Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Flamingo!

Happy Sunday, Critter Readers!

How was your weekend? I must say it was nice to relax with R yesterday, staying in, enjoying some lasagna he made and watching the hilarious BBC series Robin Hood, which we got from Netflix.

I've also been reading a series of books, M. John Harrison's Viriconium. They're really excellent novels, but I started realizing there were a lot of words in there I didn't recognize. So here, for the first and probably last time, is your Critter Corner vocabulary list. Define:


How did you do?! (Scroll down for definitions.)

Here they are:

bice: pale blue pigment
gamboge: yellow or yellow orange
solipsist: a person to whom only oneself exists; self-focused
desuetude: no longer used or practiced
demimonde: a group that has lost standing in society, or that is defined by their lack of success
litharge: a yellow poisonous solid, lead monoxide
baize: green felt fabric, such that covers a pool table
nitid: bright or lustrous
lustral: something occurring every five years or a rite of purification
glaucous: light blue green or green blue
oneiric: pertaining to dreams
catafalque: a hearse or a raised platform that holds a coffin in state

Um, can you tell the books are post-apocalyptic by these descriptive words?!

Onto the Creature Feature of the day, which is dedicated to a dear friend of the whole W family: Mrs. JS. Since there is already a Mrs. (and a Mr.) JS among the readership, I will give this lovely woman a new name, a nickname by which she is known in our family: The Carrot Queen.

The Carrot Queen and I at Christmastime:

SS and his wife the Carrot Queen own a muck farm, which is a vegetable farm built on a drained wetland. The soil is black and powdery, I'm assuming fertile, and is conducive to growing such things as mint, onions, spinach and carrots.

We basically grew up with the S family; I babysat their kids, HS and BS when I was twelve (during a brief but tumultuous correspondence with a 16 year old I'd met at FFA camp; he didn't know I was twelve.) We've spent some quality time on the S farm, where my family has their own vegetable garden, and the S's are always present to celebrate happy family events as well as to show support when my parents have been hurt or in the hospital.

For as long as I've known the Carrot Queen she has loved flamingos! Here is a photo we took last week at the zoo!

In addition to loving flamingos, while on the farm driving tractors, attending the mint oil stills, etc, the Carrot Queen wears bright pink like her favorite bird! I believe the genesis of the pink farm wardrobe comes from her wanting to be visible and recognizable in the fields. The Carrot Queen asked SS what color she should buy and he replied, "Anything but pink." Hence, a trend was born!

Onto the birds. There are six species of flamingos in the world; four in the Americas and two in the Eastern Hemisphere. The photos on this page are of lesser flamingos; the smallest of the six species, and the ones at the Minnesota Zoo. Lesser flamingos are about 42 inches tall, and some of the other species are closer to four feet, with a five foot wingspan and weighing six to eight pounds.


As with other bird species, scientists are fighting about how to arrange flamingos taxonomically. DNA research puts them close to the grebe family; previously they've been aligned with other long-legged wading birds like spoonbills.

Flamingos have a unique beak that functions best when it is upside down. The birds are filter feeders, and the mouth and tongue are covered with hairy extensions called lamellae, which help separate food from dirt and grit. Flamingos eat shrimp, algae and insects, and can filter 20 beakfuls of water a second!

Beta carotene gives flamingos their pink color, and is found in the shrimp they eat. In captivity, some birds are fed a phytochemical that also gives farmed salmon a pinker hue.

Flamingo nooky can take place several times a year. The healthiest and best fed flamingos are pinker and therefore more attractive to the opposite sex. In the spring, the birds, who live in flocks, start pairing off, preening each other and and singing in unison. A domed mud nest is built that can sit twelve inches off the ground. The female lays a single egg and both parents incubate it.


As you can see from the above picture, baby flamingos are gray, but soon take on the same pink color as their parents. Adult flamingo parents both regurgitate "milk", with which they feed their hatchlings. It is a whitish substance that is excreted from their digestive tract and has more fat and less protein than standard mammalian milk. After five days the baby leaves the nest and joins other fledglings in the group, where it starts foraging for solid food. But for two more weeks the baby will return to the nest to receive "milk" feedings.

Flamingos prefer tropical alkaline lakes, such as those created by volcanoes. They can live around 20 years in the wild. Scientists are unsure why the birds stand on one leg; they think it's possibly to stay warmer and drier. The "knee" of the flamingo is actually its ankle. Flamingo eyes are orange!

Like other waterbirds, flamingos are in danger from pollution and loss of wetlands.


The two flamingos facing each other in this picture were fighting or playing or something:

Well, Carrot Queen and everyone else, I hope you've enjoyed this flamingo entry! Perhaps we should all head south to warmer climes to see these pink birdies in their natural habitats!

Here is the the toast that the Carrot Queen always shares at our gatherings:
"To family that can be friends and friends that can be family."

I'm sure the flamingos agree.


Ms. Non Sequitur said...

Do you know why I love flamingos...because they are PINK and PINK is the GREATEST COLOR EVER! :)

Miss Lippy said...

People can be dyed by beta carotine too, from too many carrots. Sometimes when a person looks orange, it's not just a bad self-tanner!

Hope you're enjoying the snow!