Did you know? Flamingos get their distinctive colouring from pigments in the food that they eat.
Evie and Tish sip lurid strawberry slushies and loll over the fence of the flamingo enclosure, cheeks and noses pinkening as the afternoon stretches like hot treacle. The flamingos look bored; most of them are just standing on one leg in front of a giant mirror.
Flamingos are sociable animals and feel safer in large groups - mirrors help to create this illusion. Social interaction in groups is essential for flamingos to breed.
Tish stiffens mid-selfie, clutches Evie’s arm: Jack and Aaron have arrived. They’re flanked by a few others and are resplendent in tracksuit bottoms, white tees slung over tanned shoulders.
To attract mates, both males and females participate in elaborate group dances, which consist of several different moves.
‘Quick,’ hisses Evie, ‘let’s video chat Maia.’ They pretend they haven’t seen the boys and stick out their slushie-stained tongues at the screen while making peace signs. Jack and Aaron break ranks and stroll past the flamingo enclosure, snapping the ring pulls on the cans of Heineken that stick out of their pockets. ‘Hey,’ says Jack. ‘Maybe see you on the pier later,’ adds Aaron.
Researchers have discovered that birds with the largest repertoire of dance moves are the ones who most often succeed in finding mates.
Evie applies a thick new layer of lip gloss as if she isn’t pushed either way, and Tish says, ‘Yeah, maybe,’ waiting until the boys are a safe distance away before collapsing into giggles. They bask in the sunshine, warmed by the knowledge that the hazy summer afternoon will slip effortlessly into an evening where anything might happen, and that by the time they get to the pier, they’ll be able to see every single star in the sky.
Katie Oliver writes flash fiction, poetry and short stories. She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Bath Flash Award, and was awarded an honourable mention in the Reflex Fiction Winter Competition. She has further work published by Dust Poetry, Funny Pearls, Idle Ink and Popshot Quarterly. She can be found on Twitter under @katie_rose_o.