It would appear to make sense to answer the question”Why are flamingos pink?” With”That’s just the way it is”. Elephants are gray, canaries are yellow, so why shouldn’t flamingos be pink? Well, there actually is a very good reason.
To begin with, young flamingos aren’t pink, they are gray (such as an elephant) for about the first few decades of life, after which they turn pink. Not all adult flamingos are pink either, though most are either pink or a shade of red near pink. Of the five species of flamingo in life, the Caribbean flamingo, is truly a very bright red red. In general, adult flamingos are red, pink, or someplace in between.
Genetics would seem to be the obvious answer, but it’s not the best one. There is the old saying”You are what you eat”, and flamingos are pink because of their diet. If you place a flamingo in captivity, and give it something to eat instead of its regular diet, the bird will so start to lose its coloring, and eventually become more white than pink.
A flamingo’s diet is high in beta-carotene, the exact same substance we consume when we eat carrots. Their normal habitat is in shallow lakes and wetlands, where fish have a tendency to thrive. Flamingos also eat algae, another source of beta-carotine and carotenoid pigments (red). When you think of it, someone who likes carrots and eats a few a day can take on a slightly orange color for their complexion. That actually happens, and isn’t unhealthy though it may look so.
Now when someone asks you “Why are flamingos pink?” , you can honestly say it is because they eat shrimp. You can go into some detail with the cartenoid bit if you desire, but for our purposes, just saying fish should suffice. Then if you’re pressed, you can mention cartenoids and beta-carotine, as if that’s something everybody should already know!
If the person still does not believe your answer, you can let them know that flamingos also fly and march, two more details about flamingos that definitely are true. We’re so used to seeing flamingos from the zoo just standing on one leg (it is the most comfortable way for them to stand), or as lawn ornaments in the area, we forget that they are quite capable of flight, and in fact fly from one location to another in huge flocks. Insofar as marching is concerned, if you see a group (actually a colony) of flamingos on the floor, and observe them over a period of time, you will finally see them march.