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© 2013 MICHAELINE MOLONEY

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Flamingos of Necker Island: Sir Richard Branson’s Brilliant Birds

is about Caribbean Flamingos: their physical attributes, how they communicate, organize their society, relate to each other, court one another, mate, raise their young, and develop into sexually mature members of their colony. One can't escape the connection to their knight protector, Sir Richard Branson, who ensures their every need is met, and their location on a Caribbean island they wisely choose to embrace, an environment dedicated to their welfare.

The following photos are not in the book. They’re a taste of the larger, illustrated story.

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The Necker colony greets you.

Flamingos are highly communicative both in body language and sound. The animated discussion above is only part of the picture. Just as important is their choice of placement in the nesting zone.

These are the cover birds. The one on the right has a minor health issue he’s remedying on Necker’s south beach.

His clan-mates are visiting him this breezy December day when they encounter a curious pelican.

Why is this handsome flamingo alone on a beach near the pier? The chapter, “Flamingo Self-Health Care” explains.

While flamingos can fly most anywhere, they can’t take off from just anywhere. Four years of flight pattern study explain a simple dilemma in the chapter, “Flight from Necker.”

In a breeding colony like the one on Necker Island, feather color changes throughout the year as parents mate, then feed their offspring a liquid called crop milk. Diet, physiology and patterning is discussed in the chapter, “The White Flamingo.”

Flamingos that have found their life mate—and not all do—exhibit signs of tenderness year round. Cooing nasally and nibbling, bodies touching like these parents, is just one of the many ways they connect as detailed in the chapter, “Courtship.”

The second Necker mating season was a dramatic shift from the first, third and fourth; possible reasons are discussed throughout the latter part of the book. Here a group of males rush in to knock the mating male from his partner as she struggles to maintain her balance with her head underwater.

“Necker Island’s First Flamingo Offspring” shows off the spunky individuals of the first breeding season.

As a result, four amazing characters and a friend with injured foot webbing were hand reared on Necker’s Long Pond. “Growing Up Flamingo” follows their month-to-month development, as well as that of their colony counterparts on Bali Hi Pond.

Males wrestle at four and five months old. Spats are brief but lively. Little, if any, damage is done. By six months of age, these youngsters recognize both the strengths and foibles of their companions.

One look from the older Yellow makes Red stops his pestering and back off.

Blue preens his feathers after bathing.

A portrait at six months old.

Yellow explores a found object, one of his favorite activities.

Well-meaning human intervention in the second season tested the colony. They rallied with impressive resolve and delivered canny care to their offspring. The colony grew stronger.
The experiment was not repeated.

Clans divvy up communally built nests as eager parents await their coming eggs. A first season young adult with grayish neck faces into the salt pond. The white male with colorful neck on the left features prominently in the chapter, “The Egg Snatch.”

Once paired, exuberant marching and elaborate feather displays follow.

Color returns between annual breeding cycles one feather at a time. The Caribbean Flamingo can lay one egg per year when all salient factors align. A clan of devoted caretakers will raise a precious flamingo chick.

“As beautiful as the bright coral flamingo is, I’m enamored of the white flamingo. I find it far more intriguing, a bird that wears its story, a nuanced symbol of distinctive service and gained experience.” From the chapter, “The White Flamingo.”

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A Necker adult with three second season eight-month-olds fly over Prickly Pear Island, BVI flanked by a squadron of White-cheeked Pintail Ducks. Virgin Gorda, BVI is the ridge in the background.