts that produce a liquid food for their chicks. When the grownups nurse their babies, the grownups' colors leach out to pinkish grey, because the vital nutrients are going to the next generation. Once the chicks are on their own, the parents' colors redevelop.