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Phoenix Zoo, Part 7

Here we encounter another type of flamingo, the Greater Flamingo, which is the largest species of flamingo in the world. It is found in Africa, India, Europe and the Middle East. The feathers are a light pink, definitely lighter than the American Flamingo. Fortunately, they are not endangered by extinction.

They are found in mudflats and shallow coastal lagoons with salt water. When feeding, they use their feet to stir up the mud then filter out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, tiny organisms and mollusks.

Years ago when I was a kid (in truth, many years ago) our Saturday cartoons taught us that when frightened, a ostrich would stick its head in the sand. This one seemed startled by my presence and began moving away — because either it could not find any sand or what we learned as kids is not true (say it ain't so Warner Brothers). My guess is the latter.

Native to Africa, these large flightless birds really do look like a living link to the dinosaurs. They are not endangered.

There is an ostrich farm halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. It is on my list of places to visit.

I could not find a sign telling me the name of this animal but looking online, I believe it is an eland, AKA common eland, southern eland or eland antelope. It is an antelope and is found in the savanna and grasslands of East and Southern Africa. Although, I only spotted one animal, they tend to form herds of up to 500 individuals. They are not endangered.

Love the horns!

In a smaller, more intimate setting, we find a couple of lizards. I guessed they might be native to Arizona and the Sonoran Desert but I could not identify the variety. Still, they look pretty cool.

Nearby was another solitary lizard — also one I could not identify. If there are any lizard experts out there, please let me know what they are.

Ah, an easy one to identify — a quail. Actually, not so easy — it turns out there are some 29 species of quail in the Americas. Only one lives in the desert and thus I conclude that this is a Gambel's Quail.

We see them frequently, in and around the huge South Mountain Park and Preserve which runs all along the south part of Phoenix and, with 16,000 acres, is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. We usually see them in small groups, running in single file as fast as their little legs will take them.

Next up is a Snowy egret — quite similar to the Great egret we met just outside the zoo — except for the color of the beak, black for the Snowy egret and yellow for the Great egret. They are native to parts of North America, Central America, and South America. Although not endangered, they are a protected species in the United States. This is due to the earlier demand for their showy feathers which were used in women's hats.

From Wikipedia, "The birds eat fish, crustaceans, insects, small reptiles, snails, frogs, worms, mice and crayfish. They stalk prey in shallow water, often running or shuffling their feet, flushing prey into view, as well "dip-fishing" by flying with their feet just over the water. Snowy egrets may also stand still and wait to ambush prey, or hunt for insects stirred up by domestic animals in open fields."

It is the sleepy part of the day for this Burrowing owl. They are found in North and South America in dry, open areas with low vegetation. They get their name from their habit of nesting and roosting in burrows, such as those dug by prairie dogs. Most of their hunting is done at night when their excellent night vision and acute hearing gives them an advantage over their favorite prey — invertebrates and small vertebrates.

My little buddy, Johnny, and I read a book together entitled Hoot, written by one of my favorite authors, Carl Hiaasen. It is the story of some kids who try to protect a small group of Burrowing owls from a large corporation which is trying to build a restaurant on the property occupied by the owls. This novel is targeted at middle school students as opposed to many of his books which depict mysterious murders and other assorted crimes.

This is a Golden eagle, the most widely distributed species of eagle and thus one of the best-known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere. They maintain large hunting territories of up to 77 square miles. As humans intrude into their territories, they tend to search for new areas. They are not endangered.

Some interesting facts from Wikipedia, "Golden eagles are sometimes considered the best fliers among eagles and perhaps among all raptorial birds. They are equipped with broad, long wings with somewhat finger-like indentations on the tips of the wing. Golden eagles are unique among their genus in that they often fly in a slight dihedral, which means the wings are often held in a slight, upturned V-shape. When they need to flap, golden eagles appear at their most labored, but this is less common than soaring or gliding. Flapping flight usually consists of 6–8 deep wing-beats, interspersed with 2–3 second glides. While soaring, the wings and tail are held in one plane with the primary tips often spread. A typical, unhurried soaring speed in golden eagles is around 45–52 kilometres per hour (28–32 mph). When hunting or displaying, the golden eagle can glide very fast, reaching speeds of up to 190 kilometres per hour (120 mph). When stooping (diving) in the direction of prey or during territorial displays, the eagle holds its legs up against its tail, and holds its wings tight and partially closed against its body. When diving after prey, a golden eagle can reach 240 to 320 kilometres per hour (150 to 200 mph). Although less agile and maneuverable, the golden eagle is apparently quite the equal and possibly even the superior of the peregrine falcon’s stooping and gliding speeds. This makes the golden eagle one of the two fastest living animals. Although most flight in golden eagles has a clear purpose (e.g., territoriality, hunting), some flights, such as those by solitary birds or between well-established breeding pairs, seem to be play."

Last (for this trip to the zoo) but certainly not least is the Bald eagle, the National bird of the United States. The magnificent bird of prey is found throughout North America and northern Mexico. Bald eagles feed primarily on fish — swooping down and grabbing them out of the water. They build huge nests — the largest of any North American bird — some eight feet wide and 13 feet deep. As recently as the latter part of the 20th century, they were in danger of extinction but with government protection (including banning of DDT which caused fragile, thin egg shells), they have recovered and are no longer considered endangered.

The Bald eagle is a powerful flier, reaching speeds of 35-45 mph when gliding and flapping. The dive speed is 75 to 100 mph, although they rarely dive vertically. Their normal hunting technique is to fly horizontally just above the water and grab a fish using its powerful talons. In addition, according to Wikipedia, "Bald eagles have also been recorded catching up to and then swooping under geese in flight, turning over and thrusting their talons into the other bird's breast."

Again from Wikipedia, "The bald eagle is a sacred bird in some North American cultures, and its feathers, like those of the golden eagle, are central to many religious and spiritual customs among Native Americans. Eagles are considered spiritual messengers between gods and humans by some cultures. Many pow wow dancers use the eagle claw as part of their regalia as well. Eagle feathers are often used in traditional ceremonies, particularly in the construction of regalia worn and as a part of fans, bustles and headdresses. In the Navajo Tradition an Eagle feather is represented to be a Protector, along with the Feather Navajo Medicine Man use the leg and wing bones for ceremonial whistles."

I hope you have enjoyed this visit to the Phoenix Zoo. I especially enjoyed seeing the dinosaurs.

Life is good.

B. David

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