Birds in Pop Culture

What famous superheroes and villains have bird-like abilities or appearances? How many professional sports teams in the U.S. incorporate birds into their logo? What bird call is often used by shows and movies to represent both vultures and eagles?  Why do storks carry babies? How large are the eagles in Lord of the Rings? Can roadrunners really outrun coyotes? This blog will dive into the influence of birds in pop culture and reveal some interesting facts. I’ll try my best not to make up stories along the way. 

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Who wouldn’t want to fly like an eagle?

We seem to be in the golden age of superheroes. The upcoming slate of movies is extensive, not to mention the dozens of movies that came out in the last few years.  Superhero TV shows are also rising, and there seems to be no end in sight. You probably know that many superbeings can fly like an eagle, but what about a vulture? The upcoming Spiderman flick is set to have a villain named The Vulture, who uses an electromagnetic harness and wings to increase his strength and take flight. Vultures are often excellent fliers, using updrafts from cliff faces or rising currents of warm air called thermals to soar and glide across the sky with minimal flapping. Unlike the Spiderman villain, vultures are not deadly killers and prefer to scavenge on carrion. Birds of prey are often viewed as strong and fierce, so it’s not surprising that two of the more famous “bird” superheroes are Falcon and Hawkman. Falcon is shown in the recent Marvel movies to have sharp vision and the ability to fly and dive at high speeds using special technology. The real-life Peregrine Falcon is the fastest creature on earth and can dive at speeds of over 220 mph!

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Left – Marvel hero Falcon. Right – speed hero Peregrine Falcon.

Image result for vulture spiderman  Turkey vulture stretching its wings

Vultures

At least 15 pro sports teams in the U.S. include a bird in some version of their logo, ranging from songbirds to raptors to . . . the Mighty Ducks! There is even a soccer team in Minnesota that uses a loon in its logo! If they turn off the lights in the arena and play a loon call, that could be eerie and intimidate their opponents. There are also some really interesting bird choices for some college teams. Among my favorites are the Endicott Power Gulls, the Oglethorpe Stormy Petrels, and the Oregon Tech Hustlin’ Owls. There are also over 70 collegiate teams that use some kind of eagle in their name, which brings me to my next point. Most of the time when an eagle is pictured in a show or movie, the call used is that of a Red-tailed Hawk. One possible reason for this is that the Bald Eagle has a wimpy sounding call, while the screaming call of the Red-tail sounds more fierce. I’ve even noticed that Red-tailed Hawk calls are used for vultures in scenes from Westerns!

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The exact origin of the myth that storks carry babies is unclear, but the stories most likely originated from German folklore. This concept became more widespread after a story about storks was written by Hans Christian Anderson. I just read the tale and . . . well let’s just say that the story is unusual and a little disturbing. Anyway, storks have been unfairly villainized due to their evil deeds in Lord of the Rings. There is a sword named “Sing” that glows and plays bird songs every time a stork is near. I guess you want me to put a stork in this joke? I will as soon as I finish eating some stork chops. Speaking of Lord of the Rings, giant eagles play small, but important roles in The Hobbit and in The Return of the King. The movies portray them as very large and impressive birds, but what about Tolkien’s books? There is one reference from the Silmarillion that states that Thorondor, the mightiest of the eagles, had a wingspan of 30 fathoms. As one fathom = six feet, Thorondor’s wings stretched about 180 feet!! Just the wind force from him flapping his wings could have probably taken out quite a few enemies! In comparison, a Golden Eagle has a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet.

White stork landing with nesting material Proof: Gandalf Planned on Flying to Mount Doom

Left – White Stork preparing for babies by practicing with a stick. Right – art showing Gandalf riding on an eagle in LOTR.

Now for the answer to the question that you’ve been dying to know: could Roadrunner truly beat Wile E Coyote in a footrace? Coyotes can reach speeds over 40 mph, while the Greater Roadrunner can run about 15-20 mph. However, Roadrunner was much larger than the average roadrunner and had really long legs, so I believe it’s possible that he could run close to 50 mph. On a side note, roadrunners are most commonly found in deserts in the southwestern U.S., which is why many of the classic cartoons were set in the desert. Also, roadrunners are related to cuckoos and are active predators, even feasting on venomous lizards, scorpions, and snakes! Roadrunners will sometimes work in pairs to kill a snake, with one bird distracting the snake while the other bird goes for the head. Roadrunners will also eat eggs, chicks, fruit, seeds, and amphibians.

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Left – Roadrunner’s giant feet help him make large strides. Right – Greater Roadrunner photo by Christopher Schwarz/Audubon Photography Awards.

Hopefully you’ve learned something from this brief foray into the world of birds in pop culture. Maybe you’ve also gained a deeper appreciation for the avian world and realized that you should never mess with a roadrunner. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to create an intimidating logo for a new sports team – the San Diego Sandpipers.

 

My Nemesis is a Bird

My dream as a young boy was to be a superhero when I grew up. My efforts to become a superhero by the traditional methods (special serum, cosmic explosions, alien powers, super tech, billionaire playboy) have failed so far. I even tried to use radioactivity, though I know from Spiderman that 90% of people who receive powers from radioactive sources become supervillains. Even though I don’t have special powers, I can still have a nemesis. One of the defining characteristics of a superhero is that he/she has at least one nemesis. Batman has the Joker. Superman has Lex Luthor. Spiderman has Doctor Octopus. My nemesis often consumes my thoughts and has constantly eluded me over the last few years. I know what he looks like from pictures, but have never actually seen him. He wears a blue and white costume with a black mask and spends much of his time in the woods. He inspires many copycats who dress the same way. He talks in a buzzy voice. My nemesis is . . . a Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Black-throated blue warbler feeding chicks

My nemesis is deep and complex because he has a family that he cares for.

Black-throated Blue Warblers spend much of their time in the trees, foraging for insects among the leaves. Males are boldly-colored and represent their name quite well. Females are a drab olive-gray, with a white patch on their wings and a pale, white eyebrow. Black-throated Blues usually nest in the northeastern U.S. and winter in the Caribbean and Central America. There is a small population that nests in the Great Smoky Mountains, which is not far from where I live. I’m pretty sure that population is taunting me with their existence. Though I’m an active birder during migration (when Black-throated Blues pass through the southeast and midwest) I had never even heard one until two years ago in Kentucky. The song sounds like a buzzy “beer beer bee!”, with the last note ascending upward. Side note: other birds also seem to have a strange fascination with beer. Alder Flycatchers say a raspy “Free beer!” and Olive-sided Flycatchers sing “Quick, three beers!” Add to this the birds that are obsessed with tea (Eastern Towhees and Carolina Wrens), and you have a bunch of wildlife dealing with addictions. Anyway, when I heard one while walking along a forest trail, I immediately ran up the path with my binoculars in hand. As I got close to the sound, I could tell it was coming from group of large deciduous trees. Unfortunately, I could not see the bird. I was unsuccessful from all viewing angles and tried using a bird app to call the warbler out. He was unresponsive and then flew off over a ravine without me getting a glimpse. I could hear him briefly calling out, taunting me. Then he was gone and I didn’t hear another Black-throated Blue until the following year in the exact same spot on the exact same day. May 9th is a day that still lingers in my mind and haunts my dreams.  The same circumstances were repeated and I again left without having caught a real glimpse of my nemesis.

Black-throated blue warbler male feeding on berry Black-throated blue warbler female feeding on berry

Black-throated Blues eat berries and drink fine wine after eluding me.

Though my efforts to see a Black-throated Blue proved unsuccessful, my resolve has not changed and I’m more motivated than ever to find one. I’m actually glad that finding one has proven so difficult. This will make the time I finally catch my nemesis that much sweeter. On a final note, I’m planning on going to a birding park this week that has nice trails and cool birds . . . and also a recent recorded sighting of a Black-throated Blue Warbler. Maybe I will finally defeat my nemesis, though I’m not sure what to do if I finally catch him. I feel like my whole life is revolving around finding this bird. Wherever you are, I hope that you will meet your nemesis soon and defeat him/her. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sing buzzy songs about beer and allow some radioactive animals to bite me.

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I should have microwaved this alligator and let him bite me to gain superpowers.

How to Attract Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds. Tiny balls of fire that blaze through the air and show off their brilliant colors. Many people enjoy watching the aerial displays of hummingbirds. Others are awed by the ability of hummingbirds to fly backwards. And then you have the people that enjoy watching hummingbirds fight. These little birds will voraciously defend a valuable nectar or sugar source from intruders.  Watching hummingbirds jockey for position at a feeder can provide hours of entertainment. Want to create hummingbird habitat in your own yard? This blog will give you some basic tips to enrich your landscape in a way that can attract more hummingbirds by providing them with a valuable buffet of energy sources.

Ruby-throated hummingbird male feeding on kalanchoe flower

Enrich your landscape – The first step to making your yard attractive to hummingbirds is to dress up as a colorful (preferably red, pink, or orange) flower or plant. Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly-colored plants because they associate them with nectar sources. I recommend that beginners use an azalea costume, while more experienced gardeners/birders can mimic trumpet honeysuckle or cardinal flowers. In addition to these plants, sages and beebalms, as well as plants with red/orange/pink tubular flowers, are also good choices for providing a nectar source. Use plants native to your area to reduce the risk of harmful invasives. For more info about what plants to use in your yard, check out this great link from Audubon (http://www.audubon.org/content/nectar-sources-region).  In addition to native flowering plants, having shrubs or trees for natural cover is great for all birds. Hummingbirds use small perches so try not to cut off every small branch from your bushes and trees. They often use lichen, moss, twigs, and spider webs to build their tiny nests on small forks and branches.

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Image result for beebalm    Image result for hummingbird nest arkive    Clockwise from top left –> Female Ruby-throat feeding from Cardinal Flower, Male at a Trumpet Honeysuckle, Hummingbird feeding from a Bee Balm (Monarda genus), and a hummingbird nest. 

Provide an extra food source – If you are able to grow some of the plants mentioned above in your yard or garden, they will provide a great food supply for hungry hummingbirds. You can also buy a feeder from the store for under $10. Most feeders are red with flower-shaped holes to attract the hummingbirds. Instructions on how to make sugar water for your feeder is provided at the end of this blog. I don’t recommend trying to live like a hummingbird. You might have a tough time working on a daily sugar high while missing out on important nutrition provided by foods such as lasagna and pizza. Hummingbirds do supplement their diet with protein from insects, so maybe eating like a hummingbird wouldn’t be so tough after all.

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(Left photo: Black-chinned Hummingbird by Sam Wilson, Phoenix, AZ, 2007. Right photo: worldofhummingbirds.com)

Provide a water source – Hummingbirds also enjoy bathing, so feel free to grab a pink or red squirt gun so you can spray them when they’re at the feeder. Who doesn’t want a shower while eating? The other option is to provide a bird bath or misting device, but that’s not as fun.

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Reduce pesticide use – Because hummingbirds feed on flowering plants and munch on insects, spraying pesticides on your garden can prove harmful to them and other wildlife. Allow the birds to take care of your insect problem. Though, there was one summer where I was being hounded by gnats as a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher danced around in the trees and taunted me. If you’re having major insect problems, do some research and find an alternative solution that won’t be dangerous to the birds eating the insects. You should also completely rid your yard of ants, as they are often attracted to sweet things and can overrun a feeder. This is best accomplished by borrowing an anteater from your local zoo. You may end up with holes and mounds of dirt in your yard, but at least there won’t be any ants competing with the hummingbirds.

Now is the prime time for hummingbirds to move through the U.S. and build nests, so hopefully you can put these tips into practice and start attracting these beautiful birds to your yard! Unfortunately, there is only one species that frequents the eastern U.S. – the Ruby-throated. People in places like California and Texas get the jackpot with numerous species. Of course, all of these states pale in comparison to the rich diversity found in Central and South America. Enjoy some more photos of awesome hummingbirds! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to down some sucrose and run around my yard really fast with a red bib while chasing off the competition.

Two rufous hummingbird chicks sitting in nest

Male rufous hummingbirds feeding

Rufous Hummingbirds

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Anna’s Hummingbird

How to make hummingbird food –> Mix a solution of 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of pure white sugar in a small pot. Bring the solution to a boil and turn off the heat once the sugar has dissolved. Allow the mixture to completely cool and then it can be poured into your feeder. Please do not use brown sugar, honey, or other substitutes as this can harm or even kill a hummingbird that needs sucrose to survive. There is also no need to add any food dyes, as they may contain harmful chemicals. You should clean feeders about once a week with a vinegar-water (1-4 ratio like the sugar water) solution. 

 

 

Adorable Animals That Can Kill You

After spending time in a few blogs emphasizing how snakes are interesting creatures that should not be feared, I’m here to write about dangerous animals that can destroy you. Please note that all of these animals should be appreciated for their awesomeness and most of them will never attack you. Time to look at some cute animals that can be deadly!

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Poison Dart Frogs were the subject of one of my recent blogs.

Blue-ringed Octopuses . . . yes, ‘octopuses’ is preferred over ‘octopi’ . . . are small cephalopods that live around coral reefs in the Indian and Southern Pacific Oceans. They are commonly found near Australia and actually consist of several species. If these octopuses become agitated, the blue rings appear to glow due to the stimulation of chromatophores. Blue-ring Octopuses are about the size of a golf ball and may contain enough venom to kill over a dozen humans! That said, they rarely attack humans unless stepped on or handled. Blue-rings munch on crabs, shrimp, and occasionally small fish (think Goliath Grouper). They tend to hide among the sand, shells, and coral, preferring to ambush their prey. Their venom contains powerful neurotoxins which can cause respiratory problems, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Interestingly enough, these same toxins are found in a variety of other organisms, such as pufferfish, snails, and crabs. The key ingredient to producing the toxins appears to be the symbiotic bacteria associated with these creatures. This means if you want to become more deadly, you should develop a close relationship with toxin-producing bacteria.

Southern blue-ringed octopus swimming    Southern blue-ringed octopus, head detail

Next up is the Giant Anteater, which can grow to 7 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds! If you’re an ant, this could be the most terrifying creature you ever face! Even Antman would probably run for his life! Anteaters do not have teeth, but they do have a sticky tongue that may extend up to 2 feet and can rapidly lap up thousands of ants and termites.  They also have sharp claws for tearing into anthills and termite mounds. Though not naturally aggressive, Giant Anteaters are capable of fighting off large predators such as jaguars! They are extremely unlikely to attack humans, but if cornered, they could certainly maim a person! Giant Anteaters are primarily found in South America, but their range extends up to the southern portion of Mexico. As you might imagine, this species is important for controlling insect populations, especially considering some South American ants are quite dangerous in armies and can kill large animals and overrun villages! 

Giant anteater running  Giant anteater female and young

Now it’s time for an adorable creature that you will want to hug, but shouldn’t.

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Photo: Wikipedia user מינוזיג

What?! You don’t want to hug an adorable scorpion?! This is the Lifeignorer Scorpion. Just kidding. This is the Deathstalker Scorpion. Deathstalkers live in desert regions in Northern Africa and the Middle East. These scorpions have highly potent venom that can do a lot of damage. Interestingly enough, medical researchers have used toxins isolated from deathstalkers to develop methods of fighting cancer and regulating insulin! Check out a cool story about a venom-based paint that can identify brain tumors by clicking here!

I’ll finish off the blog with an array of cute but dangerous animals.

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These cubs might not seem so cute when the mother is around.

Juvenile chimpanzees hanging in branches

Chimpanzees in the wild have been known to kill monkeys by bashing their heads with rocks! Adults are quite strong and capable of crushing a human in a wrestling match.

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Slender Loris bites, though extremely rare, have been known to cause swelling, irritated skin, and even anaphylactic shock!

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Many blowfish/pufferfish contain neurotoxins which can prove harmful for potential predators. Nevertheless, fugu (prepared pufferfish) is considered a delicacy in Japan and other countries! Chefs must undergo rigorous training to be qualified to prepare this dish.

Hopefully you’re starting to realize that looks can be deceiving! These are really cool creatures that should be appreciated. Remember that most of these animals won’t attack humans unless threatened or cornered. Please do not attempt to take animal selfies with a bison, bear, or wildcat, no matter how cute they look. I recently read a story about a bear that broke into a car and destroyed a lot of things. Feel free to let a deathstroke scorpi . . . sorry about that Green Arrow, DEATHSTALKER scorpion crawl on your face, because it most likely won’t sting you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to grow some bacteria on blue ring pops, spread the mixture on my arms, and terrorize some crabs.

Snake Week

Every summer, one week is devoted to celebrating sharks. Shark Week is designed to teach the public about the interesting world of sharks and encourage people to see these predators in a new light. My question is, why stop with sharks? How about having a snake week? Wouldn’t you like to learn more about venomous snakes and the good that they do? Wouldn’t you like to start conquering your fear of snakes? Wouldn’t you like to read some really bad snake puns? Today you will learn that you can have your snake and eat it too – just start with an easy-snake oven.

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Did somebody say Snake Week?!

The Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) is endemic to the eastern U.S. and can grow to over 6 feet long. They occupy a wide range of habitats, including forests, mountainous, and riverine areas. When temperatures are cool, rattlesnakes may group together in a den or cave to hibernate.  Like many Americans, Timber Rattlesnakes love to catch some sun rays and will often remain motionless while basking in the heat of day. They primarily hunt small mammals, such as mice, rats, voles, squirrels, and rabbits. They aid in regulating mammal populations within an ecosystem and can help reduce pest populations in agricultural systems. Unfortunately, like sharks, rattlesnakes are often seen as scary and dangerous creatures. Some people shoot them with shotguns, smash them with shovels, or even purposely run over them while driving. The truth is, rattlesnake attacks are rare, as rattlers will usually rattle to send a warning and will only strike if threatened or cornered. Because many venomous snakes try to save their venom of prey, they are unlikely to bite except as a last resort.  Try to find a way to let the snakes alone and they will help control pesky rodents! If one has taken up residence in your house, then call a local wildlife officer to capture and release it elsewhere. Also, don’t run around sticking your hands in brush piles and rock crevices!

Timber rattlesnake, close-up rattlesnake

The picture on the right was of a rattler I encountered in Indiana. Why did the snake cross the road? Probably because the heat emanating from the asphalt felt good.

The Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius) is beautiful creature that is generally found in scrubby woodlands and marshes in the southeastern U.S. Because they must chew on their victim to completely inject their venom, attacks on humans are rare. According to National Geographic, no human has died from an Eastern Coral Snake bite since the antivenin was developed in the 1967 (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/eastern-coral-snake/). They spend much of their time underground and are not often seen, except during the breeding season. They can grow to lengths of 2-4 feet and will eat lizards and other snakes. Now for the interesting part. Other snakes, such as Scarlet Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis elapsoides) use mimicry to take advantage of the coral snake’s reputation! Let me explain. Predators, such as raptors and coyotes, learn to associate the color patterns of coral snakes with their dangerous venom and tend to avoid attacks. Kingsnakes have evolved to mimic the patterns of the coral snakes and so this means that predators will usually leave them alone! Now you might be wondering how you could tell the difference. The rule for distinguishing between these snakes (and I don’t know of any exceptions to this rule) is set to a rhyme. Red on black, friend of Jack. Red on yellow, dangerous fellow. In other words, look at the banding patterns. The coral snake has red touching yellow bands, while the kingsnake has red touching black bands.

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Left – venomous coral snake (photo: http://wildlifetrappersandrescue.com/nuisance-animals/snakes/snake-photos/easterncoral2/). Right – non-venomous scarlet kingsnake .

Got milksnake?

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Pick up a tasty milksnake at your local Steak and Snake. Note that this species has red on black, meaning it is not venomous.

Do you feel any tremors? Because here’s an earthsnake!

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Now it’s time to look at one of the deadliest snakes in the world, the Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina). These beautiful snakes are usually found in warm, tropical waters near coral reefs and mangrove swamps around Australia and southeast Asia. Though their neurotoxic venom is about 10 times more potent than rattlesnake venom, human bites are extremely rare due to the docile nature of BSKs. Many divers have swam with these snakes without fear of harm. BSKs are amphibious, and will spend a decent portion of their time on land, especially when breeding. They generally hunt in the water, preferring to prey on eels and small fish. Females are usually larger and may hunt larger-sized prey than males. Believe it or not, there is a Japanese soup made with smoked sea krait.

Banded sea krait swimming beneath large shoal of fish Banded sea krait underwater

Hopefully you’ve learned about some interesting venomous snakes and can appreciate their beauty. Some of these snakes play a vital role in controlling rodent populations. Remember that most snakes prefer to avoid conflict and will rarely bite humans. If you  enjoy the rush of feeling scard by snakes, then I encourage you to look up dangerous snakes in Australia. What’s a snake’s favorite dance? The Mamba. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wear red on yellow and carry a baby rattle. FEAR ME!

Snake News

Did you know that snakes can be very colorful? Did you know that snakes are vital to controlling pests in many agricultural and woodland ecosystems? Though some people get nervous or anxious around snakes, most species are non-venomous and tend to shy away from confrontations . . . except for all of the vicious killer snakes in Australia. Time to face your fears and slither into the world of snakes!

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Indiana Jones is not happy with my blog topic.

First up is a species commonly found in gardens, yards, and woodlands. The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) has several subspecies (with a variety of coloration!) that inhabit ranges throughout the United States. One of the characteristics of garter snakes is their longitudinal stripes. Garter snakes are not venomous and are usually docile, though some will act aggressively when threatened. They are decent swimmers and will sometimes hunt aquatic prey such as fish, amphibians, and crayfish. They also eat small mammals, earthworms, and occasionally birds. During the mating season, large numbers of garter snakes may converge into a giant breeding ball!

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Left – Eastern Garter Snake I found while looking for birds. Right – California Red-sided Garter.

Next up are the racers (Coluber constrictor). As with the garter snakes, there are a few subspecies in the U.S. When I worked as an avian field technician in southern Indiana, I saw some black racers and blue racers, but not black-and-blue racers. As their name suggests, they are quite quick and agile, often zooming away before you can get close. If the Flash was bitten by a radioactive racer, he would probably become unstoppable. Racers are often found in woodland edges and near disturbed habitats such as areas that have been clear-cut. They eat a variety of prey, including many rodents, and are most active during the heat of the day. As with many other snake species, racers will seek cover such as logs, brush, or boards when temperatures are cooler. 

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Blue Racer (http://radiostudio111.com/archives/blue-racer-snake).

The largest snake in the world is the Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus). Females are capable of growing close to 30 feet long and weighing over 550 pounds! These anacondas are primarily found in forests, swamps, and streams within the Amazon Rain Forest. As you might imagine, they move much slower than racers, and will often lay submerged in muddied water, waiting to ambush unsuspecting prey. Anacondas will eat wild pigs, capybaras, birds, small mammals, deer, turtles, and even caimans (small crocodilians) and jaguars! They are very loving, often cuddling their prey before crushing their bones. Though many species of snakes lay eggs, Green Anacondas are viviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young. The young are about 2 feet long and quickly become active after being born.

Green anaconda stifling white-tailed deer Green anaconda moving over sand

Yum, tasty deer steak.

Hmm . . . maybe showing pictures of giant anacondas that could crush you and eat you isn’t the best way to conquer your fear of snakes. How about some pictures of cute snakes to ease your mind?

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What?! You didn’t think those were cute?! Let me try again.

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Albino Ball Python

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Snakes will not usually attack humans unless provoked. Even the venomous ones will usually hiss, raise their head threateningly, or flee rather than bite. In my next blog, I’ll take a look at some of the venomous snakes, snakes that mimic venomous snakes, and provide a few ridiculous puns. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to race around the block, dive into some muddy water, and attack a helpless victim before heading to the nearest Steak and Snake. 

All Frogs go to Heaven

What frog acts like a paratrooper? What frog has see-through skin? What will some frogs do to protect their eggs? What is a pacman frog? In my last blog, I wrote about giant frogs and tiny colorful frogs that could kill you. Now I’m on to some other interesting amphibians! 

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Some Glass Frogs, which include species from the Centrolenidae family, have translucent skin, which allows one to see the interior organs! The eggs of pregnant females can also be seen as well!  Glass Frogs are quite small, with an average size of 1-3 inches. Members of the Centrolenidae family can be found near forested rivers and streams in Central and South America. They spend much of their time in the forest canopy, where they hunt for insects and other small arthropods. I’m thinking of writing a book on how to dissect these frogs and calling it “Through the Looking-Glass Frog”.

<i>Centrolene quindianum</i> on leaf see-through stomach

Whereas many species of frogs lay eggs directly into ponds, pools, or vegetation, frogs from the family Hemiphractidae have the ability to carry their eggs with them. Some of these species are equipped to transport eggs hidden in a dorsal pouch, which allows better protection of the eggs from predators and extreme conditions. Though many frog species have a larval stage (tadpoles), some species, such as the Horned Marsupial Frog (Gastrotheca cornuta), keep the eggs until they develop and hatch into live froglets!

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Left – Horned Marsupial Frog. Right -Flectonotus fitzgeraldi.

The Surinam Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cornuta) can grow to 8 inches long and weigh over a pound. Because they have large mouths and a voracious appetite, eating almost anything that comes near them, they are sometimes called “pac-man frogs”. These frogs generally ambush their prey, camouflaging themselves in mud or leaf litter, and quickly striking and swallowing prey whole! Horned frogs have been known to devour prey such as crickets, centipedes, small mice, fish, other frogs, dots, and blue ghosts. Sometimes they try to swallow prey that is too large and are found dead with the intended prey sticking out of their mouths! This happened recently when a horned frog was fed Donald Trump’s ego. The purpose of the horn-like projections is unclear, though they may serve to aid in camouflage.

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Finally we come to Wallace’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus). Though these frogs don’t technically fly, they can use their thickly-webbed feet and large toe pads to glide through the air for distances of over 15 meters! These frogs live an arboreal life in the tropical jungles of Borneo and Malaysia. They usually use their super gliding abilities when attempting to escape a predator or hunt prey. Flying frogs also have loose flaps of skin, which aids in their gliding. They often breed and lay their eggs in pools formed by rain or in pits made by wallowing animals such as rhinos. As their Latin name suggests, they have black coloring on their feet. Scientists are currently researching this species in an effort to apply the frog’s gliding capabilities to human soldiers and pizza deliveries.

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Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little foray into the world of frogs! Frogs are pretty diverse and amazing creatures! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hide in a mud pit, cover myself with leaves, and snatch some unsuspecting prey.