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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Of Meerkats & Parrots

By Jessica Pineda, Assistant Editor of BIRD TALK and BirdChannel.com
Follow in the adventures of Jessica Pineda's experiences in bird ownership in The Parrot Life

Click image to enlarge
Flock of hyacinth macaws on branch
The members of this hyacinth macaw flock groom each other in the wild.
After recently starting watching Meerkat Manor on the Animal Planet channel, I went and bought the first three seasons on DVD. For a show specifically about the day-to-day living of a group of meerkats — raising babies, eating bugs, running from danger and raising even more babies — it’s an absolute delight. Not to mention, the babies are beyond adorable. At only 3-inches tall, every time they are on screen, I want to squeal “Cute!”

The show is about (naturally) meerkats that are part of a 10-year study called the Kalahari Meerkat Project. The meerkats are monitored 24 hours a day, and the dominant female meerkat, named Flower, has a radio collar on her so the team can keep track of the group (or gang). The gang is called the Whiskers, a group numbering 40-plus living in a 2-square-mile area of African desert they call home.

While the meerkats are predators, they eat bugs, small lizards and bird/turtle eggs. They live in a large family gang. In it, they constantly rely on each other. Some meerkats are lookouts, scanning the surrounding area for other predators. Others act as babysitters, looking after the pups while the rest of the gang forages. And the group all works together to keep well-groomed and fed. The meerkats often cuddle together for comfort and to play fight.

They remind me of parrots and flock behavior: grooming, socializing, looking out for predators. Though they are different species, and one is a predator and the other prey … though they don’t live anywhere near each other (the meerkats live out in the open, away from trees) … be it gang or flock, the common need to be part of a family unites all creatures.

(Nothing against animals that live alone, of course!)

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Of Meerkats & Parrots

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Animal interactions are fascinating!
R, S, CA
Posted: 7/28/2008 3:31:53 PM
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