Flamingos have close friendships that can last for years, scientists say

Yes, birds have BFFs too.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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These flamingo friends are hanging out together.

Paul Rose/WWT Slimbridge

Birds of a feather may flock together, but when it comes to flamingos, some of them flock closer than others. 

Flamingos develop strong friendships, and those bonds can last for years, researchers discovered. A team at the UK's University of Exeter published the results of a five-year study into flamingo friendships for the June 2020 issue of the journal Behavioural Processes. Friendships observed at the beginning of the study in 2012 were still active in 2016. 

"Some mating couples spend much of their time together, but lots of other social bonds also exist," said lead author Paul Rose in a University of Exeter release on Tuesday. "We see pairs of males or females choosing to 'hang out,' we see trios and quartets that are regularly together."

The team studied flocks of four different flamingo species in residence at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Slimbridge Wetland Centre in the UK. 

The research has implications for flamingos in captivity and how they are managed. "All flamingos were more frequently seen socializing than solitary," the study said. "Those in the largest flock showed the highest occurrence of social behavior."

The scientists suggest keepers should provide flamingos with opportunities to choose their own buddies. "The simple lesson of this is that captive flamingo flocks should contain as many birds as reasonably possible," Rose said.

Rose also recommended that flamingos moved between zoos should not be separated from their close friends. 

There is another side to the flamingo friendship coin. The researchers observed that some birds avoided particular individuals. That's very relatable.

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