Flamingo 'friendships' revealed by scientists


A new study by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and the University of Exeter has advanced the understanding of social dynamics within flocks of flamingos.

The scientists involved say that the findings, based on research into the behaviour of American Flamingos and Chilean Flamingos at Slimbridge WWT, could inform the management and welfare of captive flocks.

American Flamingo personality types play a role within the flock as a whole, though this did not appear to be the case in Chilean Flamingo (Phil Rhodes).

Building on previous research, which showed that flamingos have 'friends' within the flock, the latest study has demonstrated that these relationships form between birds with similiar personality traits.

Each bird's personality was measured by scoring individual differences in traits such as aggression and willingness to explore.

Dr Paul Rose, from WWT and Exeter Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, said: "For example, bolder birds had stronger, more consistent ties with other bold birds, while submissive birds tended to spend their time with fellow submissive flamingos."

Fionnuala McCully, who is now at the University of Liverpool, said that they found that birds "which attempt to dominate rivals and tend to get in more fights" associated with each other. She explained that more submissive flamingos, which also form 'cliques', may be helping each other get what they need through alternative tactics, rather than simply being lower in status.

It was found that individual American Flamingos of particular personality types performed a role within the whole flock, but this was not found in Chilean Flamingos. The team said that a larger study of a wild population might reveal more.

Dr Rose said: "Our findings need further investigation, both to help us understand the evolution of social behaviour and to improve the welfare of zoo animals. But it is clear from this research that a flamingo's social life is much more complicated than we first realised."



McCully, F R, & Rose, P E. 2023. Individual personality predicts social network assemblages in a colonial bird. Scientific Reports 13 (1) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-29315-3