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What do we know about flamingo behaviors? A systematic review of the ethological research on the Phoenicopteridae (1978–2020)

Abstract

We provide a systematic review of the current scope of published behavioral research on flamingos (Phoenicopteridae), to answer the following questions: (1) what is the profile of ethology and behavioral research on flamingos, (2) which are the behaviors displayed by flamingos already observed and described in nature and captivity, and (3) what are the prospects in the ethological research of the group? Eighty-eight studies, from 1978 to 2020, met our inclusion criteria and were analyzed. Most involved maintenance and social behaviors in the context of ecology and welfare. Furthermore, most studies were performed on animals in captivity and controlled conditions, but there was a recent trend of studies in the field, mainly in South America and the Caribbean. The most studied species were greater and American flamingos, but there is a recent rise in studies on Chilean and Andean flamingos in Latin America. Most ethological studies on this group included quantitative analyses, ignoring a more qualitative perspective of the individuals’ displays. Behavior description can also help in comparative studies between flamingo species and other water birds. Expanding research to Andean, James’s, and lesser flamingos is a priority, since their populations are more vulnerable. Ethological research can help identify the threats and measure the impacts on these species, which can be useful for setting up management plans and conservation actions to mitigate the damage and avoid extinction.

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Availability of data and material

All the articles reviewed in this paper were presented in the Online Resource 3.

Code availability

Not Applicable

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Acknowledgements

We thank the two reviewers and the Editor for their very helpful reviews and suggestions. Our studies were supported by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Brazil.

Funding

HCD and CJC, respectively, are supported by a Master and a Post-Doctoral fellowship, from the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Brazil.

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HCD and CJC conceived the paper; HCD wrote the first draft, and all the authors discussed the ideas and collaborated on the subsequent drafts.

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Correspondence to Henrique Cardoso Delfino.

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Delfino, H.C., Carlos, C.J. What do we know about flamingo behaviors? A systematic review of the ethological research on the Phoenicopteridae (1978–2020). acta ethol 25, 1–14 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-021-00381-y

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Keywords

  • Behavioral ecology
  • Ethology
  • Interactions
  • Phoenicopteridae
  • Phoenicopteriformes