Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Elly. Elly Wonders, “why are flamingos pink” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Elly!
We were hanging out on the Wonderopolis seashore the other day when we overheard an interesting conversation between a seagull and a pelican:
Seagull: Hey Pete! What are you doing?
Pelican: Howdy Steve! I was just watching Frank the flamingo fishing over there.
Seagull: He must not be catching many fish.
Pelican: Why do you say that?
Seagull: Look at his face. It's pink! He must be embarrassed to be such a bad fisher.
Pelican: Actually, he's pink because he's a really good fisher! Although he's not necessarily catching fish…
Seagull: How so?
Pelican: Let me explain…
The pelican went on to explain why flamingos are pink to the seagull. We'll summarize what we learned for you here.
With vibrant pink and orange plumage that seems sunset-inspired, flamingos are some of the best dressed birds in the avian world. They weren't born that way, though! Baby flamingos are actually born with gray feathers.
Their distinctive pink color develops over time thanks to their selective diet. What do flamingos eat? A flamingo's diet primarily consists of aquatic organisms — such as shrimp and algae — high in pigments called carotenoids.
Carotenoids are the same pigments that cause shrimp to turn from gray to pink when they're boiled. Carotenoids are essential to maintaining the flamingo's signature color. If a flamingo were to adopt a meal plan similar to other birds who feast on insects, seeds, or berries, its feathers would eventually become white or a faded pale pink.
Though algae may not be at the top of your family's grocery list, humans also eat foods rich in carotenoids. These pigments are responsible for many of the red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables that we love, including carrots, apricots, squash, mangoes, and sweet potatoes. Thanks to a varied and balanced diet, however, we can enjoy these carotenoid-filled foods without having to worry that our skin will change color overnight.
Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS1.C, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2