The Social Organization and Potential Mating Bonds Observed in a Captive Non-Breeding Flock of Caribbean Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber)
Lee, Jenica Joplin
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The intriguing social behavior and stubborn breeding patterns of the friendly flamingo has been a mystery that has been under investigation since the 1970's. Understanding why captive flamingo flocks do not readily reproduce has been part of a wider conservation concern for many years and has been a topic of concern for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. A self-sustaining captive flock is essential to reduce the number of birds removed from natural wild flocks; thus the reproductive success of captive flocks is vital to the health and livelihood of flocks in the wild. The social behaviors of a non-breeding captive flock could exhibit dynamic differences then either a breeding or wild flamingo flock. This study observes the social nature of a flamingo flock consisting of sixteen individuals on exhibit at the Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park in West Palm Beach, Florida. The information concentrates on the interactions, whether affiliated, aggressive or non-specific towards nearby neighbors in addition to group displays, to gain an understanding of the intraspecific behaviors being exhibited within this flock. This could give clues to the dynamic differences of behavioral organization within a non-breeding flock. There was special interest in the formation of trio-bonds, same sex bonds and same sex trios in this flock of flamingos, which differs greatly from the standard pair-bonds formed by most wild breeding flocks and the explanation for this type of interaction is explored. Flamingo locations in the exhibit we also recorded for this flock of flamingos, for future planning of the exhibit if offspring were to be produced. Information from this study will hopefully benefit the assessment of enrichment needed to persuade this flock of flamingos to breed in upcoming years.