Thirteen ‘scary’ bird species for Halloween

This video says about itself:

8 February 2010

Vampire finch (Sharp-billed ground finch) feeds on blood of Nazca and Red-footed boobies on Wolf Island in the Galapagos. This is a clip from a video made by Greg Estes called Galapagos: Suited for Survival.

By Alex Dale & Irene Lorenzo, 28 October 2016:

13 birds that aren’t for the faint of heart

The bird family is one of the most beautiful wings of the Animal Kingdom – they can bewitch us with their pretty plumage, or enchant us with morning melodies. But the natural world can also be cruel, and in order to survive in some challenging environments, some birds have had to develop adaptations and behaviours that evoke very different emotions in the hearts of humans.

Below, we give 13 such bird species their moment in the sun. Well, except for the Vampire Ground-finch. She’d rather stay in the shade, thank you very much.

1. Great Grey Shrike

Lanius excubitor

If we have any small animals, birds or toads in the audience, look away now. Famously, shrikes like to impale their prey on thorns, branches or barbed wire, a gruesome display that serves to keep the body steady so the bird can hack away at it with its powerful beak. Or, so it can save it for later – shrikes are known to keep ‘larders’ of impaled prey for when they feel peckish.

This video is about a great grey shrike and other birds.

2. Northern Rockhopper Penguin

Eudyptes moseleyi

Penguins are all friendly and cuddly, right? Not this one! This devil-eyed penguin is not only the smallest of its kind but also the most aggressive. They have been seen fighting over fish, nesting locations and mating partners. Unfortunately, over the last 30 years their populations have been decreasing for reasons they can’t fight: changes in sea temperature and their incidental catch in fisheries are only some of the threats.

This video says about itself:

18 December 2014

Measuring the density of Northern Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) on Nightingale Island, Tristan da Cunha. The penguins nest beneath 2m-high tussock grass, so our 20m transects can be a bit of a chore.

The BirdLife article continues:

3. Southern Cassowary

Casuarius casuarius

These large flightless birds come with a fearsome reputation – they turn aggressive when threatened, and are one of just a handful of bird species known to have killed a human. Their powerful kicks are made all the more dangerous by dagger-like spikes on its inner toes. However, the last recorded human death was 1926, so perhaps they should be more scared of us – BirdLife has listed the Southern Cassowary as Vulnerable, as their numbers have plummeted in the last 40 years due to habitat loss, hunting, collisions with motor vehicles and other factors.

This video is called About Cassowaries (Full HD Documentary).

4. Hooded Vulture

Necrosyrtes monachus

With their hunched posture, bald heads and taste for freshly-deceased carrion, vultures carry common perceptions of death, decay and disease. But in truth, vultures are remarkably clean creatures – and in fact, because they are so swift in picking clean carcasses, they actually help control the spread of deadly diseases such as rabies or tuberculosis. Sadly, vultures are currently enduring the fastest bird decline on record – faster even than the Passenger Pigeon or Dodo. Read more on how you can support our work with vultures here.

This video is about hooded vultures in the Gambia.

5. Marabou

Leptoptilos crumenifer

This huge African stork is known to feed on carrion, garbage and if you’re not careful, your camera. TERRIFYING!

This video is called Birds of Uganda – the marabou stork.

6. Common Raven

Corvus corax

From Disney to Edgar Allen Poe, this burly, widespread crow has long been associated with dark omens. But it’s also one of the smartest animals around, capable of using tools and of logical thought, so if this species had any intention of overthrowing us, they would have done so by now.

This video from Britain is called BTO Bird ID – Corvids – Crow, Rook, Raven.

7. White-bellied Go-away-bird

Criniferoides leucogaster

Some say this bird has a loud and distinctive call that sounds like ”Go away! Go away!”. Yes, White-bellied Go-away-bird populations seem to be doing fine but they still need your love – now go away!

This video is called The splendid call of the white bellied go-away bird.

8. Northern Potoo

Nyctibius jamaicensis

Meet the potoos, a funny-looking family of birds that have become an internet sensation thanks to their hilarious expressions. However, sorry to spoil your Halloween party, their population is actually suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction in the Amazon.

This video says about itself:

2 October 2012

The Common Potoo, Northern Potoo and the Great Potoo all live in Costa Rica. These birds fly at night and feed on large insects.

The BirdLife article continues:

9. Shoebill

Balaeniceps rex

This enormous, distinctive stork-like bird stands deathly still in Africa’s swamps, waiting for an unwitting snack, such as a lungfish or baby crocodile, to swim within striking range. Once in its grasp, the Shoebill uses its strong clog-shaped bill to decapitate its prey. When it’s not giving everyone the silent treatment, it makes a call that sounds eerily like machine gun fire.

This video is called Shoebill Stork vs. Lungfish | National Geographic.

10. Hoatzin

Opisthocomus hoazin

Doesn’t look very scary to you? Maybe you want to try getting a little closer. This leaf-gobbling native of South America’s rainforests is also known as the ‘stink bird’, because it – uniquely amongst birds – shares a similar digestive system to cows. Unfortunately for the Hoatzin’s next-door neighbours, it also means it shares a similar smell to cow manure.

This video is called Birds of Peru: Hoatzin.

11. Southern Giant Petrel

Macronectes giganteus

Squid! Krill! Crustaceans! Seal carcasses! Penguin carcasses! Carcasses in general! Is there anything the Giant Petrel won’t eat? Don’t get too close to find out. Also known as the ‘Stinkpot’, this giant bird has a very unique defense mechanism: whenever it feels threatened, it will spit regurgitated food and oil at their opponent. Mad skills!

This video from South Africa is called Southern Giant Petrel rescue | Dyer Island Conservation Trust.

12. Sharp-beaked Ground-finch

Geospiza difficilis

Aww, isn’t it cute? But this diminutive finch has a dark side – it likes to hop onto the back of Red-footed Boobies, peck at their skin until it becomes an open wound, and then drink their blood. This behaviour is only observed in populations on the remote Galapagos islands of Darwin and Wolf, and their macabre diet must be having some kind of effect, because it’s been proposed that these populations be split from their non-bloodthirsty brethren and made a separate, distinct species in the 2016 IUCN Red List. The name of this new bird? Appropriately, the Vampire Ground-finch.

This video is called “Vampires” and Boobies | National Geographic.

13. Chocolate Boobook

Ninox randi

What, you thought you were getting through this list without at least one owl? Not a chance. One of the 34 species of Boobook in the world, the Near Threatened Chocolate Boobook is endemic to the Philippines. Like other owls, it feeds on insects, small mammals and reptiles. Like other owls, it’s mainly active at night. But do other owls have such a cool name? Thought not.

Chocolate boobook

Attenborough on Darwin and the Galapagos

This June 2016 video says about itself:

Charles Darwin‘s Galapagos Discovery – #Attenborough90BBC

Sir David retreads Charles Darwin’s footsteps to follow how he made the discovery of evolution on the Galapagos Islands.

New Galapagos giant tortoise species discovery

This video says about itself:

New species of giant tortoise discovered in Galapagos

23 okt. 2015

The new species is named “Chelonoidis donfaustoi” after a retiring park ranger and is also known as the Eastern Santa Cruz tortoise, lives on the eastern side of the island and is genetically different from tortoises on other islands.

From Wildlife Extra:

New species of giant tortoise discovered in the Galapagos Archipelago

Scientists have discovered there are two species of giant tortoises, not just one, living on the island of Santa Cruz in the centre of the Galapagos Archipelago.

There are two populations of giant tortoises on the island: a large population on the west side in an area known as the “Reserve” and another on the lower eastern slopes around a hill named Cerro Fatal. It was previously believed that group of 250 or so giant tortoises living on the east of the island were the same species as those living on the west, but genetic testing have now proved they are two different species.

“This is a small and isolated group of tortoises that never attracted much attention from biologists previously,” said Dr. James Gibbs, from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. “But we now know that they are as distinct as any species of tortoise in the archipelago. Their discovery and formal description will help these tortoises receive the scientific and management attention they need to fully recover.”

The new species has been named Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustoi) in honour of a longtime Galapagos National Park ranger who spent decades developing methods still used today for breeding endangered tortoises. His name is Fausto Llerena Sánchez, known to his friends and colleagues as Don Fausto.

Don Fausto dedicated 43 years (1971-2014) to giant tortoise conservation as a park ranger for the Galapagos National Park Directorate. He was the primary caretaker at the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center on Santa Cruz, which now bears his name. The restoration of several tortoise populations is due in part to Don Fausto’s dedication and efforts.

“It’s to honour Don Fausto for all his dedication and hard work,” Gibbs said. “He devoted his life to saving many critically endangered tortoises through captive breeding. It isn’t easy to breed tortoises in captivity. He didn’t have many resources or much guidance. He figured it out through patient observation, great creativity and intelligence, and tremendous resourcefulness.”

Giant tortoises have been among the most devastated of all Galapagos creatures because of human exploitation, introduced species and habitat degradation. The Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative is a collaborative project of the Galapagos National Park Directorate, Galapagos Conservancy, Caccone’s group at Yale University and others that works toward the long-term restoration of all Galapagos tortoise populations.

Baby Tortoises Show Up In The Galapagos Islands For The First Time In 100 Years. Read more here.

Galápagos sperm whales’ language, new research

This video is called Galapagos – Sperm Whales (August 15 2015).

From National Geographic:

Sperm Whales‘ Language Reveals Hints of Culture

These deep-diving whales off the Galápagos have their own dialects, a sign that they have a culture.

By Jane J. Lee

PUBLISHED September 08, 2015

New ways to grab dinner, the trick to using a tool, and learning the local dialect. These are behaviors that animals pick up from each other. Killer whales, chimpanzees, and birds seem to have a cultural component to their lives. Now a new study suggests that sperm whales should be added to that list.

The ocean around the Galápagos Islands hosts thousands of female sperm whales and their calves that have organized into clans with their own dialects. (Mature males congregate in colder waters near the poles.) How these clans form has been something of a mystery until now.

A study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications suggests that culture—behaviors shared by group members—keeps these sperm whale clans together. Specifically, these deep-diving whales have a distinct series of clicks called codas they use to communicate during social interactions.

Sperm whales with similar behaviors spend time together, and they pick up vocalizations from each other. Scientists call this social learning. Whales that “speak the same language” stick together, giving rise to the clans that researchers have observed for more than 30 years. (Read about humpback whale culture.)

Why It Matters

This is one more pillar of support for the idea that animals have culture, says lead study author Mauricio Cantor, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

When Cantor and colleagues ran computer simulations to determine the most likely way the clans formed, factors like genetic relatedness or the transmission of information from mother to offspring couldn’t explain the pattern observed in the wild. The best explanation their analysis could find was a preference in how sperm whales learned vocalizations. “Like-minded” individuals learned from each other. (Read about dolphin moms that teach their daughters to use tools.)

The Big Picture

It’s fascinating to see that animals like whales display something that may seem uniquely human, Cantor says. But really, “we’re not that different from them.”

Killer whale pods have their own dialects, humpback whales pass on new feeding behaviors via their social networks, and chimpanzees share the secrets of tool use with their compatriots.

Cantor hopes that by learning more and more about animals, people will be moved to think about the environment and perhaps act on calls for conserving the planet.

What’s Next

Cantor and colleagues plan to look back at historic data on sperm whale clans from 30 years ago and compare them with clans today. “We want to know how their [vocalizations have] changed over time.”

Alaskan Sperm Whales Have Learned How to Skim Fishers’ Daily Catch: here.

Rare squid worm seen near Galapagos islands

From CNN in the USA about this 18 June 2015 video:

Ocean explorers studying ocean vents near the Galapagos Islands spotted a rare squid worm never-before-seen in the region. For more visit

Blue whale Isabela’s long journey, new research

This video is called [New Animal documentary 2015] Ocean Voyager Whale Documentary – The Biggest Sea Creatures.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society today:

Scientists studying blue whale DNA uncover an epic journey by ‘Isabela’

14 hours ago

Scientists studying blue whales in the waters of Chile through DNA profiling and photo-identification may have solved the mystery of where these huge animals go to breed, as revealed by a single female blue whale named ‘Isabela,’ according to a recent study by the Chile’s Blue Whale Center/Universidad Austral de Chile, NOAA and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The researchers have discovered that Isabela—a female animal named after the lead author’s daughter and a major Galapagos Island of the same name—has traveled at least once between Chile‘s Gulf of Corcovado and the equatorial waters of the Galapagos Islands, a location more than 5,000 kilometers away and now thought to be a possible blue whale breeding ground. The journey represents the largest north-south migratory movement ever recorded for a Southern Hemisphere blue whale.

The study titled ‘First documented migratory destination for Eastern South Pacific blue whales’ appears today in the online version of the journal Marine Mammal Science.

‘Efforts to protect blue whales and other ocean-going species will always fall short without full knowledge of a species’ migratory range. Moreover, with this kind of findings we encourage eastern south Pacific governments to think about the creation of a marine protected areas network for the conservation of this and other migratory species’ said lead author Juan Pablo Torres-Florez of the Universidad Austral de Chile and the Blue Whale Center. ‘Isabela points us in the right direction for further research.’

‘The discovery emphasizes the benefits of collaboration between scientists and research organizations from different countries,’ said Paula Olson of Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

‘The discovery of Isabela traveling between southern Chile and the waters of Ecuador is important and very timely as we work to promote the recovery of the largest species to ever inhabit the earth,’ said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program. ‘The movement of this one whale provides important information that will enable us to look further at these important areas for blue whales with goal to ensure their long-term protection.’

It is unknown how old Isabela is, or if she has produced any young, but she is at least 82 feet in length and may weigh up to 100 tons.

Seeking to establish links between populations of blue whales in the Gulf of Corcovado and other regions, the researchers examined DNA collected from the skin of blue whales with biopsy darts fired from crossbows across the eastern South Pacific. The team also used data from recorded sightings and photographs in their attempt to connect individual animals to different locations.

The analysis produced a genetic match between a female whale observed and sampled off the coast of southern Chile in the Austral summer of 2006; it turned out the same whale sampled the waters of the Galapagos eight years earlier by NOAA scientists. The team then found that photographs taken of both whales revealed the same distinctively curved dorsal fin and blotchy blue-gray patterns on the back, confirming that both whales were in fact the same animal.

The authors note that blue whales are frequently observed in equatorial Pacific just west of the Galapagos and that a more detailed study might confirm the location as a wintering and breeding ground for at least some of the blue whales of southern Chile.

Reaching nearly 100 feet in length, the blue whale is thought to be the largest animal that ever existed. Blue whales were nearly hunted to extinction by commercial whaling fleets before receiving international protection in 1966. A calf can measure between 23 and 27 feet in length at birth and weigh almost 3 metric tons.

Explore further: Study on world’s biggest animal finds more than one population in the southeastern Pacific

More information: First documented migratory destination for eastern South Pacific blue whales

Journal reference: Marine Mammal Science

Provided by Wildlife Conservation Society

See also here.

Tell President Obama: Protect Blue Whales: here.

Galapagos volcano eruption continues

This 3 June 2015 video says about itself:

Volcano News!! Galapagos Island Volcano Spews River of Lava

Ecuador’s Wolf Volcano in the Galapagos Islands erupted on May 25 for the first time in 33 years. Footage released by the Galapagos National Park shows a glowing river of lava.

From 3 News in New Zealand:

Lava continues to flow from Wolf Volcano

Wednesday 3 June 2015 11:15 p.m.

Tourists in the Galapagos Islands have been given a spectacular view of lava flowing into the ocean as the Wolf Volcano continues erupting.

The volcano began spewing flames, smoke and lava last Monday.

Authorities say the lava is flowing away from the world’s only population of pink iguanas, which live on the island’s northwest tip.

Scientists from Trinity College Dublin have just discovered how to prise volcanic secrets from crystals, which means they are better able to piece together the history of global geography and to predict future eruptions of : here.