Hues of Pink

Down here in Texas I was recently watching a very vibrant Roseate Spoonbill feeding and I couldn’t help but admire its gorgeous pink plumage. I asked a question that many have asked before and that I’m sure some of you can already answer; why are they so pink?


The answer, simply put is shrimp. Spoonbills eat shrimp, shrimp eat algae and algae produce red and yellow pigments called carotenoids. This shrimp gives the Spoonbills their pink coloration and the more shrimp they eat, they brighter they are. As the saying goes, you are what you eat; in this case, pink! This is also why Franklin’s Gulls and other species of gulls and terns will have pink on their chests when they arrive in Canada in the spring. Down south, they have been feeding up on carotenoid-rich prey which give them a little bit of pink.

But as the breeding season progresses, we notice less and less pink coloration because the pigment is broken down by the sun; pretty neat!

By June, when I took this photo, most of the Franklin's Gulls coloration has faded

By the time I took this photo, in June, most of the Franklin’s Gull’s pink has faded.

So next time you see a Franklin’s Gull or another species with a rose colored wash on its chest, think carotenoids!



About Matthew Sim

A 15 year-old birder and nature photographer, Matthew got caught up in birding in 2009 at the age of 11, buying a digital camera and zoom lens soon after with everything just spiraling downhill from there. He soon got involved with the birding community at home in Calgary, Alberta and expanded his knowledge from there. In the fall of 2011, he moved back to his native Texas for high school and was in due course amazed at the different levels of bird diversity between there and Alberta. Matthew is interested in all aspects of the natural world and is always eager to learn more.
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One Response to Hues of Pink

  1. Charlotte says:

    Great photos, Matthew! Franklin’s Gulls are my favorite gulls and I can’t wait until they arrive.