The sight of a flamingo flock walking onto exhibit each morning is a great sight to see. Our gregarious Chilean flamingos march outside every morning to be greeted by guests who await their daily arrival.
If you take some time to watch the group, you’ll see that that flamingos are very social. I love to spend time at the Waterfowl Lagoon watching all their fascinating behaviors and interesting interactions with each other.
Flamingos exhibit numerous displays as a group—and also as individuals. Each display helps the flock in various ways. For example, the alert posture, a display where they elongate their necks upward as high as possible and look back and forth, may signal to the rest of the flock to be on alert, perhaps for a potential predator. Often one bird will initiate this type of display, and other birds will soon join in.
Members of the flamingo flock display an alert posture amidst last winter's snow.
“Wing-saluting” is a spectacular breeding display that the entire flock will do. Each bird will expand both wings to flash their pink and black feathers. A male and female can also be seen walking in front of each other in unison when individual birds are establishing pairs.
A "wing salute" at the Waterfowl Lagoon.
With a group as big as a flamingo flock—ours has 46 birds, although there can be as many as 10,000 in the wild—there’s bound to be some quarrelling. When they’re trying to find the perfect resting location or defending a nest mound, you may witness two or even three birds vying for their preferred spot by vocalizing while snipping at each other’s bills.
Small squabbles are part of the process for any social species.
Be sure to check out the fanciful flamingo flock and all their displays when you visit the Waterfowl Lagoon. It’s definitely a sight to see.
Sunny Nelson is Lincoln Park Zoo’s Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds
The Summer 2013 Lincoln Park Zoo magazine casts a social spotlight on Lincoln Park Zoo, examining groups and behaviors throughout the zoo.