Monday, May 08, 2006

Talk About the Feathers Flying!

Yet another report of homosexual behavior in animals, this time involving flamingos who've been together for more than five years and reared three generations of adopted chicks:

....Twice a year Carlos and Fernando perform an elaborate courtship dance together before stealing eggs from their heterosexual neighbours to bring up as their own...

Both of them take on the male roles during the courtship ritual which involves preening, strutting and waving their heads vigorously from side to side with their necks at full stretch...
Yeah, yeah, that's hardly news. But what really caught my eye was this comma-deprived commentary from an ornithologist: "Their parental instincts are also very strong prompting them to raid the nests of other couples in the flock. They have been known to fight the heterosexual birds and there is usually a "handbags at dawn" moment where they will fight with another couple before stealing their egg."

"Handbags at dawn"? This phrase was a new one on me. Fortunately, this entry from the OED online explains that "handbags at dawn" refers to "a confrontation, esp. on that is ineffectual or histrionic." All I can say is that learning that phrase -- and even better, seeing it applied to feuding flamingos -- totally made my day.


Anonymous daz said...

Very interesting about the flamingos. So the babies are fed a "pink nutritious liquid prooduced by both parents" -- I guess that explains where flamingos get their color from.

Had heard that many non-human animals (esp. males?) engage in homosexual behavior, but had thought this was only occasional -- i.e., that some animals are AM/FM. Didn't know that some were exclusively gay.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Martha said...

I remember reading at the San Diego Zo o (okay, after visiting the pandas) that the flamingos' pink color comes from all the shrimp they eat.

Now I'm hankering to read Stephen Jay Gould's essay "The Flamingo's Smile." I once checked it out of the library, but I think I ended up reading about his essay about steatopygia and then having to return it. . .

9:38 AM  
Anonymous daz said...

To many people, steatopygia is callipygia.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for hand bags at dawn! I recall some English friends using that phrase a long time ago. Of course I laughed and asked them what it meant. They informed me that it replaced "pistols at dawn" and that "hand bags" was actually more prevelent in speech than "pistols". Do you have a way to find out which is more common?

8:02 AM  

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