March of the Flamingos

Research posts

Felicity Arengo, associate director for the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, recently returned from conducting a census of flamingo populations in several wetlands in Argentina. She’s taken part in this research for nearly two decades running, and most years, she and her team run into an amazing sight or two. This year was no exception. 

As we were scanning the pink-dotted wetland from our favorite vantage point overlooking Laguna Grande in Catamarca, Argentina, we were thrilled to find a dense cluster of flamingos busy in their ritualized courtship display.

 


Flamingos have several moves they display to attract a mate, and they do them together, in groups. They usually start by raising their heads with a very straight neck, then moving their heads from side to side.

They can “pretend” to be preening, open their wings in a salute, and even bow down with their necks stretched forward and wings lifted in the back. During this ritual, flamingos get so worked up, they march together as if in a line dance, first to the right, then to the left. 

 

via GIPHY

They work hard at it, too. Since pair bonds among flamingos last for only a single breeding season, each year means taking part in a new group display, in the hopes of finding a new mate. Even a full repertoire of dance moves, though, doesn’t guarantee success. Even after impressive displays like the one captured in this video, some flamingos will strike out and not breed this season.

To read more about Dr. Arengo's work monitoring flamingo populations, check out her Field Journals.