Last week I gave my family a challenge: each member received a small piece of a photo I had taken from the other side of the globe, along with a blank piece of white paper. Each individual was to redraw their photo piece to the size of the white paper, but in secret! Once everyone finished we would assemble the drawing and discover the contents of the photo.
The photo was taken during my semester in the Turks and Caicos Islands. We discovered an injured flamingo, subsequently dubbed Jerome, near the island airport. We suspected Jerome had been attacked by one of the many feral dogs on South Caicos Island. Taped and nursed back to health from the comforts of our groundskeeper’s shower, Jerome made a full recovery and was released back to his flock. Although one leg was an unfortunate lost casualty of the art project, I currently have a lifesize version of Jerome hanging on my bedroom door.
Flamingos are found in Central and South American and some parts of Africa, which is why even once the photo was pieced together many mistook it for an ostrich, a more familiar bird. Unlike the heavy, solitary ostrich, flamingos are hugely loyal to their flock and also capable of flying. The pink hue of their feathers comes from pigments in brine shrimp that the birds scoop up with their hooked bills. Bristles inside the bill allow them to filter these small crustaceans as well as other mollusks, insects, and some plants from the water. The male and female flamingos both contribute to feeding the young, whose favorite meal is crop milk, rich in fat and protein this milk is produced in the adult digestive tract and regurgitated into the mouth of a chick.
This project was a lesson in art and zoology, but not without reward. The participants each received one US dollar for participation. This novel prize is equivalent to 44 Philippine pesos, enough to purchase lunch from the local Filipino cantina.