Flamingo feather color varies with species, ranging from pale pink to crimson or vermilion. Caribbean flamingos have the brightest coloration: crimson or vermilion. The Chilean flamingo is pale pink. A flamingo’s pink or reddish feather color comes from its diet, which is high in alpha and beta-carotene. People eat beta-carotene when they eat carrots. The typical flamingo diet consists of diatoms, seeds, blue-green alage, crustaceans, and mollusks they filter out of the water. Using their long legs and partially webbed feet, flamingos will stamp on the muddy bottom of lagoons to mix the food particles with the water. Different species of flamingo have slightly different shaped bills; the different shapes helping it obtain slightly different types of food. Flamingos drink fresh water. Flamingos use their large beaks to filter small food items from the water. A flamingo lowers its head into the water, upside-down. It moves its head from side to side, collecting the food/water mixture. The spiny, piston-like tongue acts to pump the water mixture past the toothlike ridges on the outside of the beak and the lamellae, or finger-like projections, inside the beak. The lamellae act as strainers to remove the food particles from the water. Flamingos live in large groups all year long called colonies. Tens of thousands of flamingos can live in one colony! Within a colony, flamingos breed in pairs. Every pair of flamingos does not breed every year, however. Breeding
Flamingos are able to reproduce by the age of about six. There is no specific season associated with breeding, but it seems to be correlated with rain. Nest building may depend on rainfall and its effect on food supply. When they are ready to lay their breed, birds will form pairs. Within the whole colony, groups of birds will be engaged in courtship displays -, a predictable sequence of displays including marching and head turning, calling and preening. Several hundred to several thousand flamingos are all doing the same behaviors at the same time. This helps to synchronize breeding within the colony, so that most of the birds are laying eggs or raising young at the same time.