Have you ever wondered what captive flamingoes do at night when their zoo or wildlife park is closed?

Without the threat of predators and a regular supply of food, you’d imagine that they’d just spend the night standing on one leg, snoozing.

However, research by scientists from the University of Exeter has shown that captive flamingoes do more foraging and roam about more widely in their enclosures at night than they do in the day.

The study used remote trail cameras fitted around the enclosure of a flock of about 270 flamingoes at WWT Simbridge Wetland Centre. It found that flamingo foraging peaked in the evening, meaning this natural timing persisted despite the fact the birds were provided with a complete diet during the daytime. They roamed most widely in their enclosure during the later evening, middle of the night and into early morning.

"For lots of species housed in zoological collections, we know little about what they do once their keepers go home," said behavioural ecologist, Dr Paul Rose, of the University of Exeter.

"Wild flamingos are more active at night, and we were surprised to find the same is true in captivity. It seems they have an in-built behaviour pattern to keep active.

"This research has important implications for how we manage zoo populations of flamingos and other species. By providing a habitat that allows a range of activities to be performed, including some we don't see them doing in the daytime, we can allow them to behave in a natural way."

During the later morning and middle of the day the flamingos congregated in fewer areas of their habitat, preferring to be in one specific place for resting and preening. And some behaviours, such as courtship displays, were most commonly performed during the day.

Dr. Rose added that more research into nocturnal behaviour is needed if the welfare of captive animals is to be fully understood.

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