Flamingos are a funny breed of bird. They’re pink. They stand on one leg. They’re so quirky, you can’t help but wonder what their other habits look like, like when they eat. But because flamingos dip their heads underwater when they chow down, it’s difficult to tell exactly what is happening under the surface. But there is no need to wonder anymore.
Thanks to the San Diego Zoo, the feeding habits of the flamingos are now public knowledge. The zoo inserted an underwater camera into the flamingos’ feeding pool, giving everyone an insight into how these unique creatures eat.
As demonstrated in the video, the birds used their curved bills to skim the bottom of the ground. The zoo explained that eating underwater is completely natural for flamingos to do in the wild because of the natural curve to their bills – they basically eat upside down. The way that they’re able to do this is because they suck in water through their bills, and this water passes through briny plates known as lamellae, which then act as filters that catch food.
Small marine animals and plant particles such as shrimp, brine flies, and algae, are all items that get trapped in their bills and then eaten. The water, along with mud and other debris get filtered out through the sides of their bill. This whole filtration process is helped along by the flamingo’s tongue.
The San Diego Zoo captioned the video clip with “Everybirdy loves seafood!” But that’s not the actual case for the flamingos of the zoo.
While in the wild these birds would be eating little sea critters, the ones in captivity are fed a specific diet of nutrient-rich pellets. The zookeepers scatter these into their feeding pool so the birds can eat like they normally would in the wild.
The flamingos’ iconic pink feathers come from their natural food sources and these carotenoid pigments are replicated in the pellets that the zoo provides.
Check out the video below:
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.