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12 years ago
 Did you know that Ospreys...

  • plummet feet-first up to 40 metres toward a single fish in the water

  • can snap their talons shut in 2/100 of a second

  • have a rotating outer toe that can grasp objects from the front or the back

  • catch and eat live fish only, with few exceptions

  • shake water off themselves like dogs—in midair

  • generally pair for life, but sometimes "divorce" if mating is unsuccessful

  • females choose males on the basis of real estate (nest quality and location, location, location!)

  • pairs that lose their eggs or young may build alternate "frustration" nests

  • have been known to use hula hoops, rag dolls and toy boats as nesting material (perhaps they pick this stuff up for the kids?)

  • will grow accustomed to repeated activities like cars driving by

  • parents withhold food from fledglings to encourage them to leave

  • fledged young sometimes visit nearby nests where they are fed by other parents

    Read about these and other interesting facts in Alan Poole's Ospreys: A Natural and Unnatural History, Cambridge University Press, 1989

  • This post was modified from its original form on 26 Jun, 7:43
    12 years ago
    What Color Is Polar Bear Fur?

    When looking at a polar bear, the first thing you may notice is their size or their thick white fur. Most people would find it absurd to say that the fur color would be anything except white. In truth, that fur you are seeing is actually clear! Much like snow, the fur just reflects the sunlight and looks white.

    12 years ago

    Many features distinguish the hoatzin from other birds, not least of which is its voice which sounds more like a heavy smoker's wheezing than a bird call. About the size of a rather slender, upright pheasant, the hoatzin has an untidy crest of feathers, blood-red eyes encircled by bright blue skin, a long neck and long tail feathers. But perhaps the most interesting characteristic is the presence of claws on the wings and these, although useless to the heavy adult bird, are employed by the youngster to clamber among the branches near the nest- just as Archaeopteryx must have done so many millions of years ago.

    The main function of the wing claws, it seems, is to assist the young hoatzin in times of crisis. The nest is normally built on branches overhanging water and is thus exposed to the eyes of marauding hawks. It is a rudely constructed platform of short twigs of roughly pencil thickness. If danger threatens, the parents usually abandon the nest for the safety of dense bushes nearby. The chick, left to its own devices, either uses the wing claws to help it clamber through the branches to some inaccessible spot, or dives into the water and emerges farther downstream to clamber back to 'the nest once the danger has passed.

    This post was modified from its original form on 04 Jun, 6:57
    12 years ago
    Facts About Birds
    Did you know there are about 9,600 bird species in the world, and that more than 2,000 have been recorded in North America? Each one is fascinating.
    Fastest-moving bird: Peregrine Falcon diving at 200 mph (320 km/h)

    Slowest-flying bird: American Woodcock at 5 mph (8 km/h)

    Longest-submerged bird: Emperor Penguin at 18 minutes

    Greatest weight-carrying capacity: Pallas's Fish Eagle lifting a 13-lb (5.9-kg) carp -- 160% of body weight

    Slowest wingbeat: vultures at 1/sec
    Coldest temperature endured: -80.5 degrees F (-62.5 degress C) by Snowy Owls

    Keenest sense of hearing: Barn Owl

    Smallest bird: Bee Hummingbird at 2.24 in (5.7 cm), 0.056 oz (1.6 g)

    Largest egg: Ostrich measuring 7 by 4.5 in (17.8 by 14 cm)

    Smallest clutch size: 1 egg laid every 2 years by albatrosses
    Greatest wingspan: Wandering Albatross at up to 11 ft 11 in (3.63 m)

    Longest tail feathers: Crested Argus Pheasant at 5.7 ft (173 cm)

    Greatest number feathers: Tundra Swan at 25,216

    Lowest number feathers: Ruby-throated Hummingbird at 940

    Images courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    12 years ago
    Photo: Looming Capybara
    Looming Capybara, Venezuela, 1996

    Photograph by Robert Caputo

    "Emerging at dusk to hunt, a burrowing owl is no threat to a capybara, the world's largest rodent. Resembling a cross between a guinea pig and a hippopotamus, the web-footed 'water hog' may grow to 140 pounds [64 kilograms] and stand knee-high to a man. Its mortal enemies include jaguars, caimans, and cowboys."

    —From "The Orinoco: Into the Heart of Venezuela," April 1998, National Geographic magazine
    12 years ago

     Dr Tony Martin

    Red-breasted Goose: 70% of the global population winter in Bulgaria


    13 years ago

    1. Even inside its egg, an unhatched baby octopus can squirt ink.

    2. There are roughly 2,400 species of snakes in the world.

    3. Three countries without any snakes: Iceland, Ireland and New Zealand.

    4. Frogs live on all continents except Antarctica.

    5. The average temperature in the Antarctic is -49 °C. Because it receives less than 10" of precipitation annually, the continent is technically a desert.

    6. U.S. researchers have recently found a way to measure the temperature 3,000km beneath the earth’s surface, where the core and the mantle meet. It’s about 3,700 degrees Celsius!


    7. Why do we call them koala bears, if they aren’t bears? Koalas are actually members of the marsupial family, like kangaroos. Like all marsupials, mother koalas carry their babies in protective pouches until they are ready to care for themselves.

    8. Koalas sleep between 19 and 20 hours a day. Teenagers all over the world are jealous.

    9. Talk about knuckle draggers! Orangutans' arms are one-and-a-half times longer than their legs and reach nearly 8 feet from the fingertip of one to the other.

    10. A single roost containing over 28,600 Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) and 16,000 African Swallow-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii) was discovered in Senegal.  Though the existence of communal roosts during the non-breeding season is not uncommon in Western Africa, this roost of some 45,000 insectivorous raptors is considered to be one of the largest bird of prey roosts ever found.

    For more:

    13 years ago

    Marbled Murrelet  

    • zigzags low over the water like an oversized bumblebee
    • uses its stubby wings to "fly” underwater
    • occasionally makes a peculiar "jet-plane" noise by allowing air to rush through its feathers
    • carries a meal as much as 70 km from the sea to its nestling every night for a month
    Marbled Murrelet
    13 years ago

    Body Heat

    Pygmy Nuthatch by Michael

    To save energy in winter, Pygmy Nuthatches roost together in holes. As many as 100 nuthatches may crowd into a hole, roosting in stacks of squares, oblongs, triangles, diamonds, or wedges. A bird at the bottom of the stack may save six times more energy than a bird alone at the top.

    13 years ago

    Sleeping in Snow

    Common Redpoll by Nick Saunders

    Common Redpolls sometimes dig tunnels in snow with a roosting chamber at the end. They sleep in the chamber and break through the roof to depart in the morning

    13 years ago

    From: Nature Canada "The Green List"

    Most mothers are probably quite happy their children can’t do this: giraffes can clean their own ears with their tongues!

    13 years ago
    Ech...Just got a rather unpleasant image from that comment , Hammy . Still, very clever.
    13 years ago

    Nor is a rabbit a hare.

    Pigs will eat hares.  But will they eat rabbits?  "Not by the hare on their chinny chin chins."

    13 years ago

    The Arctic hare is known in Canada by several names, including 'rabbit', 'hare' and 'ukaliq'. A hare is not, however, a rabbit.

    Image 4) An Arctic hare in winter fur.

    Comparison: Arctic Hare and Snowshoe Hare

    In most respects the Arctic hare resembles its relative the snowshoe hare. The differences are in the adaptations to the demanding Arctic environment.

    • At 4 to 5 kg (9 to 11 lb.), an average adult Arctic hare is approximately three times the weight of an average adult snowshoe hare.
    • Arctic hares live beyond or above the treeline. Snowshoe hares live in forested areas.
    • Though both species have black ear tips (fur), they are more extensive and noticeable in Arctic hares.
    • Arctic hares have only one litter per year. Snowshoe hares have up to three litters per year.
    • The size of the snowshoe hare population goes through a regular seven-year cycle (increasing and decreasing). We don't know if the Arctic hare goes through a cycle of population fluctuation.
    13 years ago

    Ord’s Kangaroo Rat
    By Raymond Schmidt

    Ord's kangaroo rat

    The Facts

    • The kangaroo rat is not a direct relative of the common rat. Unlike domestic rats, these rats don’t spread disease or have a negative effect on crops. In fact “K-Rats” need to live in open arid landscapes that are so marginal for farming that they could scarcely cause any trouble to humans.
    • The nocturnal rodent’s hearing is tuned to low frequency sounds, which help detect an owl’s wing beat. Their tufted tail, which accounts for more than half its length, helps them jump - yes, like a kangaroo -from place to place to avoid prey. They can leap as far as six feet (1.8 m) and rise 1.3 feet (40 cm).
    • Breeding whenever favourable conditions arise, an average three-rat litter arrives after one month of gestation. Lactating females can even conceive before their previous litter is weaned, resulting in 4-litter years. Less than two months after birth, maturing rats are ready to produce a family of their own.
    • Most kangaroo rats travel less than 500 m in their lifetime and Canadian populations occupy as little as 53 km2 of total land area. The nearest population in the US is 270 km away, so it is extremely unlikely the populations will ever merge.
    • Canadian Ord’s kangaroo rats are the only ones of their kind to “hibernate” in winter when the ground is snow covered or if temperatures are too severe. Sleep can last 17 hours and happen about 70 times a winter. High death rates occur through starvation and freezing. Kangaroo rats have, however, been spotted outside at 19 degrees Celsius during snow-free periods. 
    • Kangaroo rats help maintain balance in their dune community. Removing seeds and grasses disturbs soil; their seed collection and caching behaviour leads to a large number of abandoned seed caches for germination or for other granivores to exploit.

    13 years ago
      5 Creepy Halloween Bird Facts

    #1 If you visit a turkey vulture roosting area, beware! Turkey vultures and their chicks swiftly vomit undigested carrion bones and fur in the direction of any disturbance to scare it away! Did you know that some scientists estimate that a vulture can eat 111 pounds of carrion yearly? — Critter Corner

    #2 Parent birds can present a danger to their young, especially among birds whose hatching times are staggered. The first hatched tend to get the attention, and later ‘extra’ hatchlings may be neglected or even eaten! A practice that occurs among owls, boobies, pelicans, storks and eagles. — The Bird-Lover’s Backyard Handbook

    #3 In Florida, Laughing and Bonaparte’s gulls perch on the heads of brown pelicans that have just caught a fish. As the pelicans open their bills to shift the fish into position to swallow, the gulls snatch the food! — 1001 Questions Answered About Birds

    #4 Cowbirds, Cuckoos and other “brood parasites,” lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and let the other parents feed and raise their chicks. The host birds’ own chicks often die from neglect while the parents try desperately to feed and care for the usually much larger chick. Some parasite hatchlings go so far as to kill the host's chicks once they hatch or actually push the host eggs out of the nest before they hatch! — Brood Parasites or Where Did I Put That Egg?

    #5 Birds do not sweat and when they are hot they have to use evaporative cooling techniques. Birds such as Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures excrete urine on their legs to cool off. — The Life of Birds
    13 years ago


    The Hawaiian Crow is now listed as Extinct in the Wild after the last two known wild individuals disappeared from Hawaii in 2002. Habitat alteration, collecting and shooting, introduced predators (e.g., rats, the Indian mongoose) and predation from the native Hawaiian Hawk, and avian malaria and pox carried by introduced mosquitoes have contributed to the crow’s decline. Some individuals remain in captive breeding facilities and a reintroduction plan is being developed. Photo © Jack Jeffrey Photography

    13 years ago

    Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis

    Squirrel is the common name for rodents of the family Sciuridae (from Greek skia "shadow" and oura "tail"; "tail that casts a shadow")

    The word squirrel comes from the Old French esqurial, which itself comes from the Vulgar Latin word scuriolus (squirrel).

    • At Kent State University, in Ohio, the black squirrel is a pop-culture symbol and icon. It is the unofficial mascot of the school. The legend suggests that all the black squirrels originated in 1961 from ten original squirrels that were transported to the campus from northern Canada. There has been an annual Black Squirrel Festival since 1981.
    • Black Squirrels are also a popular rumor and sighting at the University of Maryland, College Park. Although rare, they have been sighted, and small studies have been conducted to find out why they are there. A joke has circulated that if a person has seen a Black Squirrel on campus, then the person can join a club (most commonly on facebook).
    • A French cartoon "Black Oublette" stars a squirrel called "Adam" and he quests to find his lost cat.
    • The Squirrels Cricket Club (S.C.C) is a nomadic touring cricket team, formed in 2002 from members of Lenton and Wortley Hall, Nottingham University. Their motto is 'Defendite Nuces' a loose latin translation of 'Protect The Nuts'.
    • The squirrel is the mascot for the sorority Alpha Gamma Delta.
    • A squirrel ran onto the pitch during Arsenal's UEFA Champions League semi-final against Villarreal on April 19th, 2006
    • Andorra featured a Red Squirrel on the reverse of a 1992 10 Diner Proof Silver Crown with a mintage of 15,000 as part of its wildlife series.
    • The United States Postal Service (USP featured a Red Squirrel on a 29¢ self-adhesive stamp issued in 1993.
    • Vair is a fur coat of arms design which originated from squirrels.
    • One of the University of Chicago's unofficial mottos include: "University of Chicago—where the squirrels are cuter than the girls". This is in reference to the notion that there are no intelligent 'girls' that are cute at the university, or, that the squirrels are so cute, they are 'cuter than the girls'.
    • At The University of North Texas, an albino squirrel represents academic fortune as well as a popular icon. The legend started from a student who, forgetting to study for an exam, observes an albino squirrel on his way to class. Since he passed his exam, the legend believes that anyone who sees an albino squirrel will pass all their exams that day. Discovered in 2002, an organization was formed for the squirrel, the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society. Tragically, on the morning of August 21, 2006, the albino squirrel was the prey of a hawk and was pronounced dead.
    14 years ago

    The caribou name is believed to derive from "xalibu", a Mi'kmaq word meaning "the one who paws". Belonging to the Cervidae or deer family, the caribou is unique among its members in that both males and females grow antlers.

    14 years ago

    “Ducklings are not entirely defenseless. When threatened from above, they crash-dive in the blink of an eye. Once underwater, a brood will scatter and emerge in a looser formation. Ordinarily, their top swimming speed is about half a meter (20 inches) per second. But under threat, ducklings switch from their normal paddling to a rapid, plunging movement of their webbed feet, allowing them to hydroplane over the surface as fast as two meters (6 ½ feet) per second.”


    From “Ducks” by David Jones.

    14 years ago


    The Summer Tanager is considered a bee and wasp specialist. It usually catches a bee in flight and then kills it by beating it against a branch. Before eating the bee, the tanager removes the stinger by rubbing it on a branch. The tanager eats bee and wasp larvae too. It first catches the adult insects and then perches near the nest to tear it open and get the grubs.

    P.S. I saved the photo on my computer and then uploaded it in my albums. That is the right thing to do ... as far as I understood, right?

    14 years ago


    Goldfinch eat very little in the way of insects, they much prefer seeds. In one study the analysis of the stomach contents of one goldfinch showed 50 different items, only 3 of which were insects. The other included a wide variety of "weed" seeds, such as seeds from grasses and trees (alder, birch, cedar, elm, etc.).

    Goldfinch are one of the latest songbird to nest, nesting in mid to late summer. They wait to ensure there is a ready supply of thistle down and seed.

    Goldfinch weave their nests so thightly they can hold water.

    Gardener's have reported goldfinch nibbling the leaves of their young lettuce plants.

    (Taken from: BirdTracks - Summer 2006 - newsletter from Wild Birds Unlimited).

    14 years ago
    Fishing Cat

    Common Name   Fishing Cat

    Order: Carnivora

    Family: Felidae

    Genus: Prionailurus

    Length: 95 - 119 cm (38 - 47")

    Weight:  6 - 12 kg (13 - 26 lbs)

    Height: 38 - 40 cm (15 - 16")

    Range: India through Indochina & Java

    Habitat:  Marshy thickets, mangrove swamps

    Fishing cats are another feline that contradicts the belief that cats don’t like water. They are found in a number of water habitats, including marshy thickets, mangrove swamps, and densely vegetated areas along rivers and streams. Powerful swimmers, they push themselves along with their webbed hind feet. They have been seen wading and swimming in shallow water, hunting for a variety of aquatic prey, including fish, frogs and toads, snails and crustaceans. They will also take small birds and mammals, snakes and domestic stock such as calves and young goats.

    Larger than a domestic cat, the fishing cat is robustly built with a big, broad head, and a short tail. The short, coarse fur is a grizzled grey in colour, and tinged with brown. There are elongate dark brown spots arranged in longitudinal rows extending over the entire body. There are six to eight dark lines running from the forehead to the neck, and the underparts are whitish and spotted. The head is relatively big and broad, the muzzle somewhat elongated. Their eyes have greenish irises, and the ears are rather short and rounded, with black backsides and prominent white spots in the middle. The legs are short with the forelimbs having two distinct elbow bars. Their claw sheaths are incomplete, which prevents the claws from being fully retracted. The tail is less than half the head and body length, is relatively thick, and has a series of incomplete rings with a black tip.

    These cats are assumed to be polyestrous year round. They are said to have a characteristic mating call, but the call has not been described. Dens are constructed in dense shrubbery, reeds, hollow trees, in rocky crevices, or in other secluded locations. Kittens have been seen in the wild in April and June, and have been born at the Philadelphia Zoo in March and August. One to four, usually two, kittens are born after a 63 - 70 day gestation, and weigh around 170 grams at birth. Their eyes are open by 16 days, meat is taken around 53 days, and the kittens are weaned between four and six months. Adult size is attained at eight to nine months, and the young are independent between 12 - 18 months. It is thought that in the wild the adult male may help with the care and supervision of the young, but this is unverified. Captive individuals have lived to 12 years of age.

    Wetland destruction is the primary threat facing this species, as over 50% of Asian wetlands are under threat and disappearing. Fishing cats are considered a food item in some areas of their range, and are also persecuted for taking domestic stock. Skins sometimes turn up in Asian markets, though far less frequently than other cats. They are protected over most of their range, with the exceptions of Bhutan, Malaysia and Vietnam. Although they are considered locally common around wetlands, their wild status overall is poorly known, and they have been placed on Appendix II of CITES.

    14 years ago

    Its Own Private Silo

    Introducing the American Pika, a small brownish ball of fur that's part farmer, part ventriloquist.

    At home on boulder-covered hillsides across western North America, especially at higher elevations, the American Pika is an agrarian wonder. As summer continues, it will start hauling grasses and other plants back to its nest and spreading the plants out to cure on nearby rocks. The result: little haystacks that the pika will move periodically for better drying and protection from the rain. Later the pika will stash these supplies in its nest between the rocks and feast on them during the winter.

    But that's not the pika's only trick. It can also throw its voice. With each of its distinctive bleats the pika jerks its body up and forward. Experts believe that this jerking motion is what makes the pika's voice seem to echo as if from afar.

    14 years ago

    The most poisonous animal is not a snake or a spider. It's a beautiful little frog! Most frogs produce skin toxins, but the dart poison frogs from Central and South America are the most potent of all. The golden poison frog, called terribilis (the terrible), is so toxic that even touching it can be dangerous. A single terribilis contains enough poison to kill 20,000 mice or 10 people. It is probably the most poisonous animal on Earth.

    Several tribes in Colombia use different frog species to provide the poisons with which they tip their blowpipes. One frog can provide enough secretion to dip 50 darts, which will remain potent for a year.

    Golden Poison Frog
    Phyllobates terribilis

    Size: Up to 2 inches
    Range: Western Colombia
    Habitat: On the ground in lowland rainforest - often near rivers

    The golden poison frog is found in moist tropical rain forests. They lay eggs on land, and when the tadpoles hatch, the male carries them on his back to a larger area of water where they will complete their metamorphosis.

    14 years ago
    14 years ago


    • A dog's whiskers are touch-sensitive hairs called vibrissae. They are found on the muzzle, above the eyes and below the jaws, and can actually sense tiny changes in airflow.

    • According to a recent survey, the most popular name for a dog is Max. Other popular names include Molly, Sam, Zach, and Maggie. 


    • An American Animal Hospital Association poll showed that 33 percent of dog owners admit that they talk to their dogs on the phone or leave messages on an answering machine while away.

    • An estimated 1 million dogs in the United States have been named the primary beneficiary in their owner's will.

    • At the end of the Beatles' song "A Day in the Life", an ultrasonic whistle, audible only to dogs, was recorded by Paul McCartney for his Shetland sheepdog.

    • Before the enactment of the 1978 law that made it mandatory for dog owners in New York City to clean up after their pets, approximately 40 million pounds of dog excrement were deposited on the streets every year.

    • Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not sweat by salivating. They sweat through the pads of their feet.

    • Dachshunds are the smallest breed of dog used for hunting. They are low to the ground, which allows them to enter and maneuver through tunnels easily.

    • Developed in Egypt about 5,000 years ago, the greyhound breed was known before the ninth century in England, where it was bred by aristocrats to hunt such small game as hares.

    • Dogs are mentioned 14 times in the Bible.

    • Dogs can hear sounds that are too faint for us to hear, and also can hear noises at a much higher frequency than we can. Their hearing is so good that they probably rely more on sound than on sight to navigate their world.

    • Dogs' eyes have large pupils and a wide field of vision, making them really good at following moving objects. Dogs also see well in fairly low light.

    • Dogs have far fewer taste buds than people -- probably fewer than 2,000. It is the smell that initially attracts them to a particular food.

    • Dogs in monuments: The dog is placed at the feet of women in monuments to symbolize affection and fidelity, as a lion is placed at the feet of men to signify courage and magnanimity. Many of the Crusaders are represented with their feet on a dog, to show that they followed the standard of the Lord as faithfully as a dog follows the footsteps of his master.

    • Dogs may not have as many taste buds as we do (they have about 1,700 on their tongues, while we humans have about 9,000), but that doesn't mean they're not discriminating eaters. They have over 200 million scent receptors in their noses (we have only 5 million) so it's important that their food smells good and tastes good.

    • Each day in the US, animal shelters are forced to destroy 30,000 dogs and cats.

    • Every known dog except the chow has a pink tongue - the chow's tongue is jet bluish black.

    • Every year, $1.5 billion is spent on pet food. This is four times the amount spent on baby food.

    • French poodles did not originate in France. Poodles were originally used as hunting dogs in Europe. The dogs' thick coats were a hindrance in water and thick brush, so hunters sheared the hindquarters, with cuffs left around the ankles and hips to protect against rheumatism. Each hunter marked his dogs' heads with a ribbon of his own color, allowing groups of hunters to tell their dogs apart.

    • Inbreeding causes 3 out of every 10 Dalmatian dogs to suffer from hearing disability.

    • It has been established that people who own pets live longer, have less stress, and have fewer heart attacks.

    • Lassie was played by several male dogs, despite the female name, because male collies were thought to look better on camera. The main "actor" was named Pal.
    • Most pet owners (94 percent) say their pet makes them smile more than once a day.

    • Pekingese dogs were sacred to the emperors of China for more than 2,000 years. They are one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world.

    14 years ago

    Turkey Facts

  • The wild turkey is native to Northern Mexico and the Eastern United States.

  • The turkey was domesticated in Mexico and brought to Europe in the 16th century.
  • Wild turkeys can fly for short distances up to 55 miles per hour.

  • Wild turkeys can run 20 miles per hour.

  • Turkeys can see movement almost a hundred yards away.

  • Turkeys lived almost ten million years ago.

  • Baby turkeys are called poults and are tan and brown.

  • The ballroom dance the "turkey trot" was named for the short, jerky steps that turkeys take.

  • Turkeys don’t really have ears like ours, but they have very good hearing.

  • Turkeys can see in color.

  • Wild turkeys spend the night in trees. They especially like oak trees.

  • June is National Turkey Lover’s Month.

  • Turkeys will have 3,500 feathers at maturity.

  • Where did the turkey get its name?

    Have you ever wondered what Turkey (the country in the Middle East) and the American bird have in common?  A case of mistaken identity resulted in the American Turkey being named after the country.  When the Spanish first found the bird in the Americas more than 400 years ago they brought it back to Europe. The English mistakenly thought it was a bird they called a "turkey" so they gave it the same name. This other bird was actually from Africa, but came to England by way of the Turkey (lots of shipping went through Turkey at the time). The name stuck even when they realized the birds weren't the same.

    14 years ago
    Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head

    That's just good advice. Unless you are a snake, of course. It is said that a snake can eat an item so large in relation to its own head that it would be the equivalent of a human swallowing a watermelon whole -- and without using his hands. Anacondas, among the world's largest snakes (a record-breaker was 28 feet long and 44 inches around), are said to be able to consume an adult human being!

    Just about everybody on this planet seems to believe that snakes can unhinge their top and bottom jaws -- this is not true. The remarkable thing about the snake jaw is that the two halves of the lower jaw are not connected at the front. This allows them to swing away from one another and to work independently to pull food into the muscular throat. Besides the wide-opening jaws, snakes have a hard-cased skull in order to prevent brain damage from large thrashing animals clasped in their jaws. And perhaps most importantly, considering how long it takes to swallow a huge, mouth-filling living thing, they are able to shunt their respiratory tube to the side so they can still breathe, even with a chicken egg lodged in their throat

    14 years ago

    Thanks, Jenny! And off the record ... I am one too!

    Just the other day we almost got into a car accident because I screamed my head off when I saw a small white spider on my car door and scared my honey out of his whits! 

    I am trying to learn more about them ... maybe my fear and screaming fitts when I see one will improve with knowledge and age! All I can do is hope!

    14 years ago

      Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww...ok, ok...I know they play a very important role in the ecosystem but....AAAAAAAAAAACK!

      Sorry, arachnophobe speaking here.  Um...great information Elena...ya...great.  


    14 years ago

    Spider Sense: Fast Facts on Extreme Arachnids

    Cameron Walker  for National Geographic News
    With more than 37,000 described species, spiders—from the tiny armored spider to the Goliath birdeater tarantula—cruise the Earth on eight legs. Get a glimpse of the spiders' world with the juicy bites below:
    •  "Arachnid" isn't just a highfalutin word for spider. Spiders are arachnids, but not all arachnids are spiders. Arachnids are members of a class of animals that includes spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks. What they all have in common—and what distinguishes them from insects—are four pairs of legs and no antennae.

    The spider world has its own Goliath—the Goliath birdeater tarantula (Theraphosa leblondi). Found in the coastal rain forests of northeastern South America, this spider can be as big as a dinner plate and has been known to snatch birds from their nests. The spider world's David? The smallest spider is a mygalomorph spider from Borneo. Its body is the size of a pinhead.

    • A spider might give Superman, the Man of Steel, a run for his money. Some silk made by orb weaver spiders rivals the tensile strength of steel. It's been suggested that the silk would be more effective than Kevlar in bulletproof vests. One problem: corralling a group of territorial spiders to produce the tough stuff. In addition, each spider produces so little silk that it wouldn't be practical to become a spider farmer.

    Almost all spiders carry venom, but its purpose is to stun or kill their insect prey, not to attack humans. Of the known spider species, only about 25 are thought to have venom that has an effect on humans. The two bestknown venomous spiders in the U.S.— the black widow and the brown recluse—have not been proven to have caused any deaths in more than two decades.

    The brown recluse spider, Loxosceles reclusa, often gets a particularly bad rap. While its natural range is in the south-central United States, people all over the country blame bites on this species.

    Australia's most notorious spider, the Sydney funnel-web spider, has not been known to cause any deaths since 1980. In this species, the male spider's venom is more toxic than the female's—a rarity among spiders.

    Spiders produce seven kinds of silk, ranging from the sticky stuff to trap and wrap their prey to superstrong threads for support. Spiders also use their silk as parachutes and to shelter themselves and their young. The various types of silk are produced by different specialized silk glands and nozzles called spinnerets. No one spider is able to produce the full range of silk.

    • Spiders have evolved numerous ways to catch their prey, which is mostly insects but can also be frogs, fish, lizards, snakes, and birds. Some spiders are masters of disguise, blending into their background so that they look like parts of a flower or a leaf. Others hide under "trapdoors," jumping out of their hiding places to snatch a passing meal. Still others can leap many times their body length, covering great distances to grab their prey.

    Bolas spiders "fish" for moths by dangling a sticky strand of silk impregnated with a substance that is similar to the pheromone that moths use to attract mates. Some spiders can walk on the surface of water. Others live underwater.

    Spiders eat spiders. Females sometimes eat their mates, even while they are mating. Some spiders specialize in hunting down other species of spider and have evolved ways to grab them, even when their victims are in the center of their strongholds—their webs.

    Spiders are hunted as much as they are hunters. Birds, lizards, snakes, scorpions, and other spiders all prey on spiders. Some insects also hunt down spiders, including the mantis and a wasp that specializes in catching and paralyzing spiders. The wasp buries the spider alive, so that its young can feed on fresh food when they hatch.

    Most spiders have eight eyes. Some have no eyes and others have as many as 12 eyes. Most can detect only between light and dark, while others have well-developed vision. Experiments have demonstrated that some spiders can recognize and respond to specific shapes on television monitors. However they're equipped to see, all spiders have highly evolved systems to detect prey and danger.


    Cool ...
    14 years ago

    Gafftopsail Catfish male with eggs
    © E. W. Gudger

    Marble Mouth

    Fatherhood involves a lot of sacrifice, but not many human fathers can claim the same sort of self-sacrifice as the Gafftopsail Catfish. The male of this Atlantic and Gulf Coast sea catfish takes full responsibility for caring for the marble-like eggs after he has fertilized them. How does he do this, in waters thick with predators? By carrying them in his mouth -- as many as 55 eggs, each one up to an inch in diameter, for a period estimated at six to eight weeks! As if that weren't enough, he then may carry the young around as well, until they double in size from their hatching length of two inches.

    This poor old Pops doesn't get to feed himself the entire time he is transporting his offspring, although all those fry right inside his mouth must be quite a temptation. But as soon as the kids are off on their own, he can resume his normal life of gobbling up smaller fishes and other creatures. Until the next batch of eggs comes along, that is. On the bright side, at least he doesn't have to put the kids through college!

    Click here to learn more about the Gafftopsail Catfish.

    Odd Smells
    14 years ago
    Eau de Peanut Butter

    Thanks to advances in shampoo science, it's possible now for a person's hair to smell like kiwi fruit or coconut or even chocolate milk. If that seems strange -- unnatural -- consider the seabird with the bill that smells like a tangerine.

    That's the Parakeet Auklet, a chubby little Arctic species. Another oddly scented creature is the Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, which some people think smells like freshly chopped garlic. The Western Spadefoot toad, meanwhile, smells a lot like peanut butter.

    As for plants, the Ponderosa Pine is often described as smelling like pineapple. And the sunny side of a Jeffrey Pine smells like butterscotch, while the scent of its crushed twigs has been likened to lemons, vanilla, and violets.

    14 years ago

    Spring Spectacle

    This eerily beautiful image looks like a work of art, made of metal, glass, or mirrors. But then again it looks like a work of nature, the ripples and waves on the ocean surface reflecting light in silvers and blues. Take another look. It's not the ocean, but if you guessed it had to do with water you are close. It's a flock of migrating sandpipers, charging along the Washington coast at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in late April.

    One of the greatest shorebird spectacles anywhere unfolds each spring from March to early June along the Pacific coast as millions of northbound migrating shorebirds stop to rest and feed before continuing onward to their tundra nesting areas. Many of these birds have traveled tremendous distances, coming from as far away as the tip of South America. Warm southerly winds help them along on their journey. Washington's Willapa and Grays Harbor refuges are among the shorebird hot spots. In April as many as 500,000 sandpipers may converge at one time in the estuary at Bowerman Basin in Grays Harbor. The sight of their huge aerobatic flocks is astounding. About 85 percent of them are Western Sandpipers, followed by Dunlins, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Semipalmated Plovers. Brilliant Red Knots turn up reliably, some of them in the course of an annual 20,000-mile round-trip migration between the high Arctic and southern South America. Taking advantage of the bounty are swift-swooping Peregrine Falcons and Merlins, whose presence may be signaled by thousands of shorebirds simultaneously taking flight.

    14 years ago

    ... great info, Jenny! It's really good to know!


     Dragonflies are the world's fastest insects, capable of reaching speeds of up to 97 km/h (60 mph).  The Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) is nicknamed "Darning Needle" because of its body shape. It is one of the biggest and fastest-flying dragonflies, able to reach speeds of 85 km/h (53 mph). A study showed that dragonflies can travel as much as 137 km (85 mi) in one day.

    Green Darner

    The Incredible Egg
    14 years ago

    Ever wonder why birds lay eggs of different colors and shapes? There is a good reason for everything in nature and eggs are no exception. Birds’ eggs are colored for protective reasons. The parent birds that incubate them are not always on the nest covering them, and at those times, the eggs are exposed to predators. The color, speckles or spots on them are camouflage. That explains why birds that nest in cavities lay all white eggs. They can’t be seen even when the parent birds are not sitting on them.

    Why are birds’ eggs shaped differently? Again, to protect them. Birds that nest on cliffs, like seabirds for example, have eggs that are smaller at one end than at the other. This is to make them roll in a circle and not fall off the cliff. Birds with round eggs, build deep nests that keep them from rolling out.

    How do baby birds hatch? They have a so-called “egg tooth” on the top of their upper mandible, which cuts through the egg shell when it is time for them to come out. The egg tooth falls off soon after hatching. Why do the eggs in a nest all hatch at about the same time? Because most birds lay an egg a day, but do not begin incubating them until the last egg is laid. One exception are barn owls that begin incubation with the laying of the first egg. That’s why the youngsters in a brood range in size and age from the oldest to the youngest.

    -- George H. Harrison

    14 years ago

    What great information Elena!  I especially loved the info. on beavers.   It's so very true...they are such an important link in the creation and maintenance of wetlands which support such a lovely variety of interdependant life.  



    14 years ago
    The Buzz About Bees! 
    • It takes 2 million flowers to make 1 jar of honey.
    • A hive of bees fly 55,000 miles to make 1 jar of honey.
    • An average worker bee makes 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her life.
    • A queen bee can lay up to 3,000 eggs in one day.
    • One hive may hold up to 80,000 bees—one queen, a few hundred drones (males), and the rest workers (females).
    • One gallon of honey equals the combined flight distance of going to the moon and back.
    14 years ago

    killdeer with egg

    Killdeer are so named because their normal, not alarm call is "kill deeah". This large plover is found in fields and meadows, unlike its cousins the piping and semipalmated plovers which are found by the water. A noisy plover, the killdeer is one of the earliest migrants and will move during the day or night. It is interesting to note that the male killdeer, according to a study by Lennington and Mace, will return to the previous year's location to breed and usually chose the same mate. The females tend to be more promiscuous and less interested in returning to previous year's nesting site. 

    The killdeer's broken-wing display

    You sometimes see an adult killdeer on a dirt road or along a rocky railroad easement. As you approach, the killdeer may suddenly develop a broken wing. It struggles in front of you, as if it can barely walk, let alone fly. One or both wings drag pitifully on the ground.

    Killdeer with If your instinct to rescue the killdeer overcomes you, and you try to catch the bird, it almost lets you reach out and pick it up. But somehow, while struggling to keep its balance, the killdeer manages to stay one step ahead of you. As you pursue it, the killdeer leads you farther and farther away from its four downy killdeer babies crouching on the ground or half hidden under a tiny bush.

    When the killdeer feels that the young are safe from you, its broken wing heals suddenly, and the bird flies away, calling a loud "KILL-DEE" that sounds like a jeer.

    14 years ago

    The Beaver

    Beavers are more than intriguing animals with flat tails and lustrous fur. American Indians called the beaver the "sacred center" of the land because this species creates rich habitats for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. Since beavers prefer to dam streams in shallow valleys, much of the flooded area becomes wetlands. Such wetlands are cradles of life with biodiversity that can rival tropical rain forests. Almost half of endangered and threatened species in North America rely upon wetlands.

    Besides being a keystone species, beavers reliably and economically maintain wetlands that can sponge up floodwaters (the several dams built by each colony also slows the flow of floodwaters), prevent erosion, raise the water table and act as the "earth's kidneys" to purify water. The latter occurs because several feet of silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxics, such as pesticides, are broken down in the wetlands that beavers create. Thus, water downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment.


    Wildlife rehabilitators find beavers to be gentle, reasoning beings who enjoy playing practical jokes. An Indian word for "beaver-like" also means "affable." Once weaned, their favorite foods include water lily tubers, clover, apples and the leaves and green bark (cambium) from aspen and other fast-growing trees. Tree cutting is part of nature's cycle, and beaver pruning stimulates willows, cottonwood and aspen to regrow bushier than ever next spring. After eating, beavers use the peeled sticks to build a teepee-like lodge (house) on the shore and/or a dam.

    14 years ago

    The Bonobo was discovered in 1928, by American anatomist Harold Coolidge, represented by a skull in the Tervuren museum in Belgium that was thought to have belonged to a juvenile chimpanzee, though credit for the discovery went to the German Ernst Schwarz, who published the findings in 1929. The species is distinguished by an upright gait, a matriarchal and egalitarian culture, and the prominent role of sexual activity in their society.

    One theory on the origin of the name "Bonobo" is that it is a misspelling of the name of the town of Bolobo on the Congo river. A more likely explanation is that it comes from the name for "Ancestor" in an ancient Bantu language.

    Around 10,000 Bonobos are found only in the humid forests south of the Zaire River, in the Democratic Republic of Congo of central Africa. They are an endangered species, due to both habitat loss and hunting for bushmeat, the latter activity having waxed dramatically during the current civil war due to the presence of heavily armed militias even in remote "protected" areas such as Salonga National Park. Today, at most several thousand Bonobos remain. This is part of a more general trend of ape extinction.

    14 years ago


    Whip-poor-wills, like other night-flying birds, were once suspected of witchery. They fly around livestock at dusk to feed on insects swarming over the animals. It was believed that they sucked milk from goats' udders and caused them to dry up; hence their family name, Caprimulgidae, from the Latin capri and mulgus, meaning "goat-milker." Until recently they were inaccurately called "goatsuckers," but now the name "nightjar" is preferred.

    Gastric Brooding Frog
    14 years ago

    Gastric Brooding Frog Yep...that's a baby frog coming out of a tiny mama frogs' mouth.
    This species of frog, called the Gastric Brooding Frog, incubates its' young inside it's tummy...then the frogs come hopping out of the mouth when they develop past the tadpole stage. Scientists were most intrigued by how this species manages to "Turn off" production of hydrochloric acid (the digestive juices) when brooding the froglets.
    The Gastric Brooding Frog was found in Australia. Sadly, not long after their discovery they dissapeared and are now believed to be extinct.

    Also- Yes! That is a thumb you see behind the frog, to show how tiny even the mama is.

    Taken from:

    14 years ago

    The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is a thickset arboreal marsupial herbivore native to Australia, and the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae.

    The Koala's scientific name comes from the Greek: phaskolos meaning "pouch" and; arktos meaning "bear". The cinereus part is Latin and means "ash-coloured". Some people refer to the Koala as a Koala bear—this is technically incorrect, since Koalas are not part of the bear family. The word "koala" comes from an Australian Aboriginal word meaning "no drink". This is an appropriate name due to its diet consisting mainly of eucalyptus leaves, which contain sufficient water to obviate the need for Koalas to climb down for a drink.

    The Common Raccoon
    14 years ago

    Native only to the Americas, the Common Raccoon is an accomplished climber. It can ascend a tree of any size and is able to come down backward or forward. Few animals can descend a tree headfirst; the raccoon does this by rotating the hindfoot 180 degrees. On the ground this animal usually walks, but it can run and is a good swimmer.

    During very cold spells, the raccoon may sleep for several days or even a month or more at a time, but it does not hibernate. It may be out during warmer periods in winter, and sometimes even forages then, but it does not need to feed, as it stores a third or so of its body weight as fat and can survive the entire winter without eating. 

    The Common Raccoon’s nimble fingers, almost as deft as a monkey’s, can easily turn doorknobs and open refrigerators. (In fact, the animal’s common name is derived from aroughcoune, an Algonquin Indian word meaning "he scratches with his hands.")

    If water is conveniently close, this animal sometimes appears to wash its food, a trait reflected in its species name, lotor, which means "washer." The raccoon’s objective, however, is not to clean the food but to knead and tear at it, feeling for inedible matter that should be discarded. Normally this is done with food found in the water.

    This creature’s vocalizations are varied and include purrs, whimpers, snarls, growls, hisses, screams, and whinnies. Upon meeting, two raccoons whose territories overlap growl, lower their heads, bare their teeth, and flatten their ears; the fur on the back of their necks and shoulders stands on end. Usually both animals back off without coming to blows.

    14 years ago

    Great idea! Kat!



    Bat at feeder

    In some parts of the continent (especially the American Southwest),
    bats like hummingbird feeders, too. Dan True got this photo of a Mexican long-tongued bat raiding the pantry. These gentle mammals are voracious nectar lovers, but they are also vital pollinators of saguaros, other giant cacti, and the large agaves. Bats can empty your feeders overnight, every night.

    Did You Know II...
    14 years ago
    | Blue pin

    The other thread was getting full, so here's a new one! 

    Indigo Bunting male

  • The Indigo Bunting migrates at night, using the stars for guidance. It learns its orientation to the night sky from its experience as a young bird observing the stars.

  • Experienced adult Indigo Buntings can return to their previous breeding sites when held captive during the winter and released far from their normal wintering area.

  • The sequences of notes in Indigo Bunting songs are unique to local neighborhoods. Males a few hundred meters apart generally have different songs. Males on neighboring territories often have the same or nearly identical songs.

  • Indigo and Lazuli buntings defend territories against each other in the western Great Plains where they occur together, share songs, and sometimes interbreed.
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