Tag Archives: bird

Shoebill

Shoebill

Shoebill

The Shoebill, Balaeniceps rex also known as Whalehead is a very large bird related to the storks. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill.

The Shoebill is a very large bird, averaging 1.2 m (4 ft) tall, 5.6 kg (12.3 lbs) and 2.33 m (7.7 ft) across the wings. The adult is mainly grey, the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa, in large swamps from Sudan to Zambia.

The Shoebill was added rather recently to the ornithological lists; the species was only discovered in the 19th century when some skins were brought to Europe.

It was not until years later that live specimens reached the scientific community. The bird was known to both ancient Egyptians and Arabs however. There exist Egyptian images depicting the Shoebill while the Arabs referred to the bird as abu markub, which means one with a shoe. Clearly, this refers to the striking bill.

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Really Weird-Looking Bird

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Really Weird-Looking Bird

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Birds (class Aves) are winged, bipedal, endothermic (warm-blooded), vertebrate animals that lay eggs. There are around 10,000 living species, making them the most numerous tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Birds range in size from the 5 cm (2 in) Bee Hummingbird to the 3 m (10 ft) Ostrich. The fossil record indicates that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs during the Jurassic period, around 150–200 Ma (million years ago), and the earliest known bird is the Late Jurassic Archaeopteryx, c 150–145 Ma. Most paleontologists regard birds as the only clade of dinosaurs that survived the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event approximately 65.5 Ma.

Modern birds are characterised by feathers, a beak with no teeth, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a lightweight but strong skeleton. All birds have forelimbs modified as wings and most can fly, with some exceptions including ratites, penguins, and a number of diverse endemic island species. Birds also have unique digestive and respiratory systems that are highly adapted for flight. Some birds, especially corvids and parrots, are among the most intelligent animal species; a number of bird species have been observed manufacturing and using tools, and many social species exhibit cultural transmission of knowledge across generations.

Many species undertake long distance annual migrations, and many more perform shorter irregular movements. Birds are social; they communicate using visual signals and through calls and songs, and participate in social behaviours including cooperative breeding and hunting, flocking, and mobbing of predators. The vast majority of bird species are socially monogamous, usually for one breeding season at a time, sometimes for years, but rarely for life. Other species have breeding systems that are polygynous (“many females”) or, rarely, polyandrous (“many males”). Eggs are usually laid in a nest and incubated by the parents. Most birds have an extended period of parental care after hatching.

Many species are of economic importance, mostly as sources of food acquired through hunting or farming. Some species, particularly songbirds and parrots, are popular as pets. Other uses include the harvesting of guano (droppings) for use as a fertiliser. Birds figure prominently in all aspects of human culture from religion to poetry to popular music. About 120–130 species have become extinct as a result of human activity since the 17th century, and hundreds more before then. Currently about 1,200 species of birds are threatened with extinction by human activities, though efforts are underway to protect them.

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Kongamato

Kongamato

Kongamato is a pterosaur-like creature from the border area of Zambia, Angola and Congo. There are reports that people have been seeing flying creatures that match the description of pterosaurs for a long time. People have even been, reportedly, killed by them. It would seem impossible that these creatures could have survived to the present day. After all, if they existed surely people would see them flying about as they hunted for food. How could a flying population of reptiles remain hidden?

In 1923, Frank Melland described the belief of the Kaonde, native people of Zambia. The natives called this creature kongamato (“overwhelmer of boats”), which was said to have lived in the Jiundu swamps in the Mwinilunga District in western Zambia, near the border of Congo and Angola. It was described as having no feathers at all, smooth skin, a wingspan between 4 ft. and 7 ft., and possessing a beak full of teeth. When crossing rivers, some of them carried amulets that would protect them from a Kongamato. When he showed them pictures of pterodactyls in books, they identified them as looking like the Kongamato.

In 1925, G. Ward Price heard stories of a monstrous bird with a long beak that attacked people in the swamps of Zimbabwe. When a man who had been wounded by the animal was shown a picture of a pterodactyl, he screamed in terror. In 1942 Colonel C. R. S. Pitman reported stories the natives had told him of a large bat/bird type creature that lived in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in a dense swampy region–supposedly to look upon it was death. Tracks of the creatures were seen, with evidence of a large tail dragging the ground. These reports were not limited to Zambia, but also came from other locations in Africa such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. Engineer J. P. F. Brown saw two flying reptiles in January 1956 near Mansa, Zambia. He estimated a wingspan of about 3 to 3 1/2 feet (1 meter) and a beak-to-tail length of about 4 1/2 feet (1.5 meters). It reportedly had a long thin tail, and a narrow head which he likened to an elongated snout of a dog.

A man was brought into a hospital in Mansa in 1957, suffering from a chest wound. He claimed a huge bird in the Bangweulu Swamp had attacked him. When asked to draw the bird, he allegedly drew a creature resembling a pterosaur. This drawing does not appear to have survived to the present. Reports of prehistoric looking flying creatures are not just limited to dense swampy regions. There are also reports of giant flying lizards from the deserts of Namibia. In 1988 Professor Roy Mackal led an expedition to Namibia where reports of a creature with a wingspan of up to 30 ft were collected. The avian cryptid usually glided through the air, but also was capable of true flight. It was usually seen at dusk, gliding between crevices between two hills about a mile apart. Although the expedition was not successful in getting solid evidence, one team member, James Kosi, reportedly saw the creature from about 1000 ft. away. He described it as a giant glider shape, black with white markings.

Carl Wiman suggested that the Kongamato tradition originated with natives who assisted in the excavation of pterosaur bones at the Tendagaru fossil beds in Tanzania prior to World War I. A possible explanation is a surviving pterosaur, the flying reptiles of the Mesozoic era and maybe they live in a hidden cave. Fossils of Pterodactylus (wingspan 1–8 feet, short tail), Dsungaripterus (wingspan 9–12 feet, short tail), and Rhamphorynchus (wingspan 1–6 feet, long tail) from the Jurassic have been found at Tendaguru Hill, Tanzania. Only two pterosaur fossils from the Cretaceous have been discovered in Africa: a wing bone of an Ornithocheirus (wingspan 14–16 feet) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a neck vertebra from a species similar to the giant Quetzalcoatlus (wingspan 36–39 feet but no teeth). However, the fossil record in South America is much richer, and since the two continents were joined at the time, there is reason to suspect more specimens will turn up.

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