My love affair with South Florida began when my parents used to take us there when I was a young girl. I loved the warmth of the tropics and especially loved being so close to the ocean in Miami Beach. We all adored Parrot Jungle and putting the birds on our arms, and of course Monkey Jungle, but more than those two my favorite was Flamingo Jungle. I was captured by the elegance of those tall, pink wading birds with long legs and necks with strongly downturned bills, which range from 3-5 feet tall.
The expression, “You are what you eat.” has real meaning for these birds as their pink color comes from the carotenoid pigments found in the small mollusks, crustaceans and algae they eat in the large, shallow lakes or lagoons where they live. Christina’s “Flamingo” must be a Caribbean flamingo because they are the brightest in color that it also turns their legs, bills and faces red, pink or orange. Why are flamingos often seen standing on one leg? Perhaps there are a few reasons: one may be the regulation of body temperature or conserving energy if one leg is closer to the body or maybe to either dry out the legs or just because it’s a comfortable position while standing. Take your choice!
What about those long legs? They allow flamingos to wade deeper into the water than most birds to look for food. They turn their bills upside down and are able to filter the small creatures they eat by pumping water and mud out the sides. Flamingos lay one large white egg in a mud nest and by the time a chick leaves the nest, it can already swim and walk very well.
I have to briefly mention the plastic flamingo lawn ornament created in 1957 by Don Featherstone of Worcester, MA. It was created in the same decade as polyester pants, and sold in pairs like hotcakes in the Sears catalog for $2.76. It had its giant ups and downs for 2 decades being flaunted in front yards all over the country. After being replaced by rock gardens and fountains, they were back with a vengeance and in 1987 the governor of Massachusetts announced that the plastic bird was now “an essential contribution to American folk art.” After more than a half century the plastic lawn ornament has now been immortalized in names of hotels, restaurants, casinos and also has its place in the Smithsonian’s collection.
THASC artist Christina Schoonmaker’s precious painting reminds me of how many flamingo “tchotchkes” fill my home as the years have passed like my Venetian glass-blown flamingos to flamingo salt and pepper shakers to my Ty Beanie Baby stuffed flamingo that takes its noticeable position on my bed with the other animals.
If anyone is interested, you can still purchase plastic flamingos online for $20 – $30 a pair. More importantly you can purchase Christina’s greeting cards online at www.thasc.com
Have a great weekend and please don’t forget to leave a comment!
Thanks, Christina, for a delightful topic to explore!