Bearded Barbet

bearded Barbet

The Bearded Barbet is an African bird. Their bills have a tuft of hair-like feathers around the base which looks like a beard. Their Latin name is Lybius dubius.

Dubius is practically dubious. And they have a beard. So there you go: a dubious bearded bird. Nothing more suspicious than a bird with a beard.

 

Least Concern

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Snook

snook

 

Around 1988, my family moved to a little town on the Gulf Coast of Florida called “Bonita Springs.” It was small. There was no movie theater or mall, but you could go to the K-Mart on a Saturday afternoon for entertainment. It’s difficult to describe this place because:

1. It looks very different now, developers moved in and built strip malls and housing and golf courses. And a movie theater.

2. It was wild to me, I had spent my early years in the more “urban” suburbs of Pittsburgh: a community established before George Washington was wondering around as a surveyor.

Anyway, there were wild animals everywhere: snakes, panthers, all kinds of birds, alligators, raccoon, rabbits, turtles, tortoises, wild hogs, bobcats, armadillos, lizards. These are just the ones I’ve witnessed with my own TWO EYEBALLS.

Bonita Springs was known for the annual “Tomato-Snook Festival.” Oh, what is that you ask? Just Southwest Florida’s premiere event featuring the fabulous sport fish: the tiger snook and local major crop: tomatoes. What goes on at the festival? Oh, let me tell you: a queen is crowned “Ms. Tomato-Snook,” food is served, food contests are contested, money is raised for local charities, dancing, art, concerts. It’s kinda a big deal. So yea, a Snook is a fish.

Holstein

Holstein

Pauline Wayne or “Miss Wayne,” as she was called, was a Holstein cow who was also First Cow. And by First Cow I mean, she was the Taft family pet. And by Taft family, I mean President William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States of America. Miss Wayne provided milk for the First Family and grazed around on the White House Lawn and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (known then as the Navy Building). She had pretty high security clearance and didn’t take any bull.

Pauline Wayne

Miss Wayne outside the The Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C.

 

Chinchilla

Chinchilla

 

Dear Long-tailed Chinchilla,

I’m sorry that your fur is soft, which makes humans want to make you into coats. If other animals wore a different species as a coat that would be super weird and super gross. Can you imagine a deer wearing a rabbit coat? Or a rabbit wearing a jacket made of mice? Ridiculous. Especially when cotton is so breathable. . .

 

 

Critically Endangered

Muskox

Muskox

Musk oxen have been roaming around, being totally cool since the last Ice Age. Why are they cool? Well, they live in the Arctic, so they are literally cool. They are vegetarians, which is universally viewed as cool. They secrete a stinky funk or musk in order to attract Lady Musk oxen. Their soft underwool, qiviut, is highly prized as awesome sweater material and they just cast it off in the summer. . . no big deal.

They just play it cool, bro.

Least Concern

Northern Pika

NorthernPika

Remember Ussuri Brown Bear lives in Hokkaido? Guess who else does? Yeppers: the Northern Pika. Actually, the Northern Pika lives in many places, from Japan all the way to the Ural Mountains. They may kind of look like mice, but they are more closely related to rabbits. You know you’re looking at a Pika because it doesn’t have a tail.

You know you ARE a Pika if you live in a rock pile, communicate with other Pikas with high-pitched whistles, and you love eating all manner of plants. You are also nocturnal or crepuscular, have rounded ears and store food for the winter. Speaking of storing food for winter, if you do run out, then you eat your own poop because it’s high in digestible energy. Kinda gross, Pika, but way to keep it real.

Least Concern

Pūkeko

Pūkeko

 

New Zealand’s indigenous people are called Māori. They migrated there around 700 years ago from Polynesia. Due to their isolation, they developed a very rich culture and distinct social customs. Their myth about why the Kiwi doesn’t fly also features the Pūkeko (also known as the purple swamp hen or pook) is a lesson about not being whiney:

A forest god asked a bunch of birds to eat the bugs on the floor of the forest because the trees thought the bugs were gross. “Will you come down from the tree tops and eat these bugs?”

The Pūkeko was like, “No way, Bro. It’s all wet and yucko down there.”

After a long silence, the Kiwi said, “Ok. I’ll eat the bugs.” Kiwi was rewarded for his generous spirit with losing his colorful feathers and the ability to fly, but became the most well-loved bird in the land.

And because of his reluctance to help, the Pūkeko must now forever live in the yucko swamps.

Least Concern

 

Masai Giraffe

MasaiGiraffe

Everyone knows giraffes have really long necks and are the tallest mammals in all the world. But what you may not have known it that they have the longest tail of any land animal. And they have black tongues. They can go weeks without drinking water, getting moisture from the 75 pounds of vegetation they eat daily. Giraffes are fast and can run up to 35 mph in short bursts. They can moo, hiss, whistle, and go “rowr.”

There are nine subspecies of giraffe that are distinguished by their pattern of spots or coloring and also where they live (they are all indigenous to Africa). Each individual giraffe has it’s own unique pattern of spots, like human fingerprints. The Masai giraffe has a pattern on it’s fur that sorta-kinda looks like an oak leaf or a raggedy star.

 

Least Concern

 

Norwegian Lemming

NorLemming

Let’s talk about the Norwegian Lemming’s natural adaption: they periodically SWARM. These lemmings reproduce at a crazy-fast rate and then eat all the food in their surrounding area, so they SWARM, en masse, to another suitable habitat with enough resources to do the whole thing over again. Reproduce, eat all the resources, SWARM.  And again: reproduce, eat everything, SWARM.

Norwegian lemmings are a primary food source for predators in the complex food chain of the Arctic. When their numbers are high and they’re swarming, predators have more food and their young thrive, young who then eat the lemmings until its population diminishes, causing the predatory population to diminish as well. Then that cycle starts again. Cycle after cycle.

It all happens without planning, a lovely wheel that keeps spinning. Sometimes you just gotta take your hands off the controls and let life happen. And then SWARM.

 

Least Concern

Klipspringer

Klipspringer

Kopje (Dutch), monadnock (American Indian), and inselberg (German) are all weird words that I’ve never heard of before. They mean an isolated rocky hill usually surrounded by a veld. A veld is an area of land with few trees. Now that we have that straightened out, guess who lives on the kopje? YES! The Klipspringer! They are tiny little jumping ballerina antelopes. They can squeeeeeeeze their tiny wittle hooves all together in an area as small as a silver dollar, while balancing and looking adorable.

Least Concern