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.
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
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.
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
• 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
• 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
• 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
Photograph by Robert Caputo
—From "The Orinoco: Into the Heart of Venezuela," April 1998, National Geographic magazine
Amazing Animal Abilities
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.
- 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
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.
Sleeping in SnowCommon 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
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!
Nor is a rabbit a hare.
Pigs will eat hares. But will they eat rabbits? "Not by the hare on their chinny chin chins."
The Arctic hare is known in Canada by several names, including 'rabbit', 'hare' and 'ukaliq'. A hare is not, however, a rabbit.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.
Ord’s Kangaroo Rat
By Raymond Schmidt
- 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.
#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
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
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).Trivia
- 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.
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.
“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.
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?
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).
Common Name Fishing Cat
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.
Introducing the American Pika, a small brownish ball of fur that's part farmer, part ventriloquist.