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Phoenix Zoo, Part 3

A surprise, a flock of pelicans! We don't see those in Arizona very often — however, a bit of online research revealed that there are some who live here. These appear to be white pelicans which do not dive for fish — they hunt as they swim, dunking their heads underwater to grab their prey. In addition to fish, they eat amphibians and crawfish.

Next up is a Galápagos tortoise, from (you guessed it) the Gal├ípagos Islands. The animals are huge, weighing up to 920 pounds. Also, they live a long time — even in the wild they can reach 100 years old — one captive animal lived 170 years.

This unusual bird is a Scarlet ibis from tropical South America and the Caribbean. According to Wikipedia, "Their distinctive long, thin bills are used to probe for food in soft mud or under plants. Popularly imagined to be eating only shrimp, a recent study in Llanos has found that much of their diet consists of insects, of which the majority were scarabs and ground beetles."

This remarkable bird is a Roseate spoonbill — found in South America, the Caribbean and even as far north as Florida. They feed in shallow waters by moving their bill from side to side, sifting through the mud for crustaceans, insects, frogs, newts and small fish.

And here we encounter a flock of flamingos. Honestly, I was surprised to learn there are multiple varieties of flamingos. These I believe are American flamingos AKA Caribbean flamingos. In the wild, they eat brine shrimp, crustaceans, algae and aquatic plants. In the zoo, they are fed a special prepared food which is high in carotenoids to maintain that nice pink coloration.

I love to watch flamingos feed, sticking their beaks into the water to grab their prey. Their long curved necks and the curved beak put on quite a show.

More flamingos, I almost didn't take the photo since I had some good ones of flamingos with better color — only to learn that these were a different variety, Greater flamingos, native to Africa, India, the Middle East and southern Europe. I was also surprised to learn that they typically have a lifespan of over 60 years in captivity.

Finally, I arrived at the large expanse of land devoted to animals of the plains of Africa. This is a Common Eland, a type of antelope feeding mostly on grasses and leaves. They typically form herds of up to 500 animals. One reason they gather in such large groups is that they are the slowest antelope with a maximum speed of only 25 mph — and that pace tires them quickly.

Love the spiral horns. As is common in such animals, they are used by males against other males during the rutting season. Females use them to protect their young from predators.

Speaking of horns, check out these on this long-horned bovine. Humans first domesticated Aurochs, the ancestor of numerous breeds of cattle some 8,000 years ago. Cattle were used for transportation, protection, clothing and, of course, food.

People selectively bred individuals with certain characteristics to produce lines of animals for various human purposes. One such line is called Watsui, AKA Cattle of Kings, Ankole cattle and Royal Ox.

Everyone recognizes our next animal, a zebra or more specifically, a Grévy's zebra — named after Jules Grévy, President of the French Third Republic from 1879 to 1887. It is the largest of the three species of zebra and, unfortunately, the most threatened. There are only 2,500 left in the wild but as of 2008, the population has been stable.

It feeds on grasses, legumes, and browse; it can survive up to five days without water. It is found in northern Kenya and parts of Ethiopia.

Oh, how cute — a juvenile giraffe, specifically a Masai giraffe, AKA Kilimanjaro giraffe. It is native to east Africa and is considered vulnerable to extinction due to poaching and habitat loss with fewer than 32,550 animals still in the wild. Interestingly, after my photo shoot a new baby giraffe was born in the zoo so I guess this one is no longer the star baby giraffe.

I love this photo showing an adult feeding from a basket of twigs and leaves from a basket hung on a vertical pole. This simulates their feeding method in the wild where they browse the branches of trees that only giraffes can reach.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com