Why Do Pink Flamingos Stand on One Leg?


Why do pink flamingos stand on one leg?  Okay, I don’t know.  According to Lena Ting, it is about engineering?  It proves science is way cool, and just plain strange.

“…Some scientists have suggested it was a way for the bird to conserve heat that would have been lost if that foot had been in the cold water. Others thought it was a way to reduce muscle fatigue, letting one leg rest while the other did the work.

But for muscles to get fatigued, the posture must actually be tiring for the bird.

Nobody had ever tested whether the flamingo’s iconic one-legged posture required any actual muscle effort — until now.

Ting and co-author Young-Hui Chang from the Georgia Institute of Technology headed to Zoo Atlanta, where they tested eight juvenile Chilean flamingos using a device called a force plate. She compares the machine to a Wii balance board or a high-tech bathroom scale – it “can measure the small motions of the body when you stand.”…”


“...In fact, says Ting, “our research also suggests that it may require less effort for the flamingos to stand on one leg than on two.” The bird was not able to maintain this kind of passive balancing on two legs; as Ting explained, when the leg unfolded the joint “sort of collapsed” from its more stable position balanced on one leg.

This study is not inconsistent with the idea that flamingos stand on one leg to reduce heat loss, especially if the bird doesn’t need to expend much energy to do so.

But Ting says it may be even simpler than that: They may just balance on one leg because it’s easier for them than any other way.

It’s worth noting that lots of other birds balance on one leg too, such as wood ducks and storks. Ting says this could be a “more general mechanism that many birds use.“…”

It is a fascinating read.