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Birds & Bats

Birds & Bats
If you're a feathered fanatic, then click here. We've got everything from albatrosses to penguins.




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Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)
The emu is the largest bird in Australia, and the second largest in the world after the ostrich. Emus have long necks, sharp beaks and small ears. They have two sets of eyelids, one for blinking and one to keep out the dust. Their feet are long, with three toes. One toe on each foot has a long talon, for fighting. Emu feathers are soft and light-brown with dark tips. Each feather has a double shaft. Emus can grow to between 5 to 6.5 feet (1.5 2 metres) in height and weigh up to 130 pounds (60 kg). Males are slightly smaller than females. Males make a grunting sound like a pig and...
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Western Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus hesperus)
Order: Chiroptera, Family: Vespertilionidae
A small, drab-gray or smoke-gray bat with distinct, black, leathery facial mask and black membranes; tragus short, blunt, and slightly curved; underparts pale smoke-gray. Dental formula: I 2/3, C 1/1, Pm 2/2, M 3/3 X 2 = 34. External measurements average: (males), total length, 66 mm; tail, 27 mm; foot, 5 mm; forearm, 28 mm; (females), 73-30-5-28. Weight, 3-6 g.
Rate:  (4.2)
Silver-haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)
Order: Chiroptera, Family; Vespertilionidae
A medium-sized, nearly black bat with dorsal surface of interfemoral membrane densely furred at least on the basal half and usually to near margins; upper and lowerparts sooty brown or black with white tips of hairs producing a frosted appearance; membranes and ears sooty brown or black. Dental formula: I 2/3, C 1/1, Pm 2/3, M 3/3 X 2 = 36 (upper incisors and first lower premolar very small and easily overlooked). External measurements average: total length, 100 mm; tail, 40 mm; hind foot, 8 mm; ear, 16 mm; forearm, 41 mm. Weight, 8-12 g.
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Maybe Birdbrains Are in Fact Clever
by Gareth Huw Davies
The scene: a traffic light crossing on a university campus in Japan. Carrion crows and humans line up patiently, waiting for the traffic to halt. When the lights change, the birds hop in front of the cars and place walnuts, which they picked from the adjoining trees, on the road. After the lights turn green again, the birds fly away and vehicles drive over the nuts, cracking them open. Finally, when its time to cross again, the crows join the pedestrians and pick up their meal. If the cars miss the nuts, the birds sometimes hop back and put them somewhere else on the road. Or they sit...
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China Sets Up Quack Squad
by David Rennie
An army of 700,000 specially trained ducks and chickens has been mobilised to help fight China's biggest locust plague in 25 years. The birds, which are taught to pursue and eat locusts at the sound of a whistle, are part of a national campaign that includes 280,000 people backed by crop-dusting planes and special locust-killing micro-organisms imported from Britain. Swarms of locusts have destroyed more than 1.6 million hectares of crops in 11 provinces in the north and east of China, and 3.8 million hectares of grassland in the far western region of Xinjiang. The birds are used in Xin...
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"Telepathic" Parrot Sparks Rethink
A parrot with a 950-word vocabulary, a sense of humour and alleged telepathic powers is forcing a rethink of the scope for animals and humans to communicate. The 6-year-old captive-bred African grey called N'kisi is one of the most advanced users of human language in the animal world. The bird uses words in context, with past, present and future verb tenses. And, like small children, it resorts to creativity to describe new ideas - for instance saying "flied" for flew and inventing the phrase "pretty smell medicine" to indicate the aromatherapy oils used by his owner, a New York-based a...
Rate:  (2.2)
Aggressive Eagle Captured
A man found an eagle's egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The ol...
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Cassowary: Friend or Foe?
The Kuranda area of far north Queensland is a key zone for the endangered Cassowary, the birds around Cassowary House have raised 7 chicks since June 1998, with another male a couple of kilometres along the same road having a similar record and currently having 4 chicks. In January 2002 we had a new female appear, and occasionally join with the family group, though the regular female soon drives her away when they coincide here. The individual birds are readily recognisable by their casque shapes and patterns, with males having a drooping bustle and females being considerably larger and havi...
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Silkie Chicken
The Silkie is the only breed with black pigmented skin. The feathers are without the usual forms of webs, that is, there is a lack of adhesion of the barbs to one another which gives the appearance of down or silky hair, hence the name silken or Silkie. Another distinguishing feature is turquoise blue ear lobes. These birds originated in China, found there by Marco Polo in 1298. (Marco Polo thought silkies were covered with wool rather than feathers, hence the name.) In America, the breed ranks in the first 15 breeds in popularity. They are characterised as: active, bold, silky and fluff...
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Spanish Whiteface Chicken
Coming from Spain, this breed arrived in the US via the Caribbean Islands. Spanish are the oldest breed of chickens existent in the US today. At one time known as "The Fowls of Seville", they were very popular in the South during the Colonial period. The large area of snow white skin surrounding the face and wattles makes this breed unique. Actually this is an over developed earlobe.
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A Talk with Irene Pepperberg [Excerpt]
One of my students was cleaning up the laboratory; we recycle whatever we can, so she was collecting all the empty bottles, throwing them in a bin, separating out the caps and putting them on the counter where Griffin, an African grey parrot, was sitting. She called me over and said, "You told me that parrots are destructive foragers and that they don't really put things together, so come here and take a look." There was Griffin, taking smaller caps and putting them into bigger caps, then picking up the pairs and throwing them off the side of the counter. This incident occurred at about...
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Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Order: Pelecaniformes, Family: Pelecanidae
The brown pelican is the Louisiana state bird. Brown pelicans are dark and bulky, weighing from 6 to 9 pounds and measuring 4 to 4.5 feet long. The sexes have similar plumage. Their heads are white with a bit of pale yellow on the crown. They have long, gray bills, and their backs, rumps and tails are streaked with gray and dark brown. Their underside is blackish brown, and their legs and feet are black. Their eyes are pale yellow. Young pelicans have brownish-gray necks and white underparts.
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Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Order: Ciconiiformes, Family: Ardeidae
There are several types of herons in the southeastern states: green heron, little blue heron, tricolored heron, yellow-crowned heron, black-crowned night heron and the great blue heron, which is one of the most prominent. Approximately 4 feet high, the great blue heron is the largest heron in North America. It has a wingspan of about 6 feet. Above, the great blue heron is bluish gray, while its belly is black. Its head is white, with a black stripe along the sides of the crown. During the breeding season, this stripe extends to elongated black plumes.
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Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
Order: Passeriformes, Family: Corvidae
Nearctic: Breeding range: The Gray Jay is found from tree line in northern Canada and Alaska south through boreal and subalpine forests to northern California on the west coast, Arizona and New Mexico in the Rocky Mountains, northern Wisconsin in the midwest, and New York in the east. Winter range: The non-breeding range is essentially the same as the breeding range, as the Gray Jay does not migrate except for (in late fall and winter) occasional altitudinal movements in the Rockies and rare latitudinal movements elsewhere, probably due to food shortages. Perisoreus canadensis has never be...
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Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
Order: Falconiformes, Family: Accipitridae
The golden eagle is about 30 to 40 inches in length and weighs between 9 and 13 pounds. Its wingspan can be as wide as 7.5 feet, which makes the golden eagle the largest predatory bird in North America. The tail of the golden eagle is grayish brown, while the head, body and other feathers on the wings are typically black in color. The feathers at the head and nape of the eagle's neck are golden brown. Adult eagles have dark brown eyes, while their bill and claws are black. Their cere (a waxy, fleshy area at the base of the beak) and feet are yellow, and their legs are feathered...
Rate:  (4.4)
Common Raven (Corvus corax)
Order: Passeriformes, Family: Corvidae
The raven is a large, black bird (the largest of all entirely black birds) with a wedge-shaped tail. It calls frequently, and has a peculiar hoarse, resonant croak. The sexes are very similar physically, although the female is smaller. The raven's range is widespread to say the least. It encompasses northwest Europe, Britain, Holarctic, Greenland (mainly coastal areas), Iceland, northern Scandinavia, east to Pacific, central Asia to the Himalayas and northwest India, Iran and the Near East, northwest Africa and Canary Islands, North and Central America.
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Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Order: Cuculiformes, Family: Cuculidae
Common cuckoos are found throughout the Old World, from Spain to Japan. They usually migrate to Africa, south of the Sahara during the winter. The common cuckoo is approximately 33 cm in length. Adult males are generally gray above, including the throat and breast, while the undersides are white with close black bars. The tail, which is long and graduated, is black with white spots. The adult females are occasionally brown above, white below, and barred black. The juvenile cuckoos resemble the rare brown phase of the female. Juveniles are brown, barred, and have a white patch on the back ...
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Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus)
Order: Psittaciformes, Family: Cacatuidae
Australian: Cockatiels are distributed throughout the interior of the Australian continent. The species is absent from Tasmania and most coastal areas. Cockatiels are mainly grey with paler underparts that are sometimes washed with brown. There is a prominent patch of orange on the ear coverts, and the rest of the head and crest are yellow. The underside of the tail is black in the male and yellow in the female. Several plumage variants of the species are recognized. The Lutino mutation (Albino or White) is the most popular. These attractive birds are white with white or pale yellow underpa...
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Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Order: Falconiformes, Family: Accipitridae
The bald eagle is the U.S. national bird; it is the only eagle unique to North America. Spanish name: Aguila Cabeza Blanca, Aguila French name: Pygargue à Tête Blanche Other names: American eagle, white-headed eagle, white-headed sea-eagle Adult bald eagles have brown plumage with a white head and tail. Immature eagles are irregularly mottled with white until the fourth year. Their legs are feathered halfway down the tarsus, and their beak, feet and eyes are bright yellow. Bald eagles have massive tarsi, short and powerful grasping toes, and long talons. The talon of t...
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Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi)
Order: Strigiformes, Family: Strigidae
The elf owl is the smallest owl in North America. It is the size of a sparrow, with a rounded head and body. It has a short tail, sturdy unfeathered legs and big yellow eyes. With a wingspan of 9 inches, the elf owl measures 5 to 6 inches tall and weighs 1 to 1.4 ounces. It has pale, grayish-brown plumage with a row of white spots and white and buff barring on its flight feathers. Its face has no marks except for thin, pale eyebrow lines.
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