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Are Flamingo Egg Yolks Pink?

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The yolks of flamingo eggs are a bright pink color.





In mid-2016 an odd rumor began traversing “fun facts” sites and groups, holding that the yolks of flamingo eggs are bright pink:

The claim made simultaneous appearances on Reddit, Facebook, and countless blogs devoted to unbelievable facts or tidbits of trivia, but an initial red flag regarding the claim appeared when we reverse-searched the image depicted above and found it was clearly a doctored stock photograph of a standard, boring yellow-yolked egg:

flamingo eggs pink yolk

The finding was disappointing, as surely the sight of a cracked egg with a bright pink yolk would be noteworthy enough to warrant photographic capture at one point or another, but none was to be found. We also located a YouTube video of abandoned flamingo nests showing cracked eggs, and although the footage showed no freshly broken eggs, it did capture remnants of flamingo egg yolks (seen at approximately the one-minute mark) that were standard yolk color if not a tad deeper:


But the information was ostensibly contradicted by an item published by the University of Exeter, undated but on or before April 2014. In the piece, researcher Paul Rose asserted that flamingo egg yolks were pink — but in a decidedly ambiguous manner:

To mark World Wetlands Day on Sunday 2 February PhD researcher Paul Rose spoke to us about these fascinating birds.

Everything about a flamingo is pink, because of their food. Their egg yolk is pink. Their skin is pink. Ive done a post-mortem on a flamingo and its not just the feathers that are stained by this pigment, its everything inside the animal as well.

Rose’s commentary was clearlyopen to interpretation. It was possible he meant to say flamingo egg yolks were truly, purely pink, but equallypossible he meant that the yolks he observed had a slightly pinkish hue and were simply “stained by this pigment.” (A linked paper authoredby Rose [PDF] for International Zoo Yearbookdid not mention pink yolks.) That would stand to reason given that baby flamingos are not pink, and their distinctive coloring develops as they mature due to their diet:

baby flamingoes


We contacted Flamingo Gardens in Fort Lauderdale to ask whether it was true that flamingo egg yolks are pink. A resident flamingo expert there told us that wasn’t the case, that flamingo yolks were not dissimilar in color to chicken egg yolks.

We also contacted Flamingo expert Caitlin Kight, author of the 2015 book Flamingo about the rumor, who in turn consulted with University of Exeter animal researcher Paul Rose. Rose confirmed that flamingo “yolks aren’t literally pink” — the yolks can vary in color from “bright orange” to “reddish,” he vouchsafed, but photographs showing them to be bright pink are completely unrealistic.

In the ordinary course of development, flamingos do not start out their lives as pink — they gain that distinctive coloring through their diet as they mature:

baby flamingoes

Smithsonian magazine, among others, offers an explanation for the gradual development of flamingo pigmentation:

Pop quiz: Why are flamingos pink?

If you answered that it’s because of what they eat — namely shrimp — you’re right. But there’s more to the story than you might think.

Flamingos are born with gray plumage. They get their rosy hue pink by ingesting a type of organic pigment called a carotenoid. They obtain this through their main food source, brine shrimp, which feast on microscopic algae that naturally produce carotenoids. Enzymes in the flamingos’ liver break down the compounds into pink and orange pigment molecules, which are then deposited into the birds’ feathers, legs and beaks. If flamingos didn’t feed on brine shrimp, their blushing plumage would eventually fade.


Kight presents the flamingo in a concise and accessible way, introducing its detailed scientific history alongside what we know about its often hostile habitats and complex social behavior. She explores its genetic lineage and the confusions it has caused, and she details the significance it has had for many cultures, whether as a spiritual totem or a commercial symbol of the tropical life. She even explains how it gets its extraordinary color (hint: it has to do with its diet). A wonderful resource for any bird lover, Flamingo provides valuable insight into just what makes this flashy-feathered character so special.

We got in touch with f

So while flamingo eggs might demonstrate atypical yolk pigmentation due to theflamingo’scarotenoid-heavy diet, the photographs widely circulating on social media depicted regular eggs digitally altered to suggest flamingo eggs exhibited a shocking pink hue (which was not the case). It appeared Rose’s initial description was taken wildly out-of-context to create a “fun fact” that was in no way, shape, or form supported by extant knowledge of flamingo eggs or his flamingo research.

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Bradford, Alina.   “Flamingo Facts: Food Turns Feathers Pink.”
    LiveScience.   18 September 2014.

Koren, Marina.   “For Some Species, You Really Are What You Eat.”   24 April 2013.

The University of Exeter.   “The Curious World of Flamingos.”
    April 2014.

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