Flamingo behaviour project

Flamingo need friends too. Which birds are flocking together?

  • £729

    pledged of £23,000

    • 2


    • 0


Completion Date: Sat 06 Jun 2015

Flamingos are Fab!

Flamingos are amazing birds. They have been around for millions of years. They occur in incredibly hostile habitats. And they live, love and hang out in flock of up to a million or more. These huge flocks could be the foundation for special and important relationships between individual birds.

As flamingos can live for a very long time (the oldest birds have been recorded into their eighties) relationships that do exist between birds could be as important as the friendships that we form as humans. We know that our quality of life is enhanced by our relationships, and with our associations with our friends. For a bird as long-lived as the flamingo, perhaps this is also the case?

Flamingos on the TV!

If you watched BBC One's "Animals in Love", you would have seen the WWT Slimbridge flamingos doing their amazing courtship display and me talking about this incredible behaviour and what it means!
Missed it? You can view a clip at the link here: The flamingos (and Paul!) featured on Animals in Love (2015).


Where will the money go?

Any and all of the money raised from this site will go back to the project and to the birds themselves

  1. I am aiming to do some genetic work looking at relatedness of birds to each other in a flock. Does this relatedness affect who is friends with whom? This is novel science and I would love to be able to explore the interactions between related birds more closely. (£5000)
  2. I hope to present my research at a Behavioural Ecology meeting in August of this year. This is an international gathering of the top animal behaviour scientists and as such it would be an opportunity not to be missed. Spreading the word of the flamingo as wide as possible! (£3000)
  3. I also wish to provide some funding back to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust for their help and support during my research, which will go on to help the lives of the birds themselves. (£1000)
  4. Flamingo research and tuition costs (£12,000)

So in short, I am looking to raise money to help me with my PhD, and to carry out important research on flamingos to help understand their lives, to help manage them better in captivity and to learn more about the relevance of social relationships.

Flamingos are one of the world's most popular zoo animals.They are familiar and known to many. They need our help as many of them have declining populations, and our zoo birds are important to conserve them into the future. With such long lifespans, we need to care for them for a very long time.

My Story

My name is Paul and I care very deeply about animal welfare and animal behaviour. I have been working in the area of zoo animal husbandry since I was an undergraduate at university. I have always been passionate about how we keep and care for zoo animals. I strongly believe that we need to justify why we keep animals in zoos, and that the species we do keep have a value (to science, to visitors and to their wild-living cousins).

The research that I am doing helps all of these stakeholders. Captive birds benefit from an increased understanding of their needs, we add knowledge to the science of natural history and flamingo biology, we can better engage and inform the next generation, and we can look for similar ways to help care and conserve wild populations too.

My supervisor at the University of Exeter, Professor Darren Croft, is a world leader in the area of social behaviour. Together we have developed a project looking to investigate the relationships that flamingos have within the groups that they live.

There are six species of flamingo alive today. And my PhD is investigating the social behaviour of all of them. Nobody else has done, or is doing this. Consequently, we will be able to look at the similarities and differences between the types of friends that each species chooses, and why they chose their friends as they do.  

Flamingos need to be studied in more detail. You might think that because they are so common and so familiar that we know a lot about them. But we don't. We need to understand much more about how they relate to one another in a flock because this is important for a variety of reasons:

  • Making baby flamingos; if they don't get on, they won't breed!
  • Explaining their behaviour to zoo visitors.
  • Moving the right birds between flocks. We want to make sure we give all birds the right choices to find the friends they like.
  • Maintaining sustainable flocks; we cannot remove birds from wild. And wild flocks are declining. We need to ensure that there is a safety net of birds in zoos for the future.
  • Flamingos in zoos are a force for good. They educate, inspire and engage those that see them. They are powerful ambassadors for flamingos out in the wild. And they provide hope for us to keep flamingo populations alive into the future. It is vital that we explore their biology and behaviour in more detail so that we give them the best quality of life possible.

Also, I am paying my way through my PhD.

I teach part-time to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and the money that I raise goes back into my research. I work hard to present my research to a wider audience so that it is relevant and useful to those working with these amazing birds. The more money that is raised, the more research can be done. It is as simple as that. We can answer more questions about the bird's lives and what they are doing. We will be able to collect more data and do more analysis. We can tell a much bigger audience the story of the flamingo and why it matters.


Do you like biscuits...?! we have some fab rewards to thank everyone who donates, whatever the amount you might give. Be sure to check them out!

Find us here

I write a diary of my research at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust here: https://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/slimbridge/diaries/flamingo-diary/

You can find me on Twitter here: @pauledwardrose

And I help run the IUCN Flamingo Specialist Group's Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/FlamingoSpecialistGroup

For a more in-depth view of my academic work, please see: https://eprofile.exeter.ac.uk/paulrose/ and http://uk.linkedin.com/in/zoopaul81  

Make sure you follow me to find out how the project, and the birds (!), are getting on!


Help us succeed!

You don't need to give money to help me succeed! Please share this project with anyone you think would support it – on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, by email, telephone, in a chat over the fence or on your blog.

In fact, share it with everyone you know as we think it's a great idea, and the more people who know about it, the more likely we are to make this work out brilliantly.

And I know we said you don't need to give money to help, but I'd love it if you did! Please sponsor the project and help make this get the biggest impact possible.