Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good Fathers - Sand Grouses

It happens every night. "Can I have a drink of water?" After the bath and the book and the lullaby. "Can I have a drink of water?" Just as I've finished the daily chores and collapsed on the sofa to watch a little baseball. "Can I have a drink of water?" The children are thirsty. Knowing that, at this time of the day, my desire to do any more waiting on them is at low ebb, they call to their father. "Daddy, can I have a drink of water?" My husband, wonderful dad that he is, always complies. So do Sand Grouse fathers.

The Burchell's Sand Grouse lives in and around the Kalahari Desert in Africa. Once thought to be members of the pigeon family they have been genetically linked to wading birds even though they are strictly a land bird. Living in and around a desert makes foraging time consuming and finding water an odyssey. The sand grouse will fly long distances in groups of 100 or more to bath and drink. During mating season the monogamous sand grouse pair will find an indentation in the desert soil in which to lay the eggs. Nesting duties are shared, with the male spending just as much time incubating the eggs as the female. When the chicks hatch they are fairly self-sufficient except when it comes to finding water. Unable to fly, it is up to dad to make sure the brood gets a drink. The male sand grouse has specially adapted belly feathers that can store water. Flying as far as 100 miles each way, the father sand grouse soaks himself, storing close to 20 ml of water. Returning to his chicks, they cluster about him, drinking directly from his feathers.

I'm grateful that my husband is willing to take the 3 sippy cups down the hall and up the stairs for the kiddos. I'm just not sure he'd be as willing if the "Can I have a drink of water?" chore involved gassing up the Volvo for a 3-hour drive.

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