Finding A Mate In The Camargue

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Flamingos strutting their stuff at a park in the Camargue region of southern France. Credit Jean E. Roche/Minden Pictures

Thanks to Tuesday’s Science section in the New York Times:

Flamingo Mating Rules: 1. Learn the Funky Chicken


Flamingos are very good dancers. They twist and preen, they scratch their heads, they march in unison. They poke a wing in one direction and a leg in another.

They bend forward, sticking their tails up; they vigorously flap their wings in a flashy red and black display.

Flamingos are serially monogamous. They mate for one year, get divorced, and find a new mate the next year. New mates are mutually agreed upon — males and females both dance in search of a compatible partner.

Now researchers have discovered that birds with the largest repertoire of dance moves, and the ability to switch quickly and often from one move to another, are the ones who most often succeed in finding mates.

Scientists carefully watched and photographed 50 male and 50 female birds during the mating season in the Camargue, in southern France, recording the type, timing and frequency of their gyrations. The birds, all tagged since birth, ranged from 4 to 37 years old.

During the average five-minute courtship sequence, the number of postures varied between two and eight, while the number of transitions between postures varied between two and 17.

Combining the two numbers, the researchers created a “sexual display complexity” score for each bird. Then they tracked the dancers to see who succeeded in producing chicks…

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