Flamingos are usually known for their beautiful pink plumage. One flamingo, however, gained fame early this year for its rare black feathers. Spotted among pink and white flamingos, onlookers first noticed the unusual black flamingo at the Akrotiri Environmental Center on the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus this April.
Experts indicate that this bird's atypical coloring is due to melanism, a genetic condition that causes excessive pigmentation. Only one flamingo with this condition has previously been observed, in 2013 in Israel.
However, it's possible that these two birds are actually the same bird, suggested Felicity Arengo, a conservationist at the American Museum of Natural History. Since flamingos often migrate long distances throughout their lifetime, the birds observed in Israel and Cyprus might be one and the same.
Experts also suggest that melanism can benefit birds. The dark coloring can help them blend into their surroundings, which allows the flamingos to hide from predators. However, Arengo indicated that dark coloring could additionally pose a disadvantage for flamingos seeking a mate.
The search continues now to determine just how many black flamingos exist. Researchers hope to find more like-colored birds—and answers—soon.
[Sources: National Geographic; The Big Book of Knowledge]