Scientists Find Friend Groups in Flamingos Can Be Pretty Cliquey

When Tina Fey and Rosalind Wiseman wrote the quintessential line “on Wednesdays, we wear pink” in their Mean Girls script, they had no idea that one day it would be used in a scientific study about flamingos.

In Mean Girls, this quote is given to the newest member of an elite high school clique so she doesn’t ruin the vibe when they get together for lunch.

And in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Exeter and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust announced that flamingo societies in the Caribbean and Chile seem to have their own groups based on personality preferences. The news even came on Wednesday.

Thanks to these birds who are already dressed for the occasion.

“It’s clear from this research that the social life of a flamingo is much more complex than we first realised,” said Paul Rose, from WWT and Exeter’s Center for Research in Animal Behavior and lead author of a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, said in a statement.

Many orangey-pink flamingos can be seen here.  The four seem to be in some kind of argument, two on each side.

The mate of a Caribbean flamingo helps in a dispute with another pair of flamingos.

Paul Rose

According to Rose, whose name beautifully follows the theme of this article, previous research has shown that each flamingo has specific “friends” within their flock. In addition, Rose’s work not only proves that flamingos love kinship, but also proves that these animals are long-term types of relationships. Their bonds, more often than not, stand the test of time.

The team wanted to know if there was a reason for these groups of friends or if they were completely random. In other words, are there certain character traits and personality types that dictate who is friends with whom?

“The answer is yes,” said Rose.

For example, after separately observing groups of Caribbean and Chilean flamingos, Rose and her colleagues found that bolder birds have stronger and more consistent relationships with other bolder birds. . Submissive birds, on the other hand, prefer to associate with their submissive peers. Introverts unite!

Two Caribbean flamingos were spotted fighting with another bird.  Three flamingos are in the background.

Two Caribbean flamingos were spotted fighting with another bird.

Paul Rose

“Like humans, flamingos seem to carve out different social roles based on their personality,” Fionnuala McCully of the University of Liverpool, who collected data for the study while at the University of Exeter, said in a statement.

Notably, in each study, individual Caribbean flamingos seem to play a particular role in their own group compared to Chilean flamingos. Regarding the group dynamics, the researchers also found that aggressive bird groups dominate their opponents and fight many battles, but submissive birds move in a different way, including helping to their other shy flamingo friends who stay strong in the face of adversity.

“The various different personality groups provide social assistance to their members, for example by supporting each other in the many fights that occur in flamingo flocks,” said McCully.

Three light pink flamingos can be seen here.  The two appeared to be sparring and one was quieter and less confrontational in the back.

Bold Chilean flamingos push a more submissive bird.

Paul Rose

Flamingos aren’t the only animal we know that forms friend groups based on private intuition. Chimpanzees and Assamese macaques, for example, share the same inclination. And on top of that, we know that some animals like to make friends in general. Horses, dolphins and even snakes have been seen interacting with others of their kind.

As of 2020, scientists have even found evidence that sperm whales have sweet little bromances like they’re part of a fraternity.

That said, Rose said, “our findings warrant further investigation, to help us understand the evolution of social behavior and to improve the welfare of zoo animals.”

Leave a Comment