A behavioral ecologist at the University of Exeter, Paul Rose, decided to investigate if flamingos formed close bonds with each other when they are in the wild.
What he discovered was rather interesting. It doesn’t matter if it is flamingo mates, same-sex friends, or groups of multiple flamingos, they are in it for the long haul when it comes to relationships.
The data that Rose put together was from 2012-2016. Information was taken from the Caribbean, Chilean, Andean, and lesser flocks living at Gloucestershire’s Wildfowl and Slimbridge Wetland Centre. What they found is that the bonds they form in the wild can last for decades, which is why you often see them huddling close together.
In an interview with National Geographic, Rose said: “The fact that they’re so long-lasting suggests these relationships are important for survival in the wild.”
Rose took pictures of the flamingos on a daily basis over four seasons to assess the strength of the friendships among specific flocks. He wanted to see which of those birds were huddled together.
For example, he said, “there were two strongly bonded older females who did everything from courtship displays to building their nests together, and they were always joined by a male 20 years their junior.” He also said that when two flamingos are “less than one neck length away” from each other, it’s a good chance that they are friends.
Rose commented on how flamingos chose their mates:
“It seems to be more about finding someone with a similar personality, someone you don’t clash with. The flocks are noisy and busy, and probably the birds don’t need more stress. Having a buddy is good for your well-being… one way to reduce stress and fights is to avoid those birds you don’t get on with.”
He also said the zoo owners should be cautious of separating flamingos that seem to be “closely bonded.” You can read the full study in the June issue of Behavioral Processes.
I guess birds of a feather really do flock together!
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