Monday menagerie: Flamingos

Large_number_of_flamingos_at_Lake_Nakuru.jpg

Let me just start by admitting that I have, rather sadly, never paid flamingos much attention.

I knew about them, of course (I mean, who doesn’t?!): large birds, pink plumage, crooked beaks, like wading around algae-filled lakes, and sometimes the ocean. Pretty ridiculous all in all. Just not ridiculous enough to drag my attention away from elephants and owls. *Sigh*

Maybe it was the trashy trailer park connection that put me off. (But probably not). Or maybe, like with particularly flashy people, I just didn’t really know how to handle their over-the-top gregariousness, so avoided them instead.

Whatever the case may be regarding my former indifference, the fact is I’ve suddenly developed a solid fascination with these jewels of the air and water. And I think I have Karen Blixen to thank (or maybe blame), as it was one of her signature wish-I-could-write-like-that kind of descriptions in Out of Africa that made me sit up and see flamingos for the wildly fantastic creations they are.

The flamingos are the most delicately coloured of all the African birds, pink and red like a flying twig of an oleander bush. They have incredibly long legs and bizarre and recherche curves of their necks and bodies, as if from some exquisite traditional prudery they were making all attitudes and movements in life as difficult as possible…

The noble wader of the Nile, the sister of the lotus, which floats over the landscape like a stray cloud of sunset…

(Don’t you wish you could describe something like that?)

Flamingo_and_offspring

By Steve from washington, dc, usa – flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3963547

So, let’s get right to it… Flamingos. A few fun facts:

  • There are six flamingo species: the Greater (found in parts of Africa, southern Europe and southern Asia), the Lesser (found in Africa e.g. the Rift Valley and NW India), the Chilean (temperate South America), James’ flamingo (High Andes in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina), Andean flamingo (same as James) and American flamingo (Caribbean, Mexico, Belize and Galapagos) 
  • Flamingos are known to be monogamous (how romantic, right?). They form strong pair bonds of one male and one female, although in larger colonies flamingos sometimes change mates, presumably because there are more mates to choose from (not so romantic, but totally understandable).
  • The pink, orange or red color of a flamingo’s feathers is caused by carotenoid pigments in their food, and a flamingo’s diet includes shrimp, plankton, algae and crustaceans.
  • They don’t only appear to be hugely flamboyant. They actually are that way as well!! They’re gregarious and highly sociable, dwelling in flocks of up to a million or more.
  • In the wild their life expectancy is 20 – 30 years, while they have been known to turn 50 in captivity. That’s really, really old for a bird!
  • Finally, flamingos are fun.

funny-flamingo-weird-legs-water

Pic sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

Burrowing Owls

Athene_cunicularia_20110524_02.jpg

Yes, yes, another post about owls, but jeepers these little fellows are so cute it would be wrong not to have them in the Monday Menagerie.

Burrowing Owls are tiny, long-legged, humongous-eyed birds that nest and roost in – wait for it – burrows. They are found throughout the open landscapes of North and South America and prefer open, dry areas with low vegetation such as grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas, and deserts.

Unlike most other owls, they are particularly active during the day, only sticking to their burrows during the worst of the midday heat. However, they prefer hunting from dusk till dawn, like other owls. So, heaven knows what they do in those active hours during the day. From pictures it seems like they just hang around in ridiculously cute groups outside their burrows.

Brazilian_burrowing_owl_(Athene_cunicularia_grallaria).jpg

The Burrowing Owl is endangered in Canada, threatened in Mexico, and a species of special concern in Florida and most of the western USA.

What actually brought my attention to these adorbs little creatures, was a picture I spotted on the Telegraph’s Daily Photo gallery sometime last week.

The caption reads:

Two orphaned baby burrowing owls, nicknamed Linford and Christie, have moved into the home of their keeper Jimmy Robinson. The owlets were hatched in an incubator at Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire, and are now being hand-reared by Jimmy. The native American birds, which get their name from living in small burrows in the wild, can find plenty of nooks and crannys about his flat to hide. “Tea cups and bookcases are a particular favourite,” says Jimmy, “but it’s good to see them developing their natural behaviour and they always seem to find me at meal times.” Read the full story at Daily Mail

So, if you’re wondering what to give me as a house warming gift (I’m moving into my new flat on Saturday), I have a lot of books and some tea cups. Think a Burrowing Owl will be perfect. Thanks.

Monday menagerie: Bowerbirds

Satin_bowerbird

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1588854

I’ve decided to try out yet another new regular for my blog. Please welcome the Monday Menagerie. As most of you know I am quite an animal enthusiast, and a self-proclaimed cute hunter, so I’ve decided to showcase some of my latest finds right here. Now, quite uncharacteristically, I have managed to stay away from owls, cats and piggies for the first post, and will instead be presenting you with… *drumroll*… the bowerbird!

I’ve heard the name before, but never really knew much about them until I went to check out the Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town (the one in the planetarium building) over the weekend. One of the photos depicted a bird peeping into a nest with a pink paperclip in its mouth. Like so:

Of course, I was enraptured with delight… and became even more so when I read the description.

It turns out this birdie (a male) had built a beautiful little nest and was now trying to attract the object of his affection with this magical find: a pink paperclip.

20110707221304!Chlamydera_nuchalis_bower_-_Mount_Carbine.jpg

According to Wikipedia: “Bowerbirds are most known for their unique courtship behaviour, where males build a structure and decorate it with sticks and brightly coloured objects in an attempt to attract a mate.”

Real little winged-hoarders. Birds after my own heart, if ever there were any. How sweet! Unfortunately they have an Austro-Papua distribution, which basically means if you want to see a bowerbird collection with your own eyes, you’d have to travel down-under.

In the mean time, check out these pics:

They seem to really like blue, or what?