Thursday, March 29, 2018

Largest Living Bird: Kori Bustard

Kori bustard (ardeotis kori), is the largest flying birds. Photo by: Winfried Bruenken


Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori) one of the largest living bird in the world today. It's also one of the largest flying birds that still exist. It is the member of the bustard family that consists of four species throughout the world - ranging from Africa, India, and Australia.

Being the largest flying bird, kori bustard flies a short distance and only when needed. It will spend most of its time on the ground forage occasionally in low bushes and trees. Kori bustard is omnivorous birds and will eat almost anything from insects, small reptiles and small mammals, and also seeds and fruits. Being heavy, kori bustard will try to avoid flying unless necessary.

Male kori bustard (A. k. struthiunculus) displaying in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Photo by: David Berkowitz

Female of the nominate race near Etosha National Park, Namibia. Photo by: Hans Hillewaert

The male kori bustard is larger than female can reach up to 120 to 150 cm (3 ft 11 in to 4 ft 11 in) in height with wingspan about 230 to 275 cm (7 ft 7 in to 9 ft 0 in). Its weigh can reach up to 7 and 18 kg (15 and 40 lbs). Even though they were reports mentioned about the outsized specimens with weighing up to 23 kg (51 lb) and more.

Africa has the most diversity of the bustard species and spread throughout the continent. Among them are Denham's bustard (Neotis denhamii) and Ludwig's bustard (Neotis luwigii). While, Arabian bustard (Ardeotis arabs) has its range on the East Africa.

Same as many other birds, kori bustard has its own courtship displays to impress the females. The courtship display will followed by low-pitched booming noise with inflated neck where the male will look larger. Several males will be compete among each other. There will be fight between males with serious battle in order to win the females. One male will mates will several females in his territory – different from albatrosses and swan that will mate only with one female for long period of time.

Richard Meinertzhagen holds a shot kori bustard near Nairobi in 1915, illustrating the bird's huge size. Photo by: unknown

Kori bustard flying over the grassland. Photo by: RICHARD AND EILEEN FLACK

Kori bustard's chick, between keeper's hands. Photo by: nationalzoo.si.edu

Only female kori bustard will look over their eggs. Usually 2 eggs are laid, and seldom 1 or 3. Female built their nest within the tree shrubs, termite mount or an outcrop of rocks. Their plumage colour and behaviour make their nest is hard to be spotted.

Young chicks will grow up quickly and ready to follow their mother few hours after hatched. They fledge at 4 to 5 weeks old, but only ready to fly until 4 to 5 months. Usually one of the two young make it to adulthood. Living their mother in their second year, and ready to breed when they become fully matures around three to four years old.

Kori bustard is listed Near Threatened by IUCN (2013). They are rarely since in human populated areas. The development such as power lines can kill this bird (the powerlines in Karoo kill 22 kori bustard during 5 months period). More study should be conducted in order to help this bird from extinction.






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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Largest Living Bird: Andean Condor

Andean condor soaring using the thermal current. Photo by: aracari.com


The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) is one of the largest birds that still lives today. In the group of New World vulture found in the Andes Mountains regions in the Western South America. Andean condors can be found in Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. It’s rarely seen now in Venezuela, as in any other areas, the numbers keep on declining.

Andean condors are massive birds with weight of 11 to 15 kg (24 to 33 lb) for males, requires big wings with wingspan up to 3.3 m (10 ft 10 in). The wings not just longer in length but also bigger in areas compared to any other flying bird such as wandering albatross, and Dalmatian pelican.

Larger wings allow Andean condor to glide instead of flapping. Photo by: abcbirds.org

A female Andean Condor at DouĂ©-la-Fontaine Zoo, France. Photo by: Emilio del Prado 

Andean condor rarely flaps its wings when fly because it has less major muscle (pectoralis major) as we can see in other high flapping birds. Its wings size and shapes helps it to soar or gliding the air current. This is also a reason why Andean condor prefers to roost on high places where there are more wind to help it to fly with less effort. It’s also using the thermal current as the air rising up from the desert heat.

Andean condor same as vultures are primarily a scavenger. They fly up high in the sky while scanning any animal carcasses. Andean condor can sometimes join other vultures or other scavenger birds in searching for carrion. They prefer on larger carcases such as llamas, alpacas, rheas, guanacos, deer and armadillos. They also can get plenty of food from the coastal areas – from the dead, sea creatures. Even though rarely hunting, Andean condor sometimes kills smaller animals such as rodents, birds and rabbits.

Condors feeding on a dead guanaco, with Torres del Paine in the background. Photo by: awasi.com

Andean condor only produce one chick for every two years. Photo by: zoochat.com

Andean condor will become mature by five to six years of age. They prefer to build their nest at an elevation of 3,000 to 5,000 m (9,800 to 16,400 ft) with only one egg for every two years. The egg will hatch after 54 to 58 days of incubation. Then their parent will take care of their young for a full year.

Condors and vultures are playing important roles to clean up carcasses to avoid the spreading of diseases. They have special capabilities to avoid toxicity produces by the bacteria they eat.

Since Andean condor is very big, it become a national symbol of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuelan Andes states. It also plays an important role for peoples in those regions. It can be seen clearly from their cultures, mythology and arts.

The numbers of Andean condors are still declining and the conservation status of this bird is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN in 2012.





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Friday, March 23, 2018

Largest Living Bird: Dalmatian Pelican

An adult Dalmatian pelican swimming. Photo by: Sergey Dereliev


The Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) is another larger species of bird that stilllives today. Its weight is the heaviest among other water birds (and the largest swans are closely behind), while their wings closer to the length of great albatrosses. Compared to albatross, Dalmatian pelican is a short to medium distance migrant between its breeding and their overwintering areas.

Pelican can easily identify by its rubbery orange pouch beneath their bill. Anyway, for Dalmatian pelican it has silvery-white plumage during the breeding season. The character that unique for this bird is the thick crest of silver feathers on its nape. The colour of its pouch will change to yellow as the breeding season progresses. While their feathers will appear whiter or grey.

The Dalmatian pelican with its large wings. Photo by: otlibrary.com

A Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus). Photo by: Thomas Bresson

Their size can reach up to 160 to 183 cm (5 ft 3 in to 6 ft 0 in) in length, 7.25–15 kg (16.0–33.1 lb) in weight and 245 to 351 cm (8 ft 0 in to 11 ft 6 in) in wingspan. It also looks similar to its closest relative the great white pelican. The size of a male Dalmatian pelican also larger than the female that easily notice.

There are two main populations of Dalmatian pelican. The first population that breeds in Eastern Europe an winters in the eastern Mediterranean, while the second population that breeds in Russia and central Asia and winters in Iran, Iraq and the Indian subcontinent. The Dalmatian pelican is found in lakes, rivers, deltas, and estuaries in any suitable wetlands with many elevations.

It prefers to nest in small group and sometimes may even nest alone. However, they can form small colonies that consist of up to 250 pairs. Nesting sites usually either islands or dense mat of aquatic vegetation. The Dalmatian pelican lays from one to six eggs, with average number of two. The incubation period will take within 30 to 34 days. The chick will ready to be independent at 100 to 105 days old.

The Dalmatian pelican chicks. Photo by: otlibrary.com

The nesting area of Dalmatian pelican. Photo by: Natural History Museum of Montenegro

Since Dalmatian pelican is freshwater bird, it feeds almost entirely on freshwater fish, ranging from common carp (Cyprinus carpio), European perch (Perca fluviatilis), common rudd (Scardinius erythropthalmus), eels, catfish (especially silurids during winter), mullet and northern pike (Esox lucius). The size of fish can be up to 50 cm (20 in). The Dalmatian pelican requires around 1,200 g (2.6 lb) of fish per day. The total diet consists of larger and smaller fishes, even though it always prefers the larger size.

The Dalmatian pelican number is decreasing throughout its range. The reasons of their declining are not entirely understood. They are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List 2017. Even though there are some improvement through the conservation initiatives, the threat to this species are still too high as it is more sensitive than other pelican species.





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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Largest Living Bird: Mute Swan

Mute swan with its iconic looks when swimming. Photo by: Yerpo


Mute swan (Cygnus olor) is another largest bird that still lives until today. The mute swan is one of the swan species that also member of the waterfowl that includes ducks, and geese. It is native to Eurasia, and (as a rare winter visitor) the far north of Africa. Anyway, they are introduced to North America, Australasia and southern Africa.

Mute swans can grow in number very rapidly. Being big in size make it have less predators. Another advantage is, it also produces large quantity of eggs in one breeding season. Mute swan are territorial bird and will protect its area so aggressively. It will chase away any other birds, dogs, or even human.

Taking flight for big bird will be little bit challenging. Photo by: cdt.ch

Female mute swan with its chicks. Photo by: Trachemys

In fact, in some places in North America, they are considered as invasive species (as they are not native) and their numbers keep on increasing. With aggressive behaviour they also become a threat to local species for breeding areas, but also in food sources. With their large appetite, they overgrazing vegetation that cause damage on aquatic habitat for the native species.

Mute swan was introduced to all their new territories to decorate large estates, city parks, and zoos in mid 1800s and through early 1900s. Some of them might escape and formed their own breeding populations. Their numbers grow very rapidly with their behaviour might threaten native species.

The mute swan is a very beautiful bird with beautiful white plumage. Their orange colour bill appears brighter in contrast to the black colour border. While larger males also have a larger knob on their bill to appear more attractive to female. They form ‘S’ shape with their neck while swimming with wings slightly rise up – make it attractive to human. Their monogamous behaviour also make them as a symbol of long lasting marriage.

Chasing away other native species. Photo by: MLive


Mute swan with its majestic looks. Photo by: Kuribo

Their size typically ranges from 140 to 160 cm (55 to 63 in) long with a 200 to 240 cm (79 to 94 in) wingspan. The mute swan is one of the heaviest flying birds. The average weight for swan can range from 10.6 to 11.87 kg (23.4 to 26.2 lb). The largest male can reach up to 15 kg (33 lb), and the largest Polish male mute swan weighed almost 23 kg (51 lb).

The young birds are called cygnets have greyish colour. Anyway, they are able to move around the nest and ready to swim soon after they feathers dry. Young babies are ready to fly 65 days after hatching.

Even though there are considered as invasive in North America, back in their native areas (Eurasia), mute swans are protected to increase their numbers. Hopefully more studies will be carried out in order to help mute swan wherever they are.



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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Largest Living Bird: Wandering Albatross

Gliding through the air current. Photo by: worldatlas.com


Wondering albatross is listed as one of the largest bird live in the world today. It’s also known as snowy albatross, white-winged albatross or goonie (Diomedea exulans) is large seabird that lives in the Southern Ocean. Albatross known for its gliding skills where some individual known to circumnavigate the Southern Ocean three times (covering more than 120,000 km or 75,000 miles) in one year.

It takes 11 years for wondering albatross to become mature and ready to mate. While they are mate for life and breed in every two years make their population rate decreasing every year (for South Georgia Islands population). They only produce one egg at a time. This makes the population growth very slow even though they can reach life span up to 50 years.

Wandering albatross of South Georgia Island. Photo by: Brocken Inaglory

Gesture to impress. Photo by: Jerry Gillham

The wandering albatross has the longest wingspan that ranging from 2.51 to 3.5 m (8 ft 3 in to 11 ft 6 in). This makes them a great glider – they can keep on gliding for several hours without flapping their wings. They actually use less energy while flying than when they sit in their nest. Their capability makes them rarely seen on land and gather only to breed, by form large colonies on remote islands.

Albatrosses are night feeders and feed on cephalopods (squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish), small fish, and crustaceans and almost anything that float on the sea. They usually follow ships in hopes of feeding on its garbage. In order to feed they also make shallow dive. They can eat as much that they become unable to fly and just float on the water.

Checking for eggs. Photo by: Jerry Gillham

Wandering Albatross and chick on South Georgia. Photo by: Steph Winnard / Prince Images 

Being so big and spend most of their time in flight, wandering albatross have almost no natural predators. But since they were heavily hunted they are listed as vulnerable under Conservation status by IUCN. Even though they are no longer being hunted today, their population growth is very slow and pollution (such as plastics and oils) might be the main contributor to their death.



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