Flamingos display pink plumage because their diet includes many small crustaceans the shells of which are laden with pink pigmentation and other chemicals which in turn manifest in the flamingo's feathers. Flamingos feed in wetlands and lake beds, stirring up mud and silt with their feet and then sweeping their beaks through the agitated soil to sieve out their prey.
Flamingos in captivity will often lose their coloration. Dietary supplements can be used to restore their brilliant color, but without it their plumage will fade until it is a kind of off-white or rose and cream color that is also sometimes seen in wild flamingos feeding from atypical sources.
Flamingos are not born pink and do not acquire their vivid pink coloration until at least 2 years of age. Hatchlings are grey or white with a thick layer of downy feathers covering their bodies, and they remain this way until they molt and fledge upon maturation.
Flamingos take in a huge amount of muck and dirt as they filter through the waters where they feed. To avoid swallowing this detritus, their beaks are equipped with a filter-like mechanism which allows them to catch food while water and refuse sluice out.