Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Flamingos, Real and Plastic

I bought only official Don Featherstone flamingos in my day. Featherstone was a recently-graduated art student who lucked into an amazingly long-lasting creation in 1957. He retired early to central Massachusetts on that money and liked to ride around in a Stutz-Bearcat while in Roaring 20's garb. Quite a character, apparently.
That's Don in the picture.

Once you've got a few plastic flamingos scattered about your office, people comment. Specifically, they tell you everything they know about either lawn ornaments or real flamingos. This is seldom interesting.

But occasionally the odd interesting bit does come in. Someone told me that flamingos were naturally white, but the pink shrimp they ate made them pink. This turned out to not be true, but something close to that is. Healthy flamingos, who have eaten plenty of Beta carotene, are pink. Without that nutrient, they are white. Shrimp, as well as blue-green algae, are an excellent source of Beta carotene. So eating pink shrimp does make flamingos pink, but indirectly, not by absorbing some pink dye into their feathers.

I wonder what makes the shrimp pink?


Anonymous said...

Sometime everyone should pay a visit to the Plastics Museum in Leominster, Mass, Featherstone's stomping grounds. See first-hand the history of the plastic flamingo as well other plastic icons (Foster Grant sunglasses for example) and the Plastics Hall of Fame. The Graduate should have listened to the advice of his father's friend. http://www.plasticsmuseum.org

Johnthefinder said...

I love those plastic flamingos! I have a whole flock on my lawn!