Have you ever wondered how flamingos eat with their curved bills? The San Diego Zoo is educating the public on flamingo feeding habits with a new video showing the brilliantly pink birds feeding underwater. The video was taken at the birds' mealtime by an underwater camera placed inside the zoo's flamingo feeding pool.
In the video, the birds dip their hooked bills to skim the bottom. The zoo explains that flamingos naturally eat underwater and with their bills almost upside down. Their bills 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 then expelled out the sides of the bill. The motion of the flamingo's tongue powers this feeding filtration system.
San Diego Zoo jokingly says, “Everybirdy loves seafood!” However, viewers will see that the feeding pool is not filled with actual sea creatures. The San Diego Zoo 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 these pigments gives the flamingos their signature pink feathers.
Scroll down to watch the flamingos feeding underwater and be enchanted by these flamboyant birds.
An underwater video from the San Diego Zoo shows mealtime in the flamingo feeding pool.
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.
Watch an underwater flamingo feeding frenzy filmed at the San Diego Zoo.