Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
A group of us went to Slimbridge Wetland Centre on a wetland adventure. We spent a pleasant morning wandering around looking at the birds and animals.
Slimbridge Wetland Centre was the first Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to be opened. Set up by Peter Scott, it opened on 10 November 1946, near Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, midway between Bristol and Gloucester on the eastern side of the estuary of the River Severn.
The Slimbridge Wetland Centre is the only place in the world where you can see all six species of flamingo. The centre contains brightly coloured Caribbean flamingos, Lesser flamingos, greater flamingos, Chilean flamingos, Andean flamingos and one James’ flamingo. Slimbridge also breeds flamingos annually. The short grey straight beaked chicks look very different to their parents as they develop the characteristic pink feathers a couple of years later.
Had we realised there were six species to find, we’d have conducted a mini treasure hunt to find them all. However we hadn’t had a welcome talk, just been set free to roam, so we had no idea. We were just surprised by the number of flamingos there. In fact, Ian and I were reminded of the Monty Python travelogue, otherwise known as more *%*% gondolas, as there appeared to be flamingos everywhere.
Why do flamingos like to stand on one leg?
Flamingos stand on one leg to regulate their body temperature.
Matthew Anderson and Sarah Williams at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia found that flamingos prefer to rest with their heads on one side more than the other, and that which side a flamingo rests its head determines how aggressive it is toward others in the flock. This led them to investigate whether flamingos prefer to stand on one leg more than the other, and why they stand on one leg at all. They found the birds showed no preference for which leg they stood on. But they did find that flamingos prefer to stand on one leg far more often when they are standing in water than when standing on land. The researchers concluded that the birds stand on one leg to conserve body heat. They also discovered the birds alternate which leg they stand on to avoid one leg becoming too cold in the water.
Slimbridge Wetland Centre lets you time yourself standing on one leg. The aim is to last for two minutes and our group found it was harder than it looked.