Social associations in captive Caribbean flamingos Phoenicopterus ruber and their implications for flock management
Keywords:affiliations, age, captive breeding, social network analysis, welfare , zoo
Studying the flamingo’s preferential associations provides information on welfare indicators such as aggression and reproduction. This study investigated associations within the Caribbean flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber flock at Zoo de Granby, Québec, using an association index (AI) to measure the strength of associations. Based on previous literature, it was predicted that (1) pairs would remain stable throughout the study, (2) younger individuals would be more likely to change partners than older individuals, and (3) pairs with a large age difference would be more likely to switch partners. Contrary to the prediction, only 58% of pairs were maintained throughout the study; however, the strength of the associations increased in 2016. No relationship was found between the age of an individual and their likelihood to change partners, nor between the age difference between partners and their likelihood to split. This research demonstrates that captive flamingos can have strong associations. Regarding the management of the flock, the flamingos appear to demonstrate free mate choice and further research would be needed to assess whether there is stability in pairings between multiple years.