I agree with the scientist that birds should not be judged in terms of humans. Birds do not create Weapons of Mass Destruction and they do not watch hour long memorials on the tenth anniversary of Princess Diana's death. They go about their bird business. It seems that there are in most societies linkages between birds and animals and human culture though.
Liberals may approve of hiding excrement to keep their politics clean but the opposition will go to any length to dig it up again. The puffin is hot a very good flyer and has to work like the devil to keep aloft. It often crash lands. This is a good metaphor for Liberal fortunes.
Ignatieff falls for loyal, clean puffin
'A Symbol For Our Party'
Craig Offman, National Post
Published: Friday, August 31, 2007
Move over, mighty eagle. Here comes the proud puffin.
Outside the Liberal party caucus retreat being held in St. John's yesterday, deputy leader Michael Ignatieff praised the morals of Newfoundland's provincial bird and suggested his party make it the symbol for the Grits.
"It's a noble bird because it has good family values. They stay together for 30 years," Mr. Ignatieff said, adding that the bird is an industrious creature that embodies Liberal values. "This seems to me a symbol for what our party should be."
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Atlantic Puffins nesting on Machias Island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick.
Diane Doiron/National Post
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Font: ****The MP and philosopher also added that "they lay one egg [each year]. They put their excrement in one place. They hide their excrement. ... They flap their wings very hard and they work like hell," according to a report from The Canadian Press.
Formerly called the common puffin, the Atlantic puffin is one of four species in the Alcidae (Auk) family of seabirds and the most prevalent in the Newfoundland area. In the late 1800s, scientists gave it the Latin name fratercula arctica, or "little brother of the north." A potential pun, the puffin's black and white plumage resembles the robes of a friar, or brother.
Dr. Stephen Kress, an ornithology professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and the director of the Seabird Restoration Program of the National Audubon Society, said he agrees with Mr. Ignatieff 's assessment of the bird's nobility, though he questioned the Liberal MP's estimate of their conjugal time.
"They are noted for monogamy," said Dr. Kress. "But we don't have any records for birds who stay together that long."
The bird's typical life expectancy is 20 years, but on occasion can stretch to 30.
Dr. Kress said the birds are discriminating mate-pickers. They have an engagement period and will cohabitate for a year before having a chick. This happens around the age of five. During the five-week incubation period, the parents share responsibility in the home, which is often nestled in soil burrows on sides of cliffs. Both father and mother will take turns keeping the egg warm under their wings. Indeed, only one egg is laid annually, and the same burrow is kept every year.
Once the chick is born, parents fret over cleanliness, which in part entails a separate spot for the young bird to relieve itself. "The puffin goes to great lengths to keep the burrow clean," added Dr. Kress. Oils from the excrement could damage a young bird's feathers. As the chick matures, the toilet is moved closer to the burrow entrance, eliminating the risk of exposure.
Contrary to common perception, puffins don't starve their young so that they'll leave. Parents collect fish for their chicks, who leave of their own volition, and then protect the area from invaders. The puffin wards them off by puffing up their cheeks and showing the orange insides of its mouth, a form of what scientists call "gape display." No noise is made during the exchange.
While some Liberals might welcome the suggestion, some scientists might be dismissive. "In my view, birds shouldn't be judges in terms of humans. This is what scientists have been fighting for centuries," said Michel Gosselin, an expert on birds who works at the Canadian Museum of Nature. "There is no such thing as a noble bird. What? Would the bird be more noble if he laid 20 eggs a year?"