Flamingos Stay Tight, Make BFFs: New Study

A new study has revealed that flamingos form close social bonds with those in their flock, remaining friends often for decades.  The researchers studied friendship patterns in four different species of flamingos. The social bonds flamingos formed included “married” couples, same-sex friendships and even groups of three and four close friends.

Study Overview

The study used data spanning the period from 2012-16 and examined flocks of Caribbean, Chilean, Andean and Lesser flamingos. The flocks varied in size from just over 20 to more than 140.

The findings suggest larger flocks contained the highest level of social interactions.

“Our results indicate that flamingo societies are complex. They are formed of long-standing friendships rather than loose, random connections…

“We see pairs of males or females choosing to ‘hang out’, we see trios and quartets that are regularly together.

“Flamingos have long lives — some of the birds in this study have been at Slimbridge since the 1960s — and our study shows their friendships are stable over a period of years.

“It seems that — like humans — flamingos form social bonds for a variety of reasons, and the fact they’re so long-lasting suggests they are important for survival in the wild.”

-Dr. Paul Rose, researcher, University of Exeter

Important implications for captive flamingos

The research findings have major implications for the management of captive flamingos.

“When moving birds from one zoo to another, we should be careful not to separate flamingos that are closely bonded to each other.  The simple lesson of this is that captive flamingo flocks should contain as many birds as reasonably possible.”

-Dr. Paul Rose, researcher, University of Exeter


Journal Reference: Paul E. Rose, Darren P. Croft. Evaluating the social networks of four flocks of captive flamingos over a five-year period: Temporal, environmental, group and health influences on assortment. Behavioural Processes, 2020; 175: 104118 DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2020.104118