Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy

The Bearded Vulture -

According to an article by David Brian Butvill in National Wildlife, the Bearded Vulture is the only known bird species to deliberately dye its plumage.  "Beginning at about age 7, the vulture equivalent of adolescence, the birds begin frequenting red, iron-rich mud pits to dye their naturally white breast, neck and head feathers.  "The movements in the red soils are elaborate, different than when they bathe in clear water," says Margalida, who has been studying bearded vultures in the Spanish Pyranees for 16 years.  The birds first dip their undersides, he explains, then use their beaks and talons to spread the tint from foot to neck.  Then they rub their heads against their stained shoulders.  The result is a snappy suit of sunset orange."

Their diet is primarily ungulate bones, which "lack carotenoids, substances common in seeds and barries that give most other birds their flashy feathers."

"Red is very popular in the bird world," says Margalida, adding, that, in bearded vultures, the color appears to be a status symbol.  Females, the dominant sex, are brighter than males.  Color intensity also grows with age.  A bird often handles conflict by puffing out and displaying its dyed 'do."

"Showing off one's shade of red may advertise quality, Margalida says, "The damp iron-rich soils are rare and require a detailed knowledge of the territory."  It's as if the bird's saying: I'm the brightest, baddest, most knowledgeable bearded vulture south of the Pyranees."

It makes sense.  I am reminded of how red is a sign of danger in nature.  Perhaps, that is true, too.
I am also reminded of Jon Carroll's column today where he spoke of what a name, in certain societies, conveys. 
What do you say with your colors, attitudes, name and handshake  when you are introduced?

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