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What city's official bird is a plastic?

Madison, Wisconsin’s official bird is a plastic flamingo

Wisconsinites are known for their love of cheese, so it’s no surprise that the city of Madison’s official bird is the invariably cheesy plastic flamingo. The lawn bird first “migrated” to town in 1979 as part of a prank on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Students awoke one day that September to find the school’s Bascom Hill covered with 1,008 plastic flamingos, which had been placed there by the school government’s Pail & Shovel Party. (The group was known for their absurdist stunts, including throwing a 10,000-person toga party and building a replica of the Statue of Liberty emerging from nearby Lake Mendota.) Yet it wasn’t until 2009, after a successful lobbying campaign from local newspaper columnist Doug Moe, that the Madison City Council voted 15-4 in favor of designating the plastic flamingo as the official city bird. Councilwoman Marsha Rummel defended the decision against the four dissenters by saying, “If you don’t have a little fun, [life’s] not worth living.” These days, the prank-turned-tradition is re-created each year as a fundraiser.

Wisconsinites are known for their love of cheese, so it’s no surprise that the city of Madison’s official bird is the invariably cheesy plastic flamingo. The lawn bird first “migrated” to town in 1979 as part of a prank on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Students awoke one day that September to find the school’s Bascom Hill covered with 1,008 plastic flamingos, which had been placed there by the school government’s Pail & Shovel Party. (The group was known for their absurdist stunts, including throwing a 10,000-person toga party and building a replica of the Statue of Liberty emerging from nearby Lake Mendota.) Yet it wasn’t until 2009, after a successful lobbying campaign from local newspaper columnist Doug Moe, that the Madison City Council voted 15-4 in favor of designating the plastic flamingo as the official city bird. Councilwoman Marsha Rummel defended the decision against the four dissenters by saying, “If you don’t have a little fun, [life’s] not worth living.” These days, the prank-turned-tradition is re-created each year as a fundraiser.

THINK TWICE

Flamingos are born a dull gray color and turn pink from their diet.

A flamingo’s defining characteristic is its bright pink appearance, but that trait is far from hereditary. In fact, flamingo chicks are born a dull gray shade, and develop their pinkish hue as they grow older. The colorful change is due to the birds’ diet, which is high in beta-carotene. This red-orange pigment is found in various types of algae and brine shrimp that make up the bulk of a flamingo’s meals. Enzymes in the bird’s digestive system break down these pigments, which are then absorbed into the feathers and skin, turning most flamingos a striking pink hue.


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