Underwater Footage Captures the Fascinating Way Flamingos Eat

An underwater camera set up at the San Diego Zoo captures the unusual way the long-legged birds eat.

We’ve all seen flamingos stick their heads into water to feed before, but here’s what it all looks like from under the surface!

Ever wondered how flamingos eat with their curved bills? The San Diego Zoo has released a new video educating the public on flamingo feeding habits. The video, which shows the brilliantly pink birds feeding underwater, was taken during the birds’ mealtime by an underwater camera placed inside the zoo’s flamingo feeding pool. It shows just how efficient flamingos are at “vacuuming up” their food.

“These pretty in pink birds feed by sucking in water and mud at the front of their bills, then pumping it out at the sides,” the San Diego Zoo writes in the video’s description.”Briny plates called lamellae act like tiny filters, trapping shrimp and other small water creatures for the flamingos to eat. Everybirdy loves seafood!”

In the video, the birds are seen dipping their hooked bills to skim the bottom. The zoo explains that flamingos naturally eat underwater and with their bills almost upside down. They suck in the surrounding water, which is then passed through briny plates (called lamellae) that filter the water for tasty treats. Shrimp, brine flies, algae, and other small marine life are trapped in the flamingo’s mouth to be consumed. Water, mud, and debris are expelled out the sides of the bill. This effective feeding filtration system is powered by the motion of the flamingo’s tongue.

Flamingos eat underwater with their beaks upside down. Special briny plates (called lamellae) in their hooked bills filter shrimp, brine flies, and mollusks for the flamingo to eat. Photo: NICOLAS PRIMOLA/Shutterstock

The zoo’s feeding pool, however, is not filled with actual sea creatures. Instead, zookeepers use a special pellet diet full of nutrients. When scattered in water, the flamingos can eat as if living in the wild. Carotenoid pigments found in their natural food sources must be replicated in these pellets – ingesting them gives the flamingos their signature pink feathers.

Well, San Diego Zoo, thanks for the dive into the underwater world of flamingo dining!

Sources: 1, 2


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