Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Super Zoobirds

Andean Condors
The Zoological Society of Cincinnati was founded in 1873 and officially opened its doors in 1875, making the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden the second oldest Zoo in the United States. The Zoo’s original animal collection was very small, originally consisting of just eight monkeys, two grizzly bears, three deer, six raccoons, two elk, a buffalo, a hyena, a tiger, an alligator, a circus elephant, and over four hundred birds, including a talking crow. The Zoo was founded on 65 acres in the middle of the city, and since then has acquired some of the surrounding blocks and several reserves in Cincinnati’s suburbs. In the birding world, the Cincinnati Zoo is known as the last home of the now-extinct Passenger Pigeon. The last Passenger Pigeon, named Martha, died alone at the Cincinnati Zoo at about 1:00 pm on September 1, 1914. Now they have a great collection of cats- large and small, along with reptiles, insects and (my favorites of course) birds. Our trip to the Cincinnati Zoo over the holiday weekend was the first in more years than I can actually recall, and the place has changed a lot.

Andean Condors
The Andean Condor is the biggest bird in the world, with a wingspan up to 10.5 feet, and males weighing in at 24 - 33 pounds! In a zoo, they may live up to 70 years.  Reproduction is an issue, since they only lay one egg every other year. With a wingspan so large, they do not favor forested areas, but you notice that the zoo has many trees in their net-covered enclosure. As always, click any photo for a larger version. In particular, take a look at the size of their feet.
Female Andean Condor
It's easy to see that these birds are related to our local vultures. I have another photo where you can see through their large nostril hole, just like our Turkey Vultures. Isn't her white collar pretty?
Male Andean Condor
The male Condor must have some special attraction for the female though. I wonder if he has a hard time seeing around those extra skin flaps on his face.

Eurasian Eagle Owl
Many exhibits were inside buildings, so photos taken of animals behind glass may be a bit blurry. This Eurasian Eagle Owl was the star of a Night Hunters exhibit along with several species of small cats.  Our Binx would have related to all those cats, which so greatly resemble domestic cats. I wondered if the animals could see through the glass, and guessed that it was one-way at first.  As I tried to focus on this owl in the dark though, I saw a red focusing light reflecting on the bird, and watched it turn to face me.  Apparently he could see that light from my side at least. The Eagle Owl is native to North Africa, Europe, Asia, Middle East and the female may weigh in at up to 10 pounds, larger than the Snowy Owl. It resembles the Great Horned Owl, but I don't think the facial disc is as pronounced.

Not all the birds are in cages though, and this Peacock had staked out one of the restaurants as his panhandling territory.  He was polite about it though, not making any noise or threatening anyone. If you ignored him, he'd just walk away to the next table.

He was quite willing to pose, and stood still for longer than any other bird I tried to photograph all day. It's not too often you can get this much detail from a bird's feathers.

Like all fashion models, he gave me the eye until I came up with his fee - half a potato chip!  I doubt that Christie Brinkley ever worked for so little!  Eventually, he flew to the top of the building and decided that pickings might be better elsewhere.  It took a lot of effort to lift that long tail to the roof.
Crowned Crane
Reviewing these photos, I realize that most of the birds we saw are variations on birds found in North America - owls, vultures, eagles, and cranes for example. Seeing the variation in color and plumage makes me wonder what the survival advantage is for each of them. For example, how would the "crown" on this crane help it to survive in its African home?

Stellar's Sea Eagle
The Stellar's Sea Eagle is native to northeastern Asia, north of Japan, and of course it eats primarily fish. Does that huge beak give it some survival advantage?  How about a wingspan of 77 - 91 inches? (That's 8.25 feet) Whew! It must take a LOT of fish to keep a bird that size aloft.
Pink Billed Pelican
I've seen Brown Pelicans and White Pelicans, but this is a Pink-billed Pelican, about the size of the Brown, looking rather anemic with that pink bill.
As we watched the polar bears pacing in their enclosure, I noticed white vertical markings on the wall.  Hmm, looks like bird droppings.  A closer look revealed a crevasse in the fake stone, and a small Puffin hiding within. Do you think Marcel Marceau (the mime) was inspired by this bird when he came up with the white face makeup he used for his silent character?  It's a possibility!

1 comment:

Mary Beth- The daughter said...

great blog. As for the crane. His crown would blend in with the grasses of the grasslands of Africa...


Love you mom.