'/> Amazing Animals: December 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

10 Fascinating Birds with Spectacular Tails

They may not be the most colorful birds around. But these fascinating birds sure have spectacular tails. Check them out.

Lady Amherst’s Pheasant

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The Lady Amherst’s Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) is a ruffed pheasant endemic to China, Myanmar, and Tibet. These birds prefer dense, dark forests as natural habitat. They roost in trees at night, but search for food on the ground — feeding mostly on grain, leaves and small invertebrates. The species are listed is as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Females are less showy and carry a duller overall plumage, but males have striking silver with black barring tails. Males have black head, short metallic green crown, crimson crest and black throat with metallic green spots. Overall body plumage is metallic bluish green. Adult male measures around 100-120 cm in length, with a 80 cm long tail and weigh about 740 g.

Ribbon-tailed Astrapia

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The Ribbon-tailed Astrapia (Astrapia mayeri) is a medium-sized, velvet black Bird-of-Paradise endemic to sub-alpine forests in central Papua New Guinea. The species feeds on insects and fruits. Also known as Shaw Mayer’s Astrapia, this spectacular bird is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

As with all Birds-of-Paradise, the males are more colorful than females. Males have shiny black bodies, and sport shining green, bronze and blue feathers around their heads. Males have jet black heads and dark green tuft sits at the top of the beak. They can reach 32 to 35 centimeters (12.6 to 13.8 inches) long, but can grow up to a meter long ribbon-like white tail feathers!

Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise

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The Raggiana Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana), also called Count Raggi’s Bird-of-paradise, is the national bird of Papua New Guinea. The species inhabit the tropical forests of eastern New Guinea. A colorful bird has red to orange plumes and a very spectacular pair of long black tail wires. The male has dark emerald-green throat, yellow crown, greyish-blue bill, and yellow collar. It has blackish upper breast feathers. and greyish-brown feet. Adults measure about 34 cm long. It feeds mainly on fruits and arthropods. The Raggiana Bird-of-paradise is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise

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The Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise (Cicinnurus respublica) is a colorful passerine bird native only to Waigeo and Batanta islands in Indonesia. The species inhabit forested hill areas and lowland rainforests where they feed on fruits and small insects. Adult male grows to about 16 cm long and weighs between 53 – 67 g. It is easily distinguished by its red and black feathers and a spectacular two curved violet tail feather.

Also, the male has a naked blue head, brilliant turquoise crown, yellow cape, light green mouth, and velvet green breast. The Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise is Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.

Exclamatory Paradise Whydah

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The Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua paradisaea) or the Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, is a small brown sparrow-like bird endemic to native to Eastern Africa. This colorful bird is known for its spectacular elongated black tail feathers, which can grow up to 36 cm long. During mating season, male sports rusty brown breast, black head and back with dazzling yellow nape, and white belly plumes. The Exclamatory Paradise Whydah is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Blue-crowned Motmot

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The Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota) is another colorful bird species widespread in woodlands and rainforests of Mexico, Central America, and most of South America. All species except the blue-crowned subspecies have a black crown laced with blue band. A blue-crowned Motmot has a large head, black face, red eyes, black eye mask, and short, down curved beak. Overall, it has shades of green and blue feathers. This passerine bird is also known for its distinctive “racquet” tail with spectacular greenish blue center tail feathers. Depending on the species, the Blue-crowned Motmot measures around 38–48 cm (15–19 in) long.

Golden Pheasant

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The Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) also called “Chinese Pheasant” is a gorgeous pheasant species endemic to the mountains of Central China. The Golden Pheasant is commonly found in zoos and aviaries. Both sexes have golden-yellow legs and yellow bills. However, males are easily recognized by their red body, scarlet breast, golden crest and rump. Females have duller mottled brown plumage.

An adult male can measure between 90–105 cm long, with a tail about for two-thirds its total length. One of the worlds brightest birds, the Golden Pheasant feeds mainly on berries, seeds and leaves. The average lifespan of Golden Pheasants can live up to 6 years in the wild, but those in captivity could live 15 or even 20 years.

Scarlet Macaw

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The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is a large, colorful South American parrot endemic to evergreen forests of South America. Two subspecies of scarlet macaw are recognized: Ara Macao, Macao, and Ara Macao cyanoptera. These beautifully colored birds is about 90 cm (35 inches) long and weigh about 1 kilogram (2.2 lb). Overall the species have bright scarlet-red feathers with patches of blue, green and yellow. The long tail has vibrant red plumage. It has a creamy white, almost featherless face and a strong, curved beak. The Scarlet Macaws’ diet includes fruit, nuts, and seed. Scarlet Macaws mate for life and has a lifespan of 40 to 50 years.

Resplendent Quetzal

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The Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) is another vibrantly colored bird found in Montane cloud forests from southern Mexico to western Panama. There are two subspecies, P. m. mocinno and P. m. costaricensis. The iridescent color of its plumage appears green or blue, according to the changes of daytime light. The male owns g eyes, a helmet-like crest and yellow bill. During mating season, males showcase their long, glossy emerald-green tail feathers that could reach a meter (three feet ) long. This species measures 36–40 cm (14–16 in) long and weighs about 210 g (7 oz).

Indian Peafowl

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The Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus), also known as Blue Peafowl is a large pheasant endemic to South Asia. The species is mostly found on the ground in open forest and woodlands. Males have mostly blue plumage with blue head, neck and breast. Also, males have dark brown tails with wire-like feathers where the “train” feathers end with an elaborate blue-green eye-spot. Adult males measure 195 to 225 cm (78 to 90 inches) from beak to tail and weigh 4–6 kg (8.8-13.2 lbs). The species feeds mainly on grains and berries, but at times prey on small rodents, lizards and snakes.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Narwhal – Unicorn of The Sea

Narwhal – Is it a mythical creature or just a strange animal? Read on to unlock the "Unicorn of the Sea’s" real secret!

The Narwhal (Monodon monoceros)may look like a mythical creature or a legendary animal, but it’s not. This is rarely seen whale is said to be the unicorn of the sea. The narwhal is a medium-sized, pale-colored whale found in the icy waters of the Arctic seas. It has a round head, small mouth and a cylindrical body (lacking in dorsal fin). Male narwhals can grow to be about 4 – 9 m long and weigh up to 1,600 kilograms. Females are slightly smaller, growing to about 4 m long and weigh around 1,000 kilograms.

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The most eye-catching feature of the male narwhal is its single long tusk growing to about 2–3 meter long. This tusk commonly growing in a spiral fashion, is actually an incisor tooth sticking out on the left side of the upper jaw. The tusk’s function is uncertain; some theories suggest that tusk is used in determining social rank, in obtaining food, or a formidable tool during courtship. However, the tusk is not used for fighting or in hunting.

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Narwhals are so sensitive to climate change that they exhibit seasonal migrations. During summer, they are seen gathering in shallow waters, but go offshore, in deeper water as winter approaches. Narwhals have a specialized diet that includes a Greenland flatfish, Gonatus squids, shrimps, Arctic cod, and other marine animals. They are considered the deepest divers amongst mammals. Records showed that they can dive to a depth of about 800 meters over 15 times per day. Each dive may last from 7-25 minutes.

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Narwhals can live up to a maximum of 50 years. Currently, their estimated population is between 10,000 to 45,000 individuals. Since hunting narwhals are legal. their main predators are polar bears and orcas.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Animals with Astonishing Powers – Part Two

10 more animals gifted with astonishing powers.

Here are 10 more animals with exceptional powers! From the fastest land animals, to the fastest flying bird down to a weird-looking mammal using electroreception to hunt prey, they are truly marvels of Nature. Read to know more about them.

Cheetah- Superb Speed on Land

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With lightning-like speed, the Cheetah is the fastest land animal on earth! For the record, here is our cool cat’s speed credentials: it can attain a top speed of 112 to 120 km/h; it can sprint up to 500 m; and it can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/hour in just three seconds. Incredible speed, isn’t it?

However, speed has also its drawback; during a long chase, its body temperature rises up and to cool it down and to catch its breath, this long-legged sprinter needs to rest for half an hour. A poor climber, cheetah hunts by vision, stalking its prey within 10–30 m, then chased and tripping its prey with a fatal bite to the neck. Cheetahs diet includes: gazelles, impalas, hare, and other small animals.

Perigrine Falcon: The Super Flyer

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Superman gets lost! The Super Flyer is in town. The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest-flying bird on planet Earth. Equipped with razor-sharp beak, this Raptor can attain a top speed of 320 km/HR! The peregrine falcons known for their “moustache”, are medium-sized bird of prey sporting blue-gray upperparts and white belly.

Averaging 34 to 58 centimeters in body length and a wingspan of about around 80 to 120 centimeters, this super flyer of a bird, hunts its prey by dropping down on them from high altitude. Its diet consists of medium-sized birds like pigeons, waders and occasionally insects, reptiles and small mammals.

Octopus: Best Line of Defense

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How can this large blue-blooded mollusk, measuring to as much as 7 meters from one tip end to another tip end hides from its predator? The answer – by shape-shifting and invisibility. This soft-bodied creatures can make itself invisible from possible predators, using specialized skin, muscles that can instantly adopt the color and texture of its environment.

Next in its defense arsenals, is the black ink which it spews to make a fast escape from attackers. And lastly, when under threat, this big-eyed mollusk can spare an arm to distract a predator’s grasp, but is able to re-grow it later.

Gecko: Anti-gravity Suction Toes

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Nature’s original Spiderman – the Gecko – a small to medium-sized lizard is not only good at vocalizations but have many powers in his arsenal. Aside from the ability to shed its brittle tail as a deviation to escape a potential predator, it has also anti-gravity suction toes that adhere to most surfaces aiding it to climb up ceilings or vertical surfaces with relative ease.

These sticky toe pads have thousands of microscopic hairs (called setae) which aid it to do these amazing stunts even on smooth surfaces or hanging upside down. If an adult gecko is allowed to make contact with smooth glass even with one toe, it can support a weight of 133 kg or about eight times its body weight! How’s that for a tiny lizard with no eyelids.

Rhinoceros Beetle: Incredible strength

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A black beetle that can compete with Hercules in a weightlifting match? Got to believe that – Rhino Beetle is the world’s strongest animals, body proportion wise. Famous for their horn on the top of the head, these fierce-looking but gentle beetles can lift a 65 ton object or up to 850 times their own body weight. Among the largest of beetles, Rhino beetles average 50 – 60 millimeters in length when fully grown.

Spittle bug: World’s greatest leaper

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A leap worthy of an Olympic gold medal – the Spittle Bug or Froghopper can do such feat! The adult, just under half an inch in size can toss itself a monstrous 28 inches! Accomplishing such gigantic leap requires a force 400x greater than gravity. Spittle bugs are best known for their larvae stage, where the nymphs cover themselves in foamed-up plant saps to elude predators. Spittle bugs are typically dull green, gray or brown in color with a head resembling that of a frog. Most species of spittle bugs eat plants and shrubs.

Moth: Hypnotic Scent

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Searching for love – forget about Cupid’s arrows nor love spells, instead, why not bring along with you a moth. Numbering about 250,000 species, these winged insects emit a chemical called pheromones, a very special scent reaching miles away with a message – I’m in the mood for love! Moths too have astonishing defense mechanisms against probable predators.

Camouflage is one – adapting to objects in the surroundings, some moth resembles lichen, while others appear like bark of trees. Mimicry is another thing – creating markings on their wings to mimic other imposing animals like birds of prey or that of venomous snakes.

Sea Star: Spineless Wonder

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Sea stars or Starfish is echinoderms numbering to about 2,000 species, found in major marine environment worldwide. They come in different sizes, colors and shapes. Though most sea stars have five arms, other species with 10, 20, and even 30 arms exist. These “spineless wonders” have two remarkable features – the ability to regenerate injured, mutilated or cut off the arms and the remarkable ability to pry open bivalve shells, using their suction-cupped tube feet and digesting its prey by inserting its thin tongue into the opened shell. They feed mostly on clams, mussels, oysters, and occasionally small fish.

Dolphins: Ultrasonic hearing

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Dolphins are social marine mammals that have bonded well with humans. But what is so special about these affable, gentle toothed whales? They have acute eyesight and a highly developed sense of hearing! Though possessing small ear opening, dolphins have the ability to hear frequencies 10 times more sensitive than human ears.

Add to this remarkable hearing power – they hear with their teeth using a complex hearing process called echolocation. This process involved the release of instantaneous series of clicks done with the lower jaw, through the dolphin’s blow-hole. Also, dolphins have a good sense of touch, but very poor sense of smell.

Platypus: Electroreception!

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A bizarre-looking egg-laying mammal native to Australia, platypus owns an astonishing sixth sense: electroreception. Having poor vision, the web-footed platypus relies solely on electroreception to hunt for prey, These electroreceptors are located in the bill, which sense probable prey by detecting electric current produced by muscle movement.

Even on a totally dark surroundings, platypus can precisely pinpoint its victim! Also, the male platypus carries fatal venom that can kill small animals, or cause severe pain among humans.

Check Out Part 1 here: