Pink flamingos dye their faded feathers: the reason

The purpose is to attract mates. This type of bird tweaks the color by smearing near the neck a serum that they produce from glands above the tail.

Pink flamingos don't like the faded look their feathers get from the sun and, so, they tweak it to make it look bright and shiny all the time. Scientists have explained that this type of birds use to smear their necks with a serum that is produced by some glands near the tail. This action has the effect of counteracting the bleaching effect of UV rays on feathers. A study published in October Ecology and Evolution reveals that plumage with a thicker coating of serum retained its pink color better.

Why Pink Flamingos Dye Their Feathers Faded

Floricopter feathers help the birds fly, keep their bodies dry and attract mates. They get their pinkish color from carotenoids, molecules responsible for many natural pigments found in this bird species' diet of artemia salina and algae.

When flamingos strut their stuff, they take care of their feathers a bit like we take care of our hair. And like some of us, they add color. To apply their do-it-yourself dye, flamingos rub their cheeks on a gland above their tails called the uropygium gland, which generates a serum with color. The birds then rub their serum-covered cheeks on their neck feathers to make sure the dye sticks. All of this effort is for the simple purpose of attracting potential mates.

Flamingos' color touch-up instinct

Ultraviolet radiation destroys carotenoids causing flamingos' feathers to lose color. Biologist at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata in Argentina analyzed several dozen feathers taken from dead flamingos in France to understand the instinct to constantly "tweak" the plumage of these types of birds. The team scanned the feathers and used Adobe Photoshop to analyze their color, then placed half of them on a rooftop, exposed to sunlight; the other half were kept in the dark.

Forty days later, new scans showed that the feathers exposed to the sun were faded and lighter than those kept in the dark. Before the experiment, Chiale had extracted carotenoids from both the surface and interior of each feather. After exposure, he found that plumage with a higher concentration of carotenoids had retained more color. This suggests that the birds had applied more serum to those feathers to allow them to resist bleaching.

It was then discovered that flamingos actively work to keep their necks flushed, in particular, during mating season, otherwise they would have pale feathers.

The world of birds is diverse and interesting. For example, it has been discovered that these animals have a supersense to find their way home, or that the world's most dangerous bird was domesticated even before the chicken.

Stefania Bernardini