Unusual bird species

This video says about itself:

14 April 2014

Scientists hailing from Yale University and the Zoological Society of London have combed the globe and identified the 100 most unique and rare birds on the planet.

Here are the top 10.

Number 10. Sumatran Ground-cuckoo. This bright-eyed beauty hails from its namesake locale, but it’s so rare, not much else is known about it. There could be as few as 70 left in existence.

Number 9. Christmas Island Frigatebird. Gifted with the largest wingspan to body weight ratio of any know bird family, the Australian airborne wonder can stay aloft for up to a week at a time. It’s only considered a protected species while perched in Christmas Island National Park, though.

Number 8. Philippine Eagle. A stunner to be sure, this eagle is also one of the biggest, most forceful birds of prey out there. Its reported meal preferences include pigs and bats. Their declining population is currently estimated at between 180 and 500.

Number 7. Forest Owlet. Thought to be extinct, a forest owlet was spotted in central India in 1997. Prior to that one hadn’t been seen for over a hundred years. They hunt both night and day and are spotted from time to time but experts fear that due to habitat loss, the little owl’s future is grim.

Number 6. Bengal Florican. Definitely the show bird of the crowd, the male of the species is known for the elaborate performance it gives to lure in the ladies. The thousand or so thought to exist are concentrated primarily in India and Nepal, as well as Cambodia.

Number 5. Kagu. Lacking the muscles needed for flight, the striking plumage of this ground dwelling bird does allow it to glide. Often called the ‘ghost of the forest’, the Kagu of New Caledonia makes a barking noise that can be heard a mile away. Over the years significant numbers of them have fallen prey to natural predators such as cats and dogs.

Number 4. Kakapo. This non-flying parrot from New Zealand has been almost completely wiped out by hunting, the destructions of forests, and the introduction of new species that compete with it for food. Survivors were relocated to carefully managed small islands and now the population has expended to around 125.

Number 3. California Condor. The condor figures prominently in Native American mythology and rituals, some of which involved the sacrifice of the birds. But the biggest culprits to their decline were hunting and environmental changes, and by 1981 there were only around 20 left. Huge efforts have been put into their repopulation, and now there are over 400.

Number 2. New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar. Only 2 examples are known, and they’re both in the possession of museums. Actual live specimens have proven elusive and a sighting hasn’t been reported since 1998. Lack of evidence aside, it’s believed they’re still out there but with numbers less than 50.

Number 1. Giant Ibis. The bird is enormous, with an average one standing about 3 and-a-half feet tall. It’s also critically endangered, having already been declared extinct in Thailand. Those remaining live primarily in Cambodia, but some have been documented in Vietnam and Laos.

From National Wildlife magazine in the USA:

Extreme Birds

By Dominic Couzens

Having the ability to fly puts physiological constraints on birds that most other animals don’t have to contend with, yet some feathered creatures have evolved remarkable physical traits; consider these five species.

This is a video about hummingbirds in Ecuador, including the sword-billed hummingbird.

Longest Bill: Sword-Billed Hummingbird

There’s nothing subtle about the claim to fame of the sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera), which ranges in Andean forests in South America. The remarkably extended bill is almost as long as the bird itself. The male averages 5-1/2 inches in length, with his bill stretching to 4 inches; the female is 5-1/8 inches long and her bill is a staggering 4-1/2 to 4-3/4 inches in length. No other bird in the world comes close to matching this species in terms of ratio of bill to overall length. …

Most Poisonous: Hooded Pitohui

In the summer of 1989 a biologist called Jack Dumbacher was studying birds of paradise in New Guinea. The project involved catching and banding the target birds and, at the same time, releasing the many other species caught in the mist nets alongside them. Among these were hooded pitohuis (Pitohui dichrous), common birds of the forest.

One day Dumbacher was attempting to release yet another collateral pitohui when the bird ungratefully pecked and scratched him. The field worker put his bleeding fingers in his mouth and immediately felt a curious numbing sensation. He recognized the feeling as being caused by a toxin, but it was not until he licked one of the bird’s feathers that he realized that these, and not some local plant, were the source of the poison. He had stumbled upon the very first recorded instance of toxicity in a bird’s plumage. Despite the fact that pitohuis had been known to science for hundreds of years, nobody had noticed the phenomenon before.

The toxin in the pitohui’s plumage is the same neurotoxin found on the skin of poisonous frogs in South America, though in lower levels. It is unlikely that a predator attacking a pitohui would be killed. Nevertheless, the effects would be sufficiently unpleasant at first bite to ensure that predators would give the bird a wide berth in the future. It is also possible that the toxins help to keep parasites off the pitohui’s skin and feathers.

Oddest Skin: Southern Screamer

This peculiar bird (Chauna torquata) is a member of a somewhat obscure family of South American birds known as the screamers. Despite their appearance, screamers are thought to be closely related to ducks and geese, although they have a few anatomical oddities that are very much their own. One of these is their skin. …

Biggest Belly: Hoatzin

When resting, hoatzins (Opisthocomus hoazin) don’t normally perch but instead sit on their sternums. Their bellies can be so big and heavy that, when bending down from a low branch to take a sip of water, these South American birds have been known to topple over and splash calamitously in.

The large belly is the result of the hoatzin’s unusual and restrictive diet. It is one of the few birds to specialize in eating leaves, which can constitute up to 82 percent of its entire intake. Leaves are notoriously difficult to digest, and hoatzins, in common with many herbivores, rely on microbes to do the work for them. Microbes work best in a capacious gut where the flow of matter is not too fast, and where both the acidity and temperature remain constant. This partly explains the large size of the belly. However, in a break from all other birds, hoatzins provide the conditions in their foregut, instead of further back in the alimentary canal. Digestion takes place in the crop and esophagus, which is more akin to the system in sheep, cows and kangaroos.

Almost everything about this system seems awkward for the hoatzin. It cannot fly far, it cannot swim and it has great difficulty moving through the branches of the waterside plants where it lives. Still, leaves are never far away, and in the warm conditions of tropical waterways, this bird thrives as well as any of its more energetic neighbors.

Fischer's turaco

Classiest Colors: Fischer’s Turaco

This African species’ feathers are suffused with some of the rarest pigments in the entire animal kingdom. Effectively the bird (Tuaraco fischeri) is a model, and it’s wearing designer plumages.

The two special pigments are called turacin and turacoverdin, named after the turaco family (Musophagidae)—a small group of 23 bird species found only in sub-Saharan Africa, of which the Fischer’s turaco is one. Both pigments are copper based, and so far, they have not been found in any other animals. Indeed, not all turacos have them.

Turacin is a red pigment that is mainly found on the wings, although on this Fischer’s turaco, it also adorns the crest and nap. Turacoverdin is a green pigment found throughout the body and its intensity is related to the habitat of the relevant species: Fisher’s turaco, for example, is a forest bird and has it in abundance. Even more interestingly, this is the only green pigment synthesized by any bird. All other green colors, from the wondrous iridescence of hummingbirds to the plainer green of warblers or finches, arise through structural modifications of the feathers that cause light to be refracted unequally.Young turacos don’t acquire full adult colors until they are about a year old. It seems that the required amount of copper upon which the pigments depend takes that long to accumulate from the birds’ diet.

Combined phylogenetic analysis of a new North American fossil species confirms widespread Eocene distribution for stem rollers (Aves, Coracii): here.


3 thoughts on “Unusual bird species

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