How baby flamingos become pink
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These Caribbean flamingos are the brightest members of the flamingo family. They are unusual in many ways.
Their curved bill is a specialist bit of equipment, containing a unique structure that filters algae and small crustaceans out of the water.
And this bill is the key to their parenting strategy.
Their chicks are born with straight bills, that can’t yet filter water to feed.
So these bird parents produce milk. It’s made in their throat and comes out of their mouths but has the same amount of protein and fat as milk.
The hormone prolactin stimulates milk production, the same as for humans. Except, here, both parents have prolactin, so dad produces milk too.
The milk is bright red, as it contains the chemicals that give the chick its pink colour until it can feed itself. The feeding drains the parents of their own colour and they start to look a bit washed out, a feeling most parents are familiar with!
With both parents working together, they manage to produce enough milk to sustain their chick until its bill has developed and it’s able to stand on its own two feet.