By Nicole Wong
During breeding season, Caribbean flamingos display all kinds of funky movements and dances, and the flamingos at the Sacramento Zoo are certainly no exception! What exactly do these synchronized “dances” mean? These movements are group courtship rituals in which males and females identify suitable mates. The “dancing” is thought to be performed in a group to synchronize breeding within the flock so that the eggs will all be laid around the same time – when environmental conditions are the most favorable. This increases the survival rate of the eggs and chicks.
If you come to the zoo during spring and summer, you’re very likely to catch a glimpse of some of these ritualized displays. These moves include “head-flagging” when the flamingos rapidly turn their heads from one side to the other, “wing-salutes” which involve the bright birds standing up tall and throwing their wings open and “twist-preening” which is a flashy version of their normal preening behaviors. You’ll even catch them marching back and forth as a flock! You might also notice some bowing, flapping, stretching and a whole lot of loud honking!
These fascinating group rituals serve an important purpose for these social birds and are also very entertaining to watch. So, spread your wings and stop on by the lake at the Sacramento Zoo and see which fancy flamingo moves you can spot!