Tracy Aviary's "Pride" of Flamingos

Pride month in Salt Lake City has been a colorful display of love and equality. Rainbow flags hang from every building and continuous parties have flown through the streets almost nightly. Tracy Aviary has had it's own prideful displays by some of our same-sex bird couples this month as well. The most popular of those couples are, of course, the flamingos! Our Chilean flamingo family have begun to pair up and build their nests, and it comes as little surprise that some of the best nest-building couples are our same sex pairs. As Pride month comes to an end we thought we should celebrate this beautiful and lively flock! We gathered information about some our favorite flamingo couples here at the Aviary and the science behind them choosing a mate.

 

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Each spring, around mid-March, our Chilean flamingo flock begins their breeding season with courtship displays.  This flock has 26 birds, and 21 of them are of breeding age. The reason for these displays are because each flamingo is evaluating their flock-mates to determine who is eligibile as a partner for the upcoming nesting season. They will start off their displays slowly with wing salutes, reverse-preens, wing-leg stretches, head flagging, and marching. Flamingos do this so that each bird can show off the brighter pink and stark black feathers on their wings. The brightness of these colors are an indication to their mates of good health and a promising sign that they will be able to provide food and resources for a chick in the future. These birds will pick up frequency as the spring progresses, until all of the flock is displaying almost constantly throughout the day. Both the male and female flamingos will perform courtship displays, and then make the final and mutual decision on which bird they wish to pair with.  

By early May, almost every flamingo will have selected a partner for the breeding season. It is around this time when something interesting can be observed. Not every flamingo couple here at Tracy Aviary is composed of one male and one female! Over the years we have seen many different types of pairings between flamingos; one male with one female, one male with one male, one female with one female, two males with one female, and even three females. We believe that these pairings occur because the birds in this flock are simply concerned with finding the partner that can most successfully help them raise a chick, whether or not that partner is able to help them create an egg. 

 

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This year, our flock has separated into 6 male/female pairs, 1 male/male pair, 1 female/female pair, 1 female throuple, 2 unpaired adults (male and female), and 5 unpaired juveniles (under the age of 2).  Seeing these pairings each season, we get to know whether or not they return to the same bird as the year before or whether they find a new partner.  What we are finding is that these birds like to re-pair with the same partner for multiple years in a row.  Here are a few fun facts about the relationships of our Aviary flamingo flock couples:

  • Out of our 6 male/female pairs, 5 pairs have been together for more than 3 years, with some of the pairings having been together for over 8 years!  One couple, Blue 60 and Green 33, have been together since 2011 and have raised several chicks together.  These birds are the parents of Bubbles (Blue 53, hatched in 2017) and Newt (Orange 02, hatched in 2013), to name a few of their offspring. 
  • Our male/male pairing has also been together for quite a while.  Tan 24 and White 95 have been a couple since 2015, after White 95’s female partner passed away of sudden health issues, and the two males decided they were the best fit for each other. The pair tend to be a favorite among employees because they are the Aviary rockstars when it comes to nesting season. They are always the first to begin building their nest, always pick prime real estate for their nest, and build the biggest, tallest, and most well-constructed nest out of the entire flock. They are truly dedicated to building and protecting a nest, and would make excellent foster parents if the opportunity presented itself.
  • Our pair of two females, Green 30 and White 99, have been together for a few years now, but are far less invested in nesting than the rest of the breeding flock.  They have built nests and incubated in the past, but they are typically the last to build their nest and the least invested in doing so.  This pair is more interested in spending time together out in the pond, and can always be seen sleeping, eating, bathing, or preening together.
  • The newest relationship development is our all-female throuple. Orange 02 (Newt), Orange 49 (Floyd Jr.), and Black 05, are a new and interesting developement that is still in a state of flux.  Currently, we are seeing a dynamic between these 3 females resembling what we humans would call a “love triangle”.  Newt and Floyd Jr. both appear interested in each other, but Black 05 is interested only in Newt. Newt, however, is moderately interested in Black 05, but Floyd Jr. does not want Black 05 around at all. Newt can be seen spending time with either of the other females and will build nests with both of them.  Whenever Black 05 and Floyd Jr.  get near eachother or see the other with Newt, they will display defensively and fluff out their feathers, bite at each other, and vocalize loudly.  This grouping is new and different from last year when Floyd Jr. was paired with a male, and Newt and Black 05 were a couple.  We are looking forward to seeing whether or not this throuple can make things work!

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Here at the Tracy Aviary, we love and support every flamingo couple, regardless of how they choose to pair.  While none of them have had the opportunity to raise chicks yet this year, we are always encouraging them to practice those good natural behaviors and engage in this breeding season.  We are looking forward to seeing what happens with our flamingo flock, or rather, "pride", and hope everyone had a safe and happy time celebrating this month.

 

-Mackenzy Johnson, Public Relations Coordinator