Article image

Flamingos of a feather flock together

A new study led by thy University of Exeter has revealed that flamingos prefer to flock with individuals they are compatible with. The research suggests that flamingo societies are more complex than what was previously realized. 

In a collaboration with experts at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), the team analyzed the personalities and social behavior of Caribbean and Chilean flamingos. 

“This research aimed to document how personality traits (aggressive, exploratory, submissive) influence the social network structure of highly social animals in a captive environment,” wrote the study authors.

“Data were collected from separate flocks of captive Caribbean (Phoenicopterus ruber) and Chilean flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis) to identify relationships between birds and examine opportunities for social support.”

The researchers found that birds of both species were more likely to spend time with flamingos that shared similar personalities.

“Our previous research has shown that individual flamingos have particular ‘friends’ within the flock,” said Dr. Paul Rose. “In this study, we wanted to find out whether individual character traits explain why these friendships form. The answer is yes – birds of a feather flock together.”

“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.”

Study co-author Fionnuala McCully said that, like humans, flamingos appear to carve out different roles in society based on their personality. 

“For example, we observed groups of aggressive birds which attempt to dominate rivals and tend to get in more fights.”

“Meanwhile, the role of submissive birds may be more complex than simply being lower down the pecking order – they may be using a different approach to get what they need.”

“The various different personality groups provide social help to their members, for example by supporting each other in the many squabbles that take place in flamingo flocks,” said McCully.

Among the Caribbean flamingos, personality types were associated with certain social roles within a group. This was not the case, however, among the Chilean birds. Further research is needed to understand these behavior patterns.

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

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day