One-legged Pink Beauties
While looking at the brilliant pink Flamingo at the zoo, have you ever wondered why Flamingos stand on one leg?
There are many suggestions as to why Flamingos favor this one-legged stance but no one knows for sure until researcher Anderson and Williams tested it.
They observed a flock of Caribbean Flamingos, Phoenicopterus rubber, at the Philadelphia Zoo, and tested the two most popular explanations proposed for the one-legged posture: reduce muscle fatigue or help regulate body temperature.
By standing on one leg, it is seen to prevent the other leg from getting stiff or tired at the same time. And if a predator comes along, it can get moving faster. However, Anderson and Williams found that their movement was consistently slower (by about 14 seconds) when they are resting on one leg.
The legs and feet account for a significant source of heat exchange in birds. Keeping one leg tucked up against the body, it would conserve more body heat and maintain a normal temperature.
It was found that Flamingos stand on one leg more often in water or when it is cooler compared to on two legs when being on land or warmer weather. Although it may seem logical that these tropical birds may not need to worry about losing body heat, they spend most of their time in the water which causes them to lose body heat more rapidly. This suggests that the one-legged posture helps to lessen the amount of body heat lost when they come in contact with water.
Therefore the key reason behind the Flamingo’s one-legged posture is mainly due to thermoregulatory purposes to regulate body temperature and not so much on reducing muscle fatigue.
So now when you see a Flamingo standing on one leg, you will probably know why it is doing so!
Anderson, M. J., & Williams, S. A., 2010. Why Do Flamingos Stand on One Leg?. Zoo Biology, 29(3): 365–374.
“Flamingo standing on one leg” by jprags. Flickr, 10 September 2008. URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jprags/2845731942/ (accessed on 1 April 2013).
“Group of Flamingo” by Tamar Assaf. Wikimedia Commons. URL: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Group_of_Flamingo.JPG (accessed on 31 March 2013).
“Why do birds stand on one leg?” by YC Wee. Bird Ecology Study Group, 26 February 2010. URL: http://www.besgroup.org/2010/02/26/why-do-birds-stand-on-one-leg/ (accessed on 1 April 2013).