Why Do Flamingos Stand On One Leg?
There are a number of scientific theories that have attempted to explain why flamingos will spend long periods of time standing on one leg.
Proposals put forward include that standing one on leg reduces fatigue, that it helps flamingos escape more quickly from predators, or that it helps them balance more easily in windy conditions.
But in 2009 a study appeared to refute all these claims and concluded that flamingoes stand on one leg to regulate their body temperature.
The researchers from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia found that flamingoes stand on one leg in water far more often than when they are on dry land and by pulling one leg up close to their body they can conserve heat that would be otherwise lost to the cold water.
However, a later study in New Zealand disputed these claims and proposed that flamingoes share a similar primitive trait to whales and dolphins and are able shut down half their brain when they are asleep.
When the brain goes into this half-asleep mode a natural reflex causes one leg to be pulled close to the body as if it were lowering the body to the ground.
In 2017 a group of scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University proposed that it actually requires less effort for a flamingo to stand on one leg than it does on two. Using the bodies of dead flamingoes they showed that they could passively support body weight on one leg without any muscle activity while adopting a stable, unchanging, joint posture resembling that seen in live flamingoes.
Many zookeepers argue that scientists are overthinking the reason and simply believe that standing on leg is more comfortable for flamingoes.