Monday, March 10, 2014
The Cuckoo is a migratory bird with a very clever breeding system: she allows other birds, of unrelated species, to hatch and raise her young. This earns her the name of "brood parasite". During the winter months, she leaves the breeding grounds in search of warmer climes, returning in spring to lay her eggs. Her chosen hosts are small passerines, such as warblers, robins and dunnocks. These birds are fast breeders - usually laying 2-3 clutches per season - and her arrival coincides with their second clutch, giving the host species a chance to raise their own young first, unhindered. When the host leaves her nest for a short period of time, our cuckoo swoops in, laying her egg amongst the others. Different birds favour different hosts, as their eggs mimic the host's in appearance. Her chick hatches fast and large, demanding the parents' attentions and monopolising the food, so that his rivals either starve or are forcibly evicted.
Not all cuckoos are brood parasites - their relatives include the ani (who nest share), the coua (who raise their own chicks) and the guira cuckoo (who also nest share - someetimes with Ani). Other cuckoo cousins I may draw at a later date include the koel, the roadrunner, the turaco, and the malkoa. I have skipped the coucal, however.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
The Crowned Sifaka inhabits small patches of dry forest towards the western edge of Madagascar, where his range somewhat overlaps with the Decken's Sifaka. His colour varies greatly, but he gains his name from his black hood, or "crown" about his head. His home is in the upper canopy, where he lives in small groups of 2-8 individuals, foraging for buds, unripe fruit and mature leaves. His hind legs are very strong, and can propel him great distances between trees. He does not come down to the ground to drink, gaining all the moisture he needs from his diet, although he occasionally will eat soil, for the nutrients it contains. His home range is fiercely defended against other troops, and at night the group retire to the same tree - usually near a river - to sleep.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Okay, I realise that somewhere along the way I appear to have forgotten the alphabet...
For those of you that have read my Fellowship of the Ringtails book, this is what Sneak will grow up to look like.
Friday, March 7, 2014
With her regal appearance and proud crest of feathers, the Crowned Pigeon is a handsome bird. There are three species, all of whom are found in the Papua New Guinea region. She is the largest extant pigeon and is believed to be related to the dodo. Whilst quite capable of flight, she leads a terrestrial existence, foraging on the forest floor for fallen fruits, seeds and snails. She is sociable, and will hang out in small flocks. If disturbed, she takes flight directly up, into the trees, where she remains until the danger has passed, motionless except for the occasional flick of her tail or low, cooing call to her fellows.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
The elegant Crowned Crane makes his home in the wetlands and open areas of southern Africa, where he spends most of his day looking for food. Omnivorous in diet, he dines upon plants, seeds, grains, lizards and frogs, as well as stamping his feet to flush out insects, which are quickly caught and gobbled up. Sometimes he will hang around with herds of grazing animals, benefiting from the insects disturbed in their foraging. Although he mostly leads a terrestrial existence, he is one of the few crane species that is capable of roosting in trees - due to his long hind claw. When courting, both male and female dance together: bowing and jumping, and emitting booming calls. After mating, they construct a large and clumsy nest, in which 2-5 eggs are laid. Chicks are precocial, and can run soon after they hatch.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
The Crocodile is a large, aquatic reptile who makes her home in the tropics. She is a strict carnifore, feasting on fish, birds and mammals. The Saltwater Crocodile is the largest living reptile and also the most aggressive. She can be found in SouthEast Asia and Northern Australia. Found in both saltwater and brackish estuaries she is an apex predator and will eat almost any creature that comes into reach of her powerful jaws.