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Thursday, October 22, 2009

RICHARD MUIRHEAD: Birds Behaving Badly - blimey! Part Two

Hi girls and boys; it`s me again.

All the entries below are from Wiliam Corliss`s book
Biological Anomalies: Birds (1998) except the first entry, immediately below, which is from Doris Rybot`s It Began Before Noah (1972), pp. 96-97, a history of mankind`s association with animals, particularly in the form of zoos. Here is the rather heart-warming story:

'One of the oddest stories of strange bedfellows concerns an eagle housed in the Museum of Natural History in Paris. This was about 1784. The great bird was moping and refusing its food. The keepers decided that the only hope of encouraging its appetite and so preventing it from dying was to give it living prey. The victim chosen was an “English cock.” He was put into the cage, and all stood round, hopefully waiting for the eagle to pounce. Instead, the eagle quite slowly approached the cock, looked him all over, and then-to the amazement of the spectators-spread a wing protectively over the smaller bird;and thus they walked together about the large cage.

The cock remained with the eagle,and from thenceforward it recovered its appetite for the usual dead meat, and was very soon completely restored to health. Simply, it had been moping for companionship. As our French author remarks: Chose curieuse et combine instructive !' (1)

Does anyone feel like following this up?

Concerning egg patterns, Corliss says: 'It is not uncommon for eggs to display... peculiar patterns and scribblings.Except as they might help in camouflaging the eggs, no profound importance can be ascribed to such random markings.On the other hand, once in a great while, an egg will be taken from the hen house with markings that are certainly not random and even seem to bear a “message”! J.Michell and R.J.M Rickard, in their Fortean classic Living Wonders,tell of several wondrous eggs. One egg making newspaper headlines in 1973 was clearly inscribed with a “6” on one end. In another instance, an egg bore the initials “WX”. One more profound egg message announced “Jesus comes.' (2)

Now, Corliss on feathers: 'Feathers as weapons. Some trogons, cuckoo-shrikes, and pigeons are armed with sharp pointed feathers on their backs and rumps. These feathers are partially erecticle and are probably useful, porcupine-like, against predators. (3) If spine-like feathers are good defensively, they should have offensive capabilities,too. The cassowaries of Australia and New Guinea are, like all ratites, flightless. Their primary feathers have been turned into formidable weapons: spines some 28 centimetres long. Not only do these spines protect these large birds from abrasive vegetation (4), but they are also used in fighting. (Note, too, that the knife-like toenails of cassowaries can disembowel unwary humans.)' (5)

'Anting: Description. The vigorous,enthusiastic, and apparently pleasurable rubbing of the plumage with, or its exposure to, ants and other substances, such as mothballs and smoke. All of the animals, objects, and substances employed in anting are acrid or pungent. Anting behaviour often seems frenzied or blissful…Rooks/Burning matches. Even more intrepid was a tame Rook.This Rook, while with its former owner, Diana Ross, the novelist, took to opening boxes of matches of the non-“safety” kind. He quickly learned that by holding a match in his toes and pecking at its red head he could cause it to burst into flame. The moment this happens, Corbie, as the Rook is known, picks the match up in his beak, goes into a magnificent anting posture and rubs the lighted match up and down the inside of his arched wings.' (6,7,)

  1. D.Rybot It Began Before Noah (1972) pp 96-97
  2. J.Michell and R.J.M. Rickard Living Wonders (1983) p.167 in W.Corliss Biological Anomalies: Birds (1998)p.98
  3. A.Thompson,A.Landsborough, A New Dictionary of Birds (1964) pp 153, 173,483 in W.Corliss Ibid p.45
  4. F.B.Gill Ornithology (1990) pp 59,61,68 in W.Corliss Ibid p.45
  5. See chapters BHX8-X2 in Corliss: Humans III
  6. M.Burton “ A Possible Explanation of the Phoenix Myth.” New Scientist 1:10, June 27,1957 in W.Corliss op cit p.163
  7. V.Markotic Current Anthroplogy 16:477,1975 in W.Corliss op cit. p.163

That`s all, folks. Next blog will look at odd-coloured foxes in Britain.

They tell us that we lost our tails,

Evolving up from little snails,

I say it`s all just wind and sails,

Are we not men? We are Devo! (Devo-Jocko Homo)

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