How do Flamingos Feed Their Young?

Building the mound that serves as the nesting site, laying the eggs, then incubating them are just a few of the several things flamingo parents do during the breeding season.

After the flamingo egg hatches, the flamingo chick takes a while to leave the nest, let alone feed on its own.

Therefore, the task of feeding the flamingo chick falls onto the parents. Luckily, both parents are up to the task of taking care of the chick, including taking turns feeding it.

How long do flamingos feed their young and how soon can flamingos eat on their own are just some of the aspects that I’ll be discussing in this article.

How do Flamingos Feed Their Babies?

Both the female and the male flamingo will take turns in feeding the flamingo chick. But they don’t feed the baby flamingo with whatever they’re consuming.

Instead, the adult flamingo’s digestive tract produces a secretion that contains protein and fat. The adult flamingo regurgitates this substance and slides it into the baby chick’s open beak.

This secretion is called ‘crop milk’ and the baby flamingo is kept on this diet until its beak becomes strong enough to accept solid food.

Besides the beak of the baby flamingo not being strong enough to take solid foods, the baby flamingo is not ready to leave the nest as soon as it hatches.

It can take anywhere between 4 to 10 days from a baby flamingo to leave the nest, all the while needing to be fed and kept alive.

It can take a while before baby flamingos are able to feed themselves. Just how long exactly, I’ll be discussing next in the following section.

How Long do Flamingos Feed Their Young?

Flamingos will continue feeding their young with crop milk for about four to six weeks. After this period, flamingo chicks can usually feed themselves. They become mobile enough to start exploring their surroundings and join other baby flamingos in a group called a ‘crèche’

However, baby flamingos may still continue to receive food from their parents until fledging, which happens at 10 to 12 weeks of age.

It’s safe to say that adult flamingos are caring parents that supervise and care for their young for quite a while. But it’s not only the parents of the baby flamingo that keep an eye on it.

When the adults herd the chicks into the baby flamingo group called a crèche, the chicks are supervised only by a few adult flamingos. However, each parent is responsible for feeding its own chick.

In the safety of this group, baby flamingos will start seeking out their own food.

Do Flamingos Feed Their Babies Blood?

If you watch an adult flamingo feeding a baby flamingo through the method I just explained, you may notice something unusual. That the secretion funneled into the flamingo chick’s beak looks a lot like blood.

So, is it blood? Do flamingos feed blood to their babies?

No, flamingos do not feed blood to their young.

What you’re seeing is actually the crop milk I described. Only that a pigment causes it to be colored red, looking similar to the color of blood.

Despite that the milk they’re fed with contains pigments, baby flamingos don’t turn pink only after a couple of years of being born.

The pink or reddish feathers, the pink coloration of the legs and face is a result of the diet rich in carotenoid pigments.

Flamingos can lose their coloration when food sources become scarce. Without enough foods high in carotenoids, the pink feathers of flamingos will turn pale.

What do Young Flamingos Eat?

Once the beak of the baby flamingo is strong enough to take solid foods, it will start seeking out food the same way adult flamingos do.

Namely, a flamingo will place its head under water so that its beak is pointed at its feet, which technically means its head will be upside down. Then it pumps water in and out of its bill while sweeping its head side-to-side.

The bill features comb-like plates along the edges that will serve to release the water from the beak, while trapping food inside the beak.

Young flamingos will eat blue-green and red algae, small crustaceans including prawn and shrimp, mollusks, crab, crayfish and small fishes, larval and adult forms of insects, seeds and various plant matter.

Can Baby Flamingos Eat Veggies or Fruits?

Baby flamingos should not eat solid foods until their beaks are strong enough to take on solid food. Even then, they have a diet that relies on aquatic organisms and plants that they search for in shallow lakes or lagoons. These are small and easy to swallow.

These foods they forage are high in alpha and beta carotenoid pigments, which is responsible for the color of their legs, beaks, and feathers.

While some veggies or fruits are high in carotenoids and technically dried versions of said foods could be fed to flamingos, zoos have found that adding canthaxanthin to the feed of flamingos led to better breeding outcomes.

In zoos, flamingos are fed special pellets enriched with pigment to preserve the rosy coloration of their feathers.

While some fruits and veggies can substitute the pigments that flamingos get from foraging the lakes and lagoons of their habitat, specially formulated flamingo pellets are both the right size and the right formulation to meet their dietary needs.


Flamingos feed their young with a secretion called ‘crop milk’ that’s rich in canthaxanthin until the baby flamingo can feed itself. Despite its blood red color, this milk crop does not contain any blood, and its color is due to the pigment it contains.

The crop milk is rich in protein and fat, being highly nourishing for the baby flamingos that need to develop quickly, so they can leave the nest and start feeding on their own.

Hopefully, I’ve managed to shed light on the feeding habits of flamingos while also dispelling some myths about baby chicks being fed blood, instead of the milk crop high in pigment that they’re actually being fed with.

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