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From Backyards to Backwoods: Trivia buffs, here's a doozy: 'pectinations'

Pectinations - are they used as snowshoes or just for gripping branches while perching? (Steve Maanum / For the Enterprise)

We've been going from wildlife species, to classroom topics, to our camera project with kids. This week we're going to slow down and revisit some of the questions I presented in previous columns.

In mid-September we discussed ruffed grouse. Have you had the opportunity to look at grouse tails and see some of the different color variations? Have you parted the feathers behind the eyes and looked at their ears yet? Did you ever find the name of the small extensions on the toes of a ruffed grouse?

The Park Rapids fourth graders knew the term, but since none of our readers e-mailed me the answer, here it is. They are called 'pectins' or 'pectinations.' I realize you could have lived a long and happy life without ever knowing that word, but now that you know it, you have to find some way of making use of it. Let me throw out a suggestion. Whether you're young or old, there might be someone in your life who teases you in a light-hearted way. It might be an older brother or sister who picks on you for your lack of intellect or maybe it's someone in your social group who puts you down because you're still drinking coffee like a good Norwegian instead of the more fashionable latte or cappuccino.

The next time they go beyond your level of tolerance, just respond by calling them a 'pectination' (I mean, what's lower than a grouse's foot?) If you refuse to stoop to name calling, then find a way of casually fitting the term into your conversation. Here's an example. "The other day I was reading about pectinations." Leave it at that; don't explain what they are. Just sit back and watch their reaction. They will either admit they don't know what the word means and you can impress them with your newfound knowledge or they will nod in agreement and play like they have used that word for years. Either way, you've stopped them in their tracks and they might not be as quick to tease you in the future. It may seem a little crazy, but it's worth considering.

Have you gone into the Journey North web site ( to follow the whooping crane migration? The ultra lights left Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin on Oct. 16 and planned to lead the twenty young cranes to their first stopover site, which was only four miles away. What should have taken less than a day, took an entire week. Why?

On Nov. 20, while they were in Illinois, the pilots made the decision not to fly, due to unfavorable weather conditions and the opening of the firearms deer season, but the flock took off without them. What happened? Check it out.

In closing, let me just say, if you're ever on "Jeopardy" or "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and the word 'pectinations' is all that stands between you and the big money, just remember where you heard it.

If you have questions or comments I can be reached at