Category Archive: Birds

Jun 03

Extinct Animal: Moa

For thousands of years, giants lived throughout the forests of New Zealand. These were the moa (Polynesian for ‘fowl’), flightless ostrich-like birds that, in some cases, reached heights of 3.6 m and weighed about 250 kg. They grew so large because they were strict vegetarians and most of them, so far as we can tell …

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Jan 07

Extinct Animal: Passenger Pigeon

A hundred and fifty years ago, between five and ten billion passenger pigeons flew over the skies of North America. It was not only the most numerous bird in the world at the time, but quite probably the most numerous bird that has ever existed. Seventy-five years later, the skies were empty. The passenger pigeon …

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Apr 26

Big Question: Why and How do Birds Migrate?

The swallow. A quintessential summer bird if ever there was one. It typically arrives in the UK around now (late April), spends the summer raising its young, and then leaves our shores again in September. The swallows travel back to sub-Saharan Africa and other warm regions to spend the winter. This periodic movement of animals …

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Apr 16

Extinct Animal: Dead as the Dodo

Literary critic and humourist Willy Cuppy once said, ‘The dodo never had a chance. He seems to have been invented for the sole purpose of becoming extinct and that was all he was good for.’ And, indeed, many people view the dodo as being an unfortunate evolutionary mistake. It was fat, flightless and painfully stupid. …

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Apr 04

The Stink Bird: Hoatzin

Meet the bird that not only thinks it’s a cow, it also smells like one too. Hailing from the swamps of South America, the hoatzin (pronounced wat-seen) is an eclectic, handsome, albeit highly quirky, bird that divides its time between eating vast quantities of vegetable matter and just lounging around afterwards. Nothing is ever done in …

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Nov 24

Animal Relationships: Oxpecker and Large African Mammals

The buffalo, chewing the cud on the African savannah, is a walking menagerie. So, too, is the giraffe, and the elephant, and all the other large mammals on the grassland. What on first glance appears to be a single individual is just an illusion, for all of these animals are ecosystems in their own right. …

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Sep 23

Animal Relationships: Drongo and Babblers

Meet the gangsters of the bird world – the drongo mafia. What is a drongo, you say? Well, it’s a small black fork-tailed bird from Africa, and whilst it doesn’t sound like much, it’s actually quite a sneaky little customer. That’s one in the picture underneath. The drongos have a relationship with another little bird, …

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Aug 30

A Cuckoo in the Nest

Being a parent is tough. All you have to look forward to is less sleep, less time to do your own things, and generally one or more hungry mouths to feed. Raising young is a very energetically demanding activity, so the cuckoo has done away with it altogether. It appears in the British Isles in …

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Aug 18

Plight of the Penguins

Imagine, if you will, that you are standing in the centre of the Antarctic continent. It is the middle of winter. It is almost pitch black because the sun hasn’t risen for several weeks, and it won’t make an appearance for another few months yet. The only light comes from the southern lights – the …

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