In order to optimize their survival, flamingos can make lifelong friends according to a new study. To do this, they look for companions with whom they congenial and avoid those who do not swallow . physical features can play a role in these links.
The study has been published in the journal Behavioral Processes .
The fraternal union in birds
We already knew that albatrosses have a very pronounced sense of family, and not only because of the efforts when it comes to taking care of the young: they star in love stories that could perfectly fit into one of the subplots of Love Actually . We also knew that Adelie penguins have monogamous relationships.
What has now been found for the first time is that flamingos forge loyal and lasting friendships, and that physical traits can play a role in these bonds .
Lasting relationships between flamingos include pairs that build nests together and raise chicks each year, as well as same-sex friends and groups of three to six close friends .
The study leader is Paul Rose , a behavioral ecologist at the University of Exeter in the UK. From 2012 to 2016, Rose collected data on four captive flocks of Caribbean, Chilean and Andean flamingos kept at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Slimbridge Wetland Center in Gloucestershire. The flocks, which range in size from just over 20 individuals to over 140, are considered similar in structure and behavior to wild groups.
By collecting this data over a five-year period, Rose observed that flamingos maintain selectively stable friendships, characterized primarily by being physically together. Like humans, another highly social species, these birds also carefully avoid certain individuals, in order to avoid disputes.
The largest flocks were also found to have the most varied and highest number of social interactions with complex social networks made up of subgroups of two, three and six members.
Understanding the social ties of birds can help conservationists better manage captive and wild flamingos.
The physical feature that defines the bond of friendship seems to be, above any other, the color of the skin.
If one bird gets too close to another, each will use their long necks and beaks to attack. Flamingos sometimes try to force themselves to establish that one has a longer neck than the other. But when it comes to how flamingos choose their friends, Rose suspects that both personality and coloration play a role.
In other words, flamingos look for friends with similar personalities to avoid conflicts.