Flamingos are very social birds that live in colonies that can number in the thousands. These large colonies are believed to serve three purposes for the flamingos: predator avoidance, maximizing food intake, and exploiting scarce suitable nesting sites. The most basic and stable social unit of flamingos are pair bonds which are made up of one male and one female. The bond between them tends to be strong; however, in larger colonies (where there are more mates to choose from), mate changes will occur.
Flamingo feathers obtain their wonderful rosy pink color from pigments in the organisms they eat. The flamingos’ feathers, legs, and face are colored by their diet, which is rich in alpha and beta carotenoid pigments.
Carotenoids in crustaceans such as those in the flamingo diet are frequently linked to protein molecules, and may be blue or green. After being digested, the carotenoid pigments dissolve in fats and are deposited in the growing feathers, becoming orange or pink. The same effect is seen when shrimp change color during cooking. The amount of pigment laid down in the feathers depends on the quantity of pigment in the flamingo’s diet. An absence of carotenoids in its food will result in new feather growth that is very pale; the existing pigment is lost through molting.