Warm weather in Western Australia’s Shark Bay region has attracted some unusual beach goers to Monkey Mia.
With the mercury hovering around the 40s (Centigrade) early this week, local Katie Hughes says five emus decided to take a dip and cool their heels yesterday.
"It was really really hot, probably around 41 degrees, and we noticed them having a stroll along beach," she said…
(read more: ABC - Australia)
photography by Katie Hughes

Warm weather in Western Australia’s Shark Bay region has attracted some unusual beach goers to Monkey Mia.

With the mercury hovering around the 40s (Centigrade) early this week, local Katie Hughes says five emus decided to take a dip and cool their heels yesterday.

"It was really really hot, probably around 41 degrees, and we noticed them having a stroll along beach," she said…

(read more: ABC - Australia)

photography by Katie Hughes

dendroica

scienceyoucanlove:

Big Bird:

In the far north of Australia the cassowary plays a central role in shaping the rain forest.

By Olivia Judson
Photograph by Christian Ziegler

On the ground in front of me there’s a large round pile of what looks like moist purple mud. It’s roughly the volume of a baseball cap, and it’s studded with berries and seeds—more than 50. Some of the seeds are larger than an avocado stone.

I kneel down to look more closely. Putting my nose just a couple of inches away, I take a sniff. It smells of fruit mixed with a whiff of vinegar. There’s also a hint of that mouth-puckering, astringent flavor you get from strong black tea. Peculiar. But not unpleasant.

What is it? It’s a bird dropping. A big bird dropping. From a big bird.

I stand up and look around. I’m in the Daintree Rainforest, two hours’ drive up the coast from the seaside city of Cairns, in the far north of Australia. Here and there, shafts of sunlight fall through the canopy, dappling the ground. On a tree beside me, I spot a Boyd’s forest dragon—a handsome lizard with a crest on its head and spikes down its spine. Somewhere nearby, insects are singing. But of a big bird—no sign.

Probably I wouldn’t see it even if it was right there, just through those trees. Despite its bigness, it blends in with the shadows of the forest.

The bird in question? Casuarius casuarius, the southern cassowary, fruit-eater-in-chief of Australia’s rain forests.

Cassowaries are large, flightless birds related to emus and (more distantly) to ostriches, rheas, and kiwis. Today there are three species. Two are confined to the rain forests of New Guinea and nearby islands. The third and largest—the southern cassowary—also lives in the Wet Tropics of northern Queensland, in the part of Australia that sticks up at New Guinea like a spike. Some live deep in tracts of rain forest, such as the Daintree; others live on the forest edge and may wander through people’s backyards.

But a cassowary is not your regular garden bird. If an adult male stretches up to his full height, he can look down on someone five feet five—i.e., me—and he may weigh more than 110 pounds. Adult females are even taller, and can weigh more than 160 pounds. Among living birds, only ostriches are more massive. Most of the time, however, cassowaries seem smaller than they are, because they don’t walk in the stretched-up position but slouch along with their backs parallel to the ground.

Their feathers are glossy black; their legs are scaly. Their feet have just three toes—and the inside toe of each foot has evolved into a formidable spike. Their wings are tiny, having shrunk almost to the point of nonexistence. But their necks are long, and bare of all but the lightest coating of short, hairlike feathers. Instead the skin is colored with amazing hues of reds and oranges, purples and blues. At the base of the neck in the front, a couple of long folds of colorful skin, known as wattles, hang down. Cassowaries have large brown eyes and a long, curved beak. On their heads they wear a tall, hornlike casque.

You need only see two or three to know that unlike, say, sparrows, cassowaries can easily be recognized as individuals. This one has splendid long wattles and a straight casque; that one has a casque that curves rakishly to the right. This clear individuality, together with their size and the fact that they do not fly, makes them strangely humanlike: They move like people, they are people-size, and they are easy to tell apart. Because of this, it’s common for people to give them names—such as Crinklecut, Big Bertha, or Dad. It might also explain why they have long figured in the mythologies of rain forest tribes. Some believe that cassowaries are cousins of humans; others, that they are people who have been reincarnated; still others, that humans were created from the feathers of a female. However, unlike in humans, males do all the child care—they sit on the eggs, and look after the chicks for nine months or more—so they also inspire envy. “I’m coming back as a female cassowary!” one mother of five told me.

Adding to their mystique, cassowaries have a reputation for being dangerous. And certainly if you keep them in a pen and rush at them with a rake—which, judging by videos posted on YouTube, some people do—they are. They are big, they have claws and a powerful kick, and they will use them. If cassowaries come to associate humans with food handouts, they can become aggressive and demanding. If you get close to a male with young chicks, he may charge you in an attempt to protect them. If you try to catch or kill a cassowary, it may fight back—and could well get the better of you. They sometimes kill dogs.

But let’s get this straight. Left to themselves and treated with respect, cassowaries are shy, peaceable, and harmless. In Australia the last recorded instance of a cassowary killing a person was in 1926—and that was in self-defense.

read from from Nat Geo

The Greater Rhea (Rhea americana) is the largest bird in South America, at almost 5 ft in height and weighting up to 60 lbs. This large flightless bird feeds mainly on plant matter, including leaves, roots, seeds and fruits. It also takes insects and small animals, such as lizards, frogs, small birds and even snakes, and sometimes catches flies that have gathered around carrion. The greater rhea also commonly swallows pebbles, which help to grind down food in the gizzard, and can often be seen feeding alongside herds of pampas deer, guanacos, vicunas, or domestic livestock…
Learn more: Encyclopedia of LifeImage Credit: Cláudio Dias Timm, Flickr

The Greater Rhea (Rhea americana) is the largest bird in South America, at almost 5 ft in height and weighting up to 60 lbs. This large flightless bird feeds mainly on plant matter, including leaves, roots, seeds and fruits. It also takes insects and small animals, such as lizards, frogs, small birds and even snakes, and sometimes catches flies that have gathered around carrion. The greater rhea also commonly swallows pebbles, which help to grind down food in the gizzard, and can often be seen feeding alongside herds of pampas deer, guanacos, vicunas, or domestic livestock…

Learn more: Encyclopedia of Life

Image Credit: Cláudio Dias Timm, Flickr

astronomy-to-zoology

astronomy-to-zoology:

Darwin’s Rhea (Rhea pennata)

Also known as the Lesser Rhea, Darwin’s rhea is a species of rhea (flightless birds related to ostriches) found only in the regions of Patagonia and Altiplano in southern South America. Like other ratites Darwin’s rhea is mainly a herbivore and feeds mostly on saltbush, grasses, and cactus fruits, however it will eat small reptiles and insects as-well.

Darwin’s rheas are sociable birds and are often found in large groups of 10-30 individuals, however during the mating season the males will become highly aggressive and will defend their nests with their lives. They become so aggressive that females will have to lay the later eggs near the nest, instead of inside it, for the males to roll in. Currently Darwin’s rhea is listed as near threatened due to a combination of habitat loss, hunting and egg collecting.

Phylogeny

Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Srtuthioniformes-Rheidae-Rhea-pennata

Image Source(s)

Southern Cassowaries
Southern Cassowaries (Casuarius casuarius) are large, flightless birds that are related to emus and found only in Australia and New Guinea. The name cassowary comes from a Papuan name meaning ‘horned head’, referring to the helmet of tough skin born on the crown of the head. This helmet (or casque) slopes backwards and is used to push through vegetation as the cassowary runs through the rainforest with its head down; it also reflects age and dominance. 
Learn more about these birds on EOL: http://eol.org/pages/1178368
(photo: Victor Burolla | Flickr)

Southern Cassowaries

Southern Cassowaries (Casuarius casuarius) are large, flightless birds that are related to emus and found only in Australia and New Guinea. The name cassowary comes from a Papuan name meaning ‘horned head’, referring to the helmet of tough skin born on the crown of the head. This helmet (or casque) slopes backwards and is used to push through vegetation as the cassowary runs through the rainforest with its head down; it also reflects age and dominance.

Learn more about these birds on EOL: http://eol.org/pages/1178368

(photo: Victor Burolla | Flickr)

Greater Rhea (Rhea americana)
by Christine Dell’Amore
For most birds, females are stuck with child care. But not so for South America's greater rhea, a large flightless bird related to ostriches and emus (pictured, an adult and baby in Argentina).
Females mate with several males during the breeding season, and many birds will lay their eggs in one nest created by a male. The male then incubates up to 50 eggs for six weeks and cares for the newly hatched young. The dads aggressively guards the babies, charging at any animal—even a female rhea—that approaches.
Because females put such a “heavy investment” of energy and resources into producing large eggs, it makes sense for males to pick up the responsibility of caring for the offspring.
(via: National Geo)        (photo: Andres Morya, Visuals Unlimited/Getty Images)

Greater Rhea (Rhea americana)

by Christine Dell’Amore

For most birds, females are stuck with child care. But not so for South America's greater rhea, a large flightless bird related to ostriches and emus (pictured, an adult and baby in Argentina).

Females mate with several males during the breeding season, and many birds will lay their eggs in one nest created by a male. The male then incubates up to 50 eggs for six weeks and cares for the newly hatched young. The dads aggressively guards the babies, charging at any animal—even a female rhea—that approaches.

Because females put such a “heavy investment” of energy and resources into producing large eggs, it makes sense for males to pick up the responsibility of caring for the offspring.

(via: National Geo)        (photo: Andres Morya, Visuals Unlimited/Getty Images)

Greater Rhea (Rhea americana)
by National Geo staff
Diet: Omnivore  Average life span: 15 years  Size: 3 - 5 ft (0.9 to 1.5 m)  Weight: 50 lbs (20 kg)
These large South American birds roam the open pampas and sparse woodlands of Argentina and Brazil.
The  greater rhea is the largest of all South American birds and is related  to ostriches and emus. These flightless birds use their long, powerful  legs to outrun trouble. Although their large wings are useless for  flight, they are used for balance and for changing direction as the bird  runs.
Greater rheas are polygamous, so males have many different  mates. Females lay their eggs—one every other day for a week or ten  days—in a ground nest of the male’s design. Several females deposit  their eggs in the same nest, which may hold 50 eggs or more…
(read more: National Geo)     (photo: Nicole Duplaix)

Greater Rhea (Rhea americana)

by National Geo staff

Diet: Omnivore  Average life span: 15 years  Size: 3 - 5 ft (0.9 to 1.5 m)  Weight: 50 lbs (20 kg)

These large South American birds roam the open pampas and sparse woodlands of Argentina and Brazil.

The greater rhea is the largest of all South American birds and is related to ostriches and emus. These flightless birds use their long, powerful legs to outrun trouble. Although their large wings are useless for flight, they are used for balance and for changing direction as the bird runs.

Greater rheas are polygamous, so males have many different mates. Females lay their eggs—one every other day for a week or ten days—in a ground nest of the male’s design. Several females deposit their eggs in the same nest, which may hold 50 eggs or more…

(read more: National Geo)     (photo: Nicole Duplaix)

Ostrich (Struthio camelus)
by National Geo staff
The flightless ostrich is the world’s largest bird. They roam African  savanna and desert lands and get most of their water from the plants  they eat.
Though they cannot fly, ostriches are fleet, strong  runners. They can sprint up to 43 miles (70 kilometers) an hour and run  over distance at 31 miles (50 kilometers) an hour. They may use their  wings as “rudders” to help them change direction while running. An  ostrich’s powerful, long legs can cover 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters) in  a single stride. These legs can also be formidable weapons. Ostrich  kicks can kill a human or a potential predator like a lion. Each  two-toed foot has a long, sharp claw.
Ostriches live in small  herds that typically contain less than a dozen birds. Alpha males  maintain these herds, and mate with the group’s dominant hen. The male  sometimes mates with others in the group, and wandering males may also  mate with lesser hens. All of the group’s hens place their eggs in the  dominant hen’s nest—though her own are given the prominent center place.  The dominant hen and male take turns incubating the giant eggs, each  one of which weighs as much as two dozen chicken eggs.
(read more: National Geo)     (photo: female pictured, by Carsten Peter)

Ostrich (Struthio camelus)

by National Geo staff

The flightless ostrich is the world’s largest bird. They roam African savanna and desert lands and get most of their water from the plants they eat.

Though they cannot fly, ostriches are fleet, strong runners. They can sprint up to 43 miles (70 kilometers) an hour and run over distance at 31 miles (50 kilometers) an hour. They may use their wings as “rudders” to help them change direction while running. An ostrich’s powerful, long legs can cover 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters) in a single stride. These legs can also be formidable weapons. Ostrich kicks can kill a human or a potential predator like a lion. Each two-toed foot has a long, sharp claw.

Ostriches live in small herds that typically contain less than a dozen birds. Alpha males maintain these herds, and mate with the group’s dominant hen. The male sometimes mates with others in the group, and wandering males may also mate with lesser hens. All of the group’s hens place their eggs in the dominant hen’s nest—though her own are given the prominent center place. The dominant hen and male take turns incubating the giant eggs, each one of which weighs as much as two dozen chicken eggs.

(read more: National Geo)     (photo: female pictured, by Carsten Peter)

The National Zoo:  Cassowary Departure  
On Jan. 26, one of the Zoo’s female double-wattled cassowaries took an  interstate trip to the Virginia Zoo, where she will be paired with a  mate and (hopefully) contribute to North America’s breeding program.  Both she and the Zoo’s remaining cassowary—a female—have lived at the  Smithsonian’s National Zoo for more than 20 years. Come visit our  cassowary in the outdoor exhibit behind the Bird House next to the  rheas.
For fun facts about these giants among birds, check out the Double-wattled Cassowary fact sheet.
(via: Smithsonian National Zoo)

The National Zoo:  Cassowary Departure 

On Jan. 26, one of the Zoo’s female double-wattled cassowaries took an interstate trip to the Virginia Zoo, where she will be paired with a mate and (hopefully) contribute to North America’s breeding program. Both she and the Zoo’s remaining cassowary—a female—have lived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo for more than 20 years. Come visit our cassowary in the outdoor exhibit behind the Bird House next to the rheas.

For fun facts about these giants among birds, check out the Double-wattled Cassowary fact sheet.

(via: Smithsonian National Zoo)