Friday, September 24, 2010

Flamingo Friday: Don’t You Get Beaky with Me

Sometimes I worry that, by not regularly posting photos of certain kinds of behaviors, I give you, The Reader, the impression that they don’t happen very often. I’m trying to rectify that by taking and showing more photos of the flamingos’ semi-aggressive billing-at-one-another behavior—which happens all the time. I say “semi-aggressive” because, although there’s a clear element of snappishness about it (usually brought on by one flamingo’s bumping into another or otherwise invading what it considers its personal space), it really seems like a knee-jerk reaction, without a lot of passion behind it. It’s sort of like a Manhattan pedestrian automatically cursing out the driver of a cab that’s cut them off—not really mad about what happened, just annoyed enough to spew forth some invective.

In some ways, the billing-at-each-other seems like a social activity, too, since it often involves a number of different birds, all of whom were perfectly calm until one started honking and waving its beak around. Then all of a sudden four or more of them will be waving their beaks and making belligerent squawk-honks (clearly Flamingo for “I’ll tell you what you can do with your ‘personal food pellets’!”). Then, responding to a signal that’s unclear to me, they’ll all calm down again and go back to preening or sleeping or feeding as if nothing ever happened.

Sometimes it’s a two-flamingo affair, though, and I’m not sure if those situations stem from more serious grievances or if the injured parties’ neighbors just aren’t in the mood to join in. But even in those cases, the worse that will happen is that one flamingo will beat a quick retreat to another part of the enclosure, somewhere out of neck’s reach.

Usually, though, it doesn’t even come to that: they fight their fight—or whatever it is they’re doing—and move on. Figuratively, that is. Otherwise, they stay right where they are.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Anca said...

Interesting! Albatrosses do their courting through beak clacking. They arrive at mate choice when they find one with whom they're in perfect synchronicity of dance and castanet sounds. They, too, fight with beaks. Do flamingos court with beaks?

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

I'm not sure; the placards at the zoo seem to suggest that it's mainly through various little dance steps and neck movements.

eileeninmd said...

Fantastic post on the flamingo. Your photos are awesome!

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