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I just watched a National Geographic documentary "Unseen Islands: Atlantic Arks" and there was some thing strange in Tristan island. Some small bird which changed its diet to feed on the blood and meat of the penguins on this island.
I want to know more about this bird - or its name so I can search it - and if there are other examples of this behavior of changing diets.
You almost certainly mean the Tristan Thrush, Turdus eremita, which is endemic to Tristan da Cunha. The species is considered to be an opportunistic omnivorous scavenger, but their diet includes the eggs and chicks of many seabird species, as well as the adults of some smaller seabird species.
The Wikipedia page for the species mentions that Tristan Thrush has been recorded drinking penguin blood, citing a BBC documentary which I don't have access to. Five species of penguin have been recorded on Tristan da Cunha, but only the Northern Rockhopper Penguin breeds there (the others are rare visitors to the island). Given the nature of penguin colonies (i.e., densely-packed, and with abundant chicks as well as occasional sick adults), there would be many opportunities for an opportunistic omnivorous scavenger to eat penguin blood, chicks, eggs, or carrion.
How Many Types of Penguins are There?
Penguins are flightless, aquatic birds that belong to the order Sphenisciformes and the family Spheniscidae. These birds live almost exclusively south of the Equator with the exception of the Galapagos penguin which lives in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Penguins usually feed on crustaceans, cephalopods, and fishes found in the sea. These birds spend nearly half of their lives in water and half on land. Here we present the species of penguins living in the world today.
Animal Diversity Web
Pygoscelis papua , or more commonly known as gentoo penguins, are exclusively found in the Southern Hemisphere between 45 and 65 degrees south latitude. Within this range, gentoos are found on the Antarctic Peninsula as well as many sub-Antarctic islands. Only about 13% of all gentoo penguins live south of the Antarctic ice pack.
One of the most predominant locations gentoos inhabit is the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. Around 40% of P. papua worldwide are found within this archipelago. (Pistorius, et al., 2010 Quintana, 2001)
Gentoo penguins typically are found along the shoreline. This allows the penguins to be able to quickly access food while remaining close to their nest. They prefer elevations close to 115 meters above sea level along the shore because the snow in these areas tends to melt first. The higher the altitude, the decreased likelihood of nest-flooding as the snow starts to melt during the summer. The terrain in these areas is also flat which helps to stabilize their nests. Gentoo penguins prefer north-facing locations for nesting, which is thought to be linked to absorbing solar radiation. The main feature of gentoo habitats is the prevalence of small pebbles, typically under 5 centimeters in diameter. These pebbles are the main building blocks in creating a sufficient nest to hold the eggs during breeding season.
Gentoo penguins also spend some of their day underwater for feeding excursions. These aquatic trips are typically short the longest dive on record is only two minutes long. Gentoos typically dive down only 3 to 20 meters, with occasional deeper dives up to 70 meters. (Adams and Brown, 1983 Quintana, 2001)
- Habitat Regions
- saltwater or marine
- Terrestrial Biomes
- Aquatic Biomes
- Average elevation 115 m 377.30 ft
- Range depth 3.5 to 70.0 m 11.48 to 229.66 ft
- Average depth 9.0 m 29.53 ft
Like all penguin species, the ventral side of gentoo penguins is white while the dorsal side is black. This color pattern is known as countershading. This adaptation is useful while swimming underwater the lightly colored ventral side helps penguins blend in with the sky for predators or prey that are looking up. The dark dorsal side blends in with the ocean floor for predators or prey looking down.
The major difference between gentoo penguins and other penguin species are their head markings. Gentoos feature two white wedges around their eyes that are connected by a medium-sized line across the tops of their heads. Their heads are mostly covered in black feathers but small flecks of white feathers can also be found.
The feathers of gentoos are very fine every square inch of their body can be covered with up to 70 feathers. Gentoos are part of a group called the "brush-tail penguins" which characterizes their tails as having longer feathers than those of other penguin species. Their tails consist of 14 to 18 feathers and are about 15 centimeters long. Because gentoos are aquatic, they must make their feathers waterproof. Using their bills, they do so by covering their feathers with oil found in the uropygial gland near the base of their tails.
Of the 17 penguin species, gentoo penguins are the third largest in size. They stand roughly at 76 centimeters when they reach adulthood. Depending on the time of the year, they can weigh anywhere from 4.5 to 8.5 kilograms. Heavier weights are seen during their month-long molting phase.
Their feet are stout, fat, and webbed. They are bright orange with long black claws extending from the webbing. The beak of a gentoo is partially black but has a bright dark-orange to red spot on either side. The color of the spot is attributed to the carotenoids absorbed from the krill they eat.
There is very little difference between the males and females. The main characteristic differentiating between the sexes is size. Males are significantly larger than females in almost all respects such as bill length, flipper length, and height.
Gentoo penguins look very similar from the time they hatch until their first molt which occurs at around 14 months. Chicks have downy-gray feathers and a weak, dull-colored bill. The white wedges around the eyes are noticeable at a young age however, they are not as well-defined or connected along the top of their head like the adults. (Cuervo, et al., 2009 McMillan, 1993 Naveen, 1999 Renner, et al., 1998 Williams, 1995)
- Other Physical Features
- bilateral symmetry
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes alike
- male larger
- Range mass 4.5 to 8.5 kg 9.91 to 18.72 lb
- Range length 70 to 95 cm 27.56 to 37.40 in
- Average length 75 cm 29.53 in
- Range wingspan 22.2 to 25.6 cm 8.74 to 10.08 in
Females' choice of male mates is based on male behaviors. First, the male gentoos find the best spot for a potential nest. The prime areas are those that are flat with little to no snow or ice. Once a potential nest site is chosen, the males point their bills vertically in the air and bellow out calls. The calls announce to the females to come and investigate their nest site. If a female waddles by and "likes" the nest site, the male and female will mutually display by trumpeting or bowing.
Gentoo penguins are monogamous during a breeding season, with some pair bonds lasting a lifetime. "Divorces" (the breaking of pair-bonds) do occur between breeding seasons. In this case, females choose a new partner that has displayed greater reproductive success. As colonial breeders, direct observation of nesting success is possible. The divorce rate in gentoos is less than 20 percent, which is relatively low compared to other penguin species. The benefit to a monogamous relationship is that mates do not have to expend time and energy finding new mates each year. (Croxall and Davis, 1999 Frédérique, et al., 1998 Williams, 1995)
Gentoo penguins can begin breeding at two years of age, although most don't until they are about three or four. Living in colonies, gentoo penguins can gather in groups of over 2,000 pairs at one breeding site. At the beginning of the breeding season, nests are built by the parents. Gentoo nests are spaced about a meter apart. The egg-laying season for P. papau begins from June to mid-August and usually finishes in late October to late November.
After the nest has been completed, the female will stay at the nest and lay her egg 5 days post-breeding. A second egg is laid three days later. The eggs are spherical and greenish-white. The weight of the first egg in relation to the second egg varies between nesting locations, but on average egg weight is 125 grams. There have been rare cases where one or three eggs were laid.
If the set of eggs is lost, gentoo penguins can lay a second set of eggs during the same breeding season. These eggs are laid near the end of the breeding season when the female regains sufficient energy. The downside to a late laying is reduced energy, causing a late molting period. Females do not have enough energy to begin their molt right after breeding and therefore delay molting. This, in turn, delays egg-laying the following year. Indeed, the female may not have enough energy to lay a clutch the next year.
The eggs are incubated for an average of 35 days before hatching. Although the eggs are laid days apart from each other, they typically hatch on the same day or one day apart. The chicks are frail and weigh about 96 grams. The chicks stay at the nest for the first 75 days until they are ready to fledge and visit the ocean for the first time. During this fledging period, gentoo chicks make an average of 5 trips to sea. The young reach independence 20 days post-fledging. (Bost and Jouventin, 1990 McMillan, 1993 Williams, 1995)
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Breeding interval Gentoo penguins breed once a year.
- Breeding season The breeding season for gentoo penguins starts in June to mid-August and ends in late October to late November.
- Range eggs per season 1 to 3
- Range time to hatching 34 to 35 days
- Average time to hatching 37 days
- Range fledging age 75 to 105 days
- Average fledging age 80 days
- Range time to independence 85 to 105 days
- Average time to independence 100 days
- Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female) 2 to 3 years
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female) 2 years
- Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male) 2 to 3 years
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male) 2 years
Both parents are involved in nest-building. The nest is bowl shaped with a wide edge and a hollow center. Nest size ranges between 10 to 20 cm in height and around 45 cm in diameter. Nests are made from small stones found around the nesting site, including stones stolen from other nests. Medium-sized nests can contain over 1,700 pebbles. Although pebbles are the main component of nests, sometimes molted feathers, twigs, and vegetation are used.
Members of both sexes defend their nests from other birds that come too close. P. papau will stick out its bill toward the invader and let out a low hiss. Competition for territory exists between two adjacent nests in which parents will turn their neck towards their neighbor and try to grab and twist their bill. Although rare, fighting with bills and flippers has been observed.
The female lays two eggs within 3 days of each other. The eggs are kept safely under the male or female for the 35 days of incubation. For the first three to four weeks, the chicks are guarded in the nest. The parents take turns getting food and regurgitating it for the chicks. Near the end of this stage, the chicks begin to move short distances away from the nest and form groups with other chicks (creches). These groups serve to protect against predators while both parents to forage for the growing young. The young fledge at 70 days old and will enter the sea for the first time. Both parents will still feed their chicks (although not as often) during the fledging period. Feedings have occasionally been recorded post-independence. (Gales, et al., 2009 McMillan, 1993 Naveen, 1999 Polito and Trivelpiece, 2008 Spilsbury and Spilsbury, 2004 Williams, 1995)
- Parental Investment
- male parental care
- female parental care
On average, gentoo penguins live to be 13 years old. Most deaths occur within the first year of life, with only a 30 to 50 percent chance of surviving until the next year. Beyond the first year, survival increases to an annual rate of 80 percent.
In captivity, the mean life span for P. papau is 10.5 years. Some individuals have lived to be older however there are many deaths due to weather patterns (for outside exhibits) and for not maintaining a sufficient diet for the penguins. (Gailey-Phipps, 1978 Gilpin, 2007 Williams, 1995)
Gentoo penguins are highly territorial of their nests. For the most part, gentoo penguins live in the same place that they breed. The main reason for moving locations is because of ice formation during the winter months, in which case they will move to an ice-free location.
After the chicks have fledged and made their final departure from the nesting site, adult gentoos begin their annual molt. The pre-molt period begins in January when the adults go out to sea for long foraging trips. They make frequent trips and rapidly gain weight to reach maximum mass at this point of the year. Molting is an energy intensive event, and penguins must gorge themselves to build up fat reserves. This pre-molt period lasts for around 55 days. The actual molting stage lasts 25 days. During this time, P. papau cannot make forages out to sea and must fast, losing about 200 grams a day. Gentoos typically move away from the nesting site to molt. (McMillan, 1993 Williams, 1995)
- Key Behaviors
- Average territory size 1 m^2
Gentoo penguins do not defend any territory except the area directly around the nest, averaging 1 square meter in size. (McMillan, 1993)
Communication and Perception
Visually speaking, gentoo penguins see excellently underwater, although they are impaired when on land. Their retinas are very sensitive to the colors seen underwater such as green, blue, and purple. However this vision becomes impaired once they reach the surface of the water.
Gentoo penguins communicate with each other through a squawking vocalization. These calls typically are higher pitched and louder in males. Gentoos vocalize for a variety of reasons for example, when a male or female returns after feeding they will point their beaks straight up into the air and bellow out squawks to announce their return.
During incubation the parents take turns sitting on the eggs. When the other parent returns (mainly from feeding), a series of displays ensue. The arriving penguin does either a loud display in which he/she bellows out into the air or can do a bowing display in which the penguin bows down to the nest and gives a low hissing sound. Either of these displays communicates to the penguin on the egg that the returning penguin is ready to watch over the nest. The change-over of the nest between parents usually takes three minutes. Sometimes, the displays are reciprocated by the current incubator.
At times during the mating season, the male will rub the female's face and then the two of them will rub their bills together. Also, when one returns to the breeding ground with a stone to use for the nest, the other will bow repeatedly to accept the stone. These displays likely serve to strengthen the pair bond.
Gentoo penguins will also make sounds when another penguin is encroaching on its territory. Gentoos will make low hissing sounds if the interaction is not a high threat level. As a threat looms closer, gentoos will let out grunts.
Chicks communicate with their parents when they want food with high-pitched chirping sounds. In other situations, chicks make a modified whistle call until they reach their first molt where they develop the adult call. Chicks can distinguish their parents call apart from the calls of the thousands of other gentoos that may be nesting within the colony. Like all birds, gentoo penguins perceive their environments through visual, auditory, tactile, and chemical stimuli. (McMillan, 1993 Müller-Schwarze and Müller-Schwarze, 1980 Naveen, 1999 Williams, 1995)
- Communication Channels
- Other Communication Modes
- Perception Channels
Gentoo penguins are carnivores and mainly consume fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. Different times of the year mark different percentages of their diet. Krill (Euphausia vallentini) and shrimp ( Nauticaris marioni ) make up most of the crustacean diet. In February and March, crustaceans make up about 10% of their diet but from March to June it jumps to 75%. All other times of the year, crustaceans are absent from their diet.
From June to October, rockcod (Lepidonotothen squamifrons) make up 90% of their diet, but they also consume unicorn icefish (Channichthys rhinoceratus). Cephalopods only make up 10% of their diet during the year. The main types of cephalopods foraged on are octopi and sometimes small squid. The seasonal diet variation is due the presence of other penguin species during breeding season, seasonal migration of prey, as well as the availability of prey at varying depths. Most other penguins forage in deeper waters which will push some prey species closer to shore and into the prime range for gentoos.
Gentoo penguins feed in shallow regions. When they are underwater, their metabolic rate slows down enabling them to stay underwater for longer periods to forage.
During the chick-rearing stage, parent gentoos will return to the nest and regurgitate their freshly caught food for their chicks to eat. (Adams and Klages, 1989 McMillan, 1993)
- Primary Diet
- Animal Foods
- aquatic crustaceans
Young chicks are at much greater risk of predation than adults. Brown skuas ( Catharacta lonnbergi ) are the main predators of penguin chicks. Skuas mainly feed on the chicks and eggs found along the edge of the population which are perceived as weak and solitary. The formation of chick crèches act as an anti-predator-defense. Skuas are less likely to attack the crèches of gentoo chicks because it is hard to distinguish where one chick is within a group.
In the water, waddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) have been seen feeding on gentoos. Leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) will travel in the gentoo breeding grounds and attack penguins leaving and returning to the colony. They are most often seen eating chicks as they first enter the water during fledging. Other species of seals such as fur seals from the genus Arctocephalus and southern sea-lions from the genus Otaria have been observed eating gentoos, although their impact on the population is unknown.
The main adaptation to evade predators is countershading. Aquatic predators can look down and see the black dorsal side of the gentoo, which blends in with the ocean floor. Likewise, seals looking up see the white ventral side, which blends in with the light from the sky. (Cobley and Bell, 1998 Emslie, et al., 1995 McMillan, 1993 Williams, 1995)
- Anti-predator Adaptations
- Known Predators
- Brown skuas ( Catharacta lonnberg )
- Waddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii)
- Leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx)
- Fur seals (Arctocephalus)
- Southern sea-lions (Otaria)
Gentoos live in colonies with other gentoos, but are also known to live in colonies with other penguin species. Although the species all forage in the ocean, different species are partitioned to forage at different depths or distances. P. papau do not negatively affect other penguin species since they mainly forage right offshore.
Because gentoos live in large colonies with thousands of birds, flea and tick prevalence is high. Fleas from the genus Parapsyllus are common. The most prevalent tick is Ixodes uriae, which mainly affects the exposed skin of chicks such as ear canals, feet, and faces.
Cestodes, members of the genus Tetrabothrius, have been found in the intestines of Pygoscelis papau but little is known about their life cycle. The cestodes are found in various crustaceans that make up the gentoos' diet. Members of the genus Corynosoma also have been reported in gentoos.
Parorchites zederi , another species of cestode, latches onto the inside of gentoos' intestines. These parasites create small pouches in the intestines and insert their pseudoscoleces ("false heads") in them to feed. The areas that P. zederi latch onto increase in volume due to the creation of more intestinal cells and blood flow to the area increases. (Duignan, 2001 Tzvetkov, et al., 1999 Williams, 1995)
- Intestinal parasites ( Tetrabothrius pauliani )
- Intestinal parasites ( Tetrabothrius wrighti )
- Fleas (Parapsyllus)
- Ticks (Ixodes uriae)
- Intestinal parasites ( Parorchites zederi )
- Intestinal parasites ( Corynosoma )
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Penguins have been hunted for their blubber, which can be purified to oil and used for fuel. Hundreds of thousands of penguins were killed for their blubber, with some breeding colonies becoming obsolete. Gentoo skins are also collected and used to make caps, clothes, slippers, and purses. In the late 1980's, egg collecting was popular by sailors and by locals. These eggs also were consumed in large quantities. (Johnson, 1981 Peterson, 1979 Williams, 1995)
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no known adverse effects of Pygoscelis papau on humans.
The worldwide gentoo penguin population is stable with around 628,000 individuals. Some of these colonies are increasing moderately while others are declining rapidly. The constant, and sometimes drastic, changes in population size has gentoos listed as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN Red List. There are currently no conservation efforts in action, although some proposals suggest extending long-term observations on breeding colonies to limit disturbances of nesting sites. Protected areas have been set up in gentoo breeding grounds, including those on MacQuarie Island and Heard Island. ("Pygoscelis Papau", 2010 Schafer, 2000)
Kiersten Newtoff (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects.
lives on Antarctica, the southernmost continent which sits astride the southern pole.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
to jointly display, usually with sounds in a highly coordinated fashion, at the same time as one other individual of the same species, often a mate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
parental care is carried out by males
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
an animal that mainly eats fish
the regions of the earth that surround the north and south poles, from the north pole to 60 degrees north and from the south pole to 60 degrees south.
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.
uses sight to communicate
2010. "Pygoscelis Papau" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed October 23, 2010 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/144800/0.
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Adams, N., C. Brown. 1983. Diving depths of the gentoo penguin (pygoscelis papua). The Condor , 85: 503-504.
Bost, C., P. Jouventin. 1990. Laying asynchrony in gentoo penguins on Crozet Islands: Causes and consequences. Ornis Scandinavica , 21/1: 63-70.
Cobley, N., G. Bell. 1998. Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) feeding on gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papau). Marine Mammal Science , 14/4: 881-883.
Croxall, J., L. Davis. 1999. Penguins: Paradoxes and patterns. Marine Ornithology , 27: 1-12.
Cuervo, J., M. Palacios, A. Barbosa. 2009. Beak colouration as a possible sexual ornament in gentoo penguins: Sexual dichromatism and relationship to body condition. Polar Biology , 32/9: 1305-1314.
Duignan, P. 2001. Disease of penguins. Surveillance , 28/4: 5-11.
Emslie, S., N. Karnovsky, W. Trivelpiece. 1995. Avian predation at penguin colonies on King George Island, Antarctica. The Wilson Bulletin , 107/2: 317-327.
Frédérique, D., F. Cézilly, M. Pagel. 1998. Mate fidelity and coloniality in waterbirds: A comparative analysis. Oecologia , 116/3: 433-440.
Gailey-Phipps, J. 1978. A world survey of penguins in captivity. International Zoo Yearbook , 18/1: 7-13.
Gales, R., B. Green, J. Libke, K. Newgrain, D. Pemberton. 2009. Breeding energetics and food requirements of gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) at Heard and Macquarie Islands. Journal of Zoology , 231/1: 125-139.
Gilpin, D. 2007. Penguins: Lifestyle - Habitat - Feeding - Behavior . New York, NY: Parragon Inc.
Johnson, S. 1981. Penguins . Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Co..
McMillan, B. 1993. Penguins at Home: Gentoos of Antarctica . New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Müller-Schwarze, D., C. Müller-Schwarze. 1980. Display rate and speed of nest relief in antarctic Pygoscelid penguins. The Auk , 97/4: 825-831.
Naveen, R. 1999. Waiting to Fly . New York, NY: William Morrow & Company.
Peterson, R. 1979. Penguins . Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Pistorius, P., N. Huin, S. Crofts. 2010. Population change and resilience in gentoo penguins Pygoscelis papua at the Falkland Islands. Marine Ornithology , 38/1: 49-53.
Polito, M., W. Trivelpiece. 2008. Transition to independence and evidence of extended parental care in the gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua). Marine Biology , 154/2: 231-240.
Quintana, R. 2001. Nest-site characteristics of a gentoo penguin Pygoscelis papau colony at Cierva Point, Antarctic Peninsula. Marine Ornithology , 29/2: 109-112.
Quintana, R., V. Cirelli. 2000. Breeding dynamics of a gentoo penguin Pygoscelis papau population at Cierva Point, Antarctic Peninsula. Marine Ornithology , 28/1: 29-35.
Renner, M., J. Valencia, L. Davis, D. Saez, O. Cifuentes. 1998. Sexing of adult gentoo penguins in Antarctica using morphometrics. Colonial Waterbirds , 21/3: 444-449.
Schafer, K. 2000. Penguin Planet: Their World, Our World . Minnetonka: Northwood Press.
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Tzvetkov, Y., A. Kril, B. Georgiev, N. Chipev. 1999. Morphology of lesions in the intestinal wall of gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papau, caused by Parorchites zederi. Bulgarian Anarctic Research , 2: 62-67.
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What is the name of the bird which feeds on penguin blood and meat in Tristan island? - Biology
What does a bald eagle eat?
Fish is the primary food of bald eagles, but they will eat a variety of other animals and birds. Their prey items include waterfowl and small mammals like squirrels, prairie dogs, raccoons and rabbits. Bald eagles are opportunistic predators meaning that in addition to hunting for live prey, they will steal from other animals (primarily from other eagles or smaller fish eating birds) or scavenge on carrion.
What does a golden eagle eat?
A golden eagle’s diet consists primarily of small to medium size mammals such as rabbits, ground squirrels and marmots, as well as birds and reptiles. They have been observed preying on larger mammals like young pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep. Golden eagles are terrestrial predators. They are rarely found near the water and generally do not feed on fish.
How much can an eagle eat at one time?
The average eagle needs between ½ and 1 pound of food each day. However, eagles do not need to eat daily. Because food sources may not be available daily, an eagle can gorge on food when it is available and hold up to 2 pounds of food in their crop.
How large is an eagle’s stomach?
An eagle’s stomach is quite small, about the size of a walnut. However, eagles can eat up to 1/3 of their own body weight in food. They have an area called the crop to store food, allowing them to survive without finding food everyday.
How do eagles kill their prey?
Like all raptors, eagles kill their prey with their talons. Each eagle foot has four very sharp talons, three in the front facing back and one larger talon (the hallux) in the back facing forward. The crushing strength of each talon (provided by powerful leg muscles) is estimated to be at least 400 pounds per square inch (psi) per talon.
Do eagles eat the bones of their prey?
Yes, and the bones provide important nutrients. The acids in the eagle’s digestive system are strong enough to dissolve bones, which are completely digested.
How much can an eagle carry?
An eagle can carry about 1/3 its body weight. Although eagles have the power to kill prey many times their own size, eagles are unable to carry more than just a few pounds.
If a bald eagle catches a fish that is too heavy to lift out of the water, the eagle may “swim” a short distance to shore dragging the fish still gripped in their talons and using their wings in breast stroke fashion.
Most of the time, Chopper is a toddler-sized human/reindeer hybrid, but his Devil Fruit abilities allow him to change his appearance depending on the situation. Chopper's left antler is braced at the base by a metal plate because it was reattached after being broken during his search for the Amiudake when he was younger (where he thought the Amiudake can cure Hiriluk's disease) and ran into the leader of his old herd, who severely injured him. ⎚] He usually wears a large pale red/pink fuzzy top hat with a sideways medical cross (given to him by Hiriluk) and a maroon pair of shorts. He also sometimes wears a blue backpack that has the same sideways medical cross as his hat. He also has a remarkable blue nose. As Oda's style evolved and many readers commented on how cute Chopper was, Chopper has been given a much more "chibi" like appearance, meaning that when in his preferred transformation (which he calls Brain Point), he has a larger head and eyes and a less defined muzzle than earlier in the series. Many female characters, such as Nami, Robin, Makino, Porche, Shakky, and Vivi find Chopper very cute. There are even males that find Chopper cute such as Foxy and Breed.
A running gag is that various characters in One Piece think Chopper is a tanuki (raccoon-dog, often simply translated as "a raccoon") while in his Brain Point or hybrid form. The word "tonakai", which is the Japanese word for "reindeer", is where the "Tony" in Chopper's name is derived from. His Heavy Point or human form is likewise mistaken for a gorilla (or an abominable snowman on his home island).
Before the Timeskip
Similar to most of his male crewmates, Chopper has the same outfit throughout most of the series.
In the Arabasta Arc, he wore a shirt with a green-lined collar, then a bigger one with giant sleeves that is light blue with dark blue liners.
In the Enies Lobby Arc, he wore a red leather jacket.
In the Post Enies Lobby Arc, he wore a blue t-shirt.
After the Timeskip
After two years, Chopper is significantly leaner. He is less potbellied than he was in earlier seasons and his arms/forelimbs are also skinnier. It is arguable that since leaving the cold climate on Drum Island, he has lost significant body fat. The color of his fur has changed from brown to gold, and according to Nami (when she and Chopper reunite on Sabaody), the texture has gotten softer.
Chopper now wears a blue cap that has a ring of dots around the circle, while the cap has buckles hanging from it. He wears this over his old pink hat. He also wears a white and yellow vertical-striped tank top, which he takes off when he transforms into Heavy Point, and an orange pair of shorts. Aside from being slightly slimmer and having his fur changing from dark brown into a light brown color, Chopper's Brain Point form has not changed. His Walk Point (reindeer) form has grown considerably, now being roughly as tall as Usopp. His horns are larger, he has more muscle, and his fur is longer. His Heavy Point has become exceedingly larger and more muscular, being almost the size of Dosun's. He also developed new transformations through his research during the timeskip, which he debuts on Fish-Man Island, including Kung Fu Point (which he uses to defeat Neptune's soldiers) and a revised Horn Point (which he uses against Daruma).
While on Punk Hazard, he was given a black coat by Kin'emon using his Fuku Fuku No Mi. He was later dressed up in samurai attire made from the same ability when the crew had departed from Punk Hazard.
At the start of the Dressrosa Arc, Chopper wore camouflage clothing. After the crew split up, he changed his headgear for the first time since the timeskip, putting on a football helmet with holes for his antlers that has three horizontal stripes running vertically down the middle, with two small ones beside one larger one, as well as large stars on each side of the helmet. He also put on a zippered coat with the same stripe pattern running horizontally all around the middle of the coat, with inverse coloration of the stripes on the helmet and a pattern of stars inside the large stripe on the coat.
During his stay on Zou, Chopper's outfit consists of his original timeskip hat with a crown on top. He wears no shirt and has a long open coat with fur and fancy jewelry attached. Upon leaving Zou, Chopper wore an open doctor's coat.
During the Whole Cake Island Arc, he wore a yellow overcoat and had a pink scarf wrapped around his hat. Afterwards, when meeting with the Fire Tank Pirates he wore an outfit similar to Luffy's, black suit (dark blue in the anime) with a green shirt and a yellow ascot.
Video Game / Tales of Berseria
Tales of Berseria is the sixteenth title in the Tales Series, and a Prequel set in the distant past of Tales of Zestiria. The game was released in 2016 for the PS3, PS4, and PC. A Western localization was released for January 2017, though the PS3 version was not released outside of Japan due to the waning popularity of the format outside of the Japanese market. It is the first Mothership Tales title to have a female protagonist (who is not sharing the position with a male protagonist).
Many hundreds of years before the events of Zestiria, the continent of Midgand suffered under a terrible curse called "Daemonblight". Ordinary humans and animals became possessed by evil spirits and were transformed into bloodthirsty monsters that preyed upon the living. That was until the day a saviour named Artorius Colbrande appeared and united the world against the bestial hordes that threatened to destroy it. Wielding a holy sword and a philosophy of "reason over emotion", Artorius causes the Advent of angelic malakhim into the world, and leads the Exorcists of "The Abbey" in a crusade to eradicate Daemonblight once and for all.
Yet in a dark prison cell far from human contact lies a woman named Velvet Crowe, whose peaceful life was shattered three years ago in one of the "Scarlet Nights" that used to inspire terror the world over - the same night the rest of the world knows as the Advent. Velvet knows the terrible truth of how Artorius gained his divine strength during that Scarlet Night, an incident that twisted her left arm with daemonic power, left dark scars upon her former kindness. and left her bereaved of her little brother. One night, a mysterious woman, who Velvet suspects she knows, visits her cell. The woman has a proposal: if Velvet can escape from the prison, the woman will help her take revenge upon Artorius. With burning hatred in her heart, Velvet embarks on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that threatens to uproot and revolutionize the world order.
Gameplay contains most Tales staples like cooking, percentage-based healing items, skits and a real-time combat system with shades of Stylish Action mechanics. However, several variations have been introduced, particularly in combat. While most former Tales games had one button for physical attacks and another for "Artes," Berseria borrows from the Tales of Graces and Tales of Zestiria combat system, where all attacks are technically Artes, divided between "Martial" Artes (the replacement for physical attacks) and Arcane Artes (magic). There are some changes from the previous games' system, however players may bring sixteen of these attacks into battle, assigning them to a grid which deploys a different skill depending on which button you press, which can be chained for up to four inputs. Combos are limited by the "Soul Gauge," which by default has three souls in it. Souls are temporarily consumed when attacking, but regenerate quickly. The three-Soul Cap can be raised by stunning or slaying foes, to a maximum of five &mdash but note that enemies can do this to you as well, potentially leaving you Cherry Tapping away with only one Soul's worth of Artes to use. Finally, the cap can be lowered by one to use a Limit Break called a "Break Soul," which are special attacks and abilities unique to each party member. For example, Velvet's Break Soul grants her a Super Mode which increases her damage output, allows her to perform combo finishers called Break Artes, and makes her immune to staggering, but causes her HP to gradually drop overtime through continued use. Break Souls cannot be used if the character has less than 3 Souls, but can help increase the length of combos. The game brings back the Blast Gauge mechanic from Zestiria, but adds a second element called a "Switch Blast," a Switch-Out Move that consumes one Soul but can also be used to continue combos.
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Law is a slim man of a relatively tall height. He has faint shadows right under his yellow eyes (grey in the anime), and his face is usually seen with a smirk. He wears a northern-style fur hat, which is white and has a spotted pattern along the bottom and the bill. He has short dark hair, a majority of which is obscured by his hat, save for his sideburns and a small goatee. Ώ] His hair color is depicted as black in both the anime and manga, though sometimes the manga depicts it as blue.
He has many tribal-style tattoos on his arms on both of his hands are letters spelled as D E A T H tattooed in black on each of the back of his fingers. Originally in the manga, his right hand was not tattooed ⎠] while his left thumb had the letter A missing. Ώ] Later on, all of his fingers were tattooed completely with all five letters. ⎡] He also has a black cross on the back of both of his hands. Ώ] On his chest, he has a tribal-style heart tattoo with his Jolly Roger on it. He has a simpler heart tattoo on his shoulders and his Jolly Roger tattooed on his back. ⎢]
Before the Timeskip
He is seen wearing a yellow hoodie, with black sleeves and black hood. The hoodie has his Jolly Roger printed on the front of the chest area in dark ink, and he keeps the sleeves rolled up. Law wears a northern-style fur hat that has a rim running all around it. It is white in color and has a black dot pattern along the rim and lower areas of the hat. Law also sports a pair of jeans with odd dots on both the knee and ankle areas, similar to the ones on his hat, but darker in color. He sports a pair of dark, pointed shoes. He has a pair of small earrings on each ear. Ώ]
In SBS Volume 64, Oda drew the Supernovas as children. Law is shown with his fur hat and his faint shadows right under his eyes, but wore the uniform for the medical academy he was attending: a blue lab coat with a red tie, dark blue shorts, and green shoes. He was also holding a scalpel on his right hand and a frog on his left hand, since he was already in training to become a surgeon with his father being his teacher. ⎣] After escaping Flevance, Law lost his tie and lab coat, and his shirt underneath became more raggedy, and his shorts have white spots on them. Because of his heritage, he inherited the Amber Lead Syndrome that accumulated throughout the generations of Flevance, which left his skin white and pallid until he obtained his cure. Ε]
After the Timeskip
In Oda's depiction of the Supernovas post-timeskip, he seems to have lost the fur rim of his hat, and replaced it with a thick bill, turning it into a rather spherical hat resembling a Wool Skipper. His goatee has become somewhat scruffier, and his right hand now also has the fingers tattooed. He now wears a yellow t-shirt similar in appearance to his old hoodie. He wears a black hoodie over the t-shirt, which features his Jolly Roger on the chest area in yellowish-orange ink. The sleeves of the hoodie are no longer rolled up, and it now has a fluffy fur collar.
During the Punk Hazard Arc, Law wears a long black coat with his crew's jolly roger along the hem and on the sleeve. ΐ]
During the Dressrosa Arc, he wears an open black coat with a hood which features the word Corazon on the back. ⎤] During his second confrontation with Doflamingo, Law's right arm was cut off. It is later reattached by Leo and healed by Mansherry. ⎥]
During the Zou Arc, Law changed into a dark, short-sleeved shirt with a light-colored heart pattern on the lower left side. He also bears stitch marks on his right arm after it being reattached by Leo.
During the Wano Country Arc, Law wears a black and white yukata with his two Jolly Roger, an orange sash, a brown jittoku with yellow five-petal flower patterns and spots, and zōri. ⎦] He briefly wears a tengai to hide his identity from his enemies such as Hawkins. ⎧] During the raid on Onigashima, Law wears a yellow shirt and a blue cloak with fluffy fur collar. ⎨] Law's outfit had different colors (a black cloak with a brown fluffy fur collar, a white collared shirt, and dark blue pants) in the original "DREAMIN' ON" opening.
Penguins are the only extant family of flightless diving birds. They currently comprise at least 18 species, distributed from polar to tropical environments in the Southern Hemisphere. The history of their diversification and adaptation to these diverse environments remains controversial. We used 22 new genomes from 18 penguin species to reconstruct the order, timing, and location of their diversification, to track changes in their thermal niches through time, and to test for associated adaptation across the genome. Our results indicate that the penguin crown-group originated during the Miocene in New Zealand and Australia, not in Antarctica as previously thought, and that Aptenodytes is the sister group to all other extant penguin species. We show that lineage diversification in penguins was largely driven by changing climatic conditions and by the opening of the Drake Passage and associated intensification of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Penguin species have introgressed throughout much of their evolutionary history, following the direction of the ACC, which might have promoted dispersal and admixture. Changes in thermal niches were accompanied by adaptations in genes that govern thermoregulation and oxygen metabolism. Estimates of ancestral effective population sizes (Ne) confirm that penguins are sensitive to climate shifts, as represented by three different demographic trajectories in deeper time, the most common (in 11 of 18 penguin species) being an increased Ne between 40 and 70 kya, followed by a precipitous decline during the Last Glacial Maximum. The latter effect is most likely a consequence of the overall decline in marine productivity following the last glaciation.
Few organisms have been as successful at colonizing the globe as seabirds, a large ecological assemblage of oceanic and nearshore species that undergo some of the most remarkable foraging and migratory journeys on Earth (1, 2). Despite their ubiquitous presence, surprisingly little is known about the mechanisms that spurred their diversification and allowed their adaptation to diverse and often dynamic oceanic habitats.
As the only living clade of flightless diving birds, penguins (order Sphenisciformes) occupy both terrestrial and marine habitats. They forage across a wide range of ocean temperatures and depths, from Antarctic to tropical waters (3). Our understanding of penguin diversification and adaptation is hampered by disagreements about their phylogenetic relationships (4 ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ –11) and the chronology of their radiation. Estimates made using few genetic markers from different parts of the genome (4 ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ –9, 11) recover discordant results, as genomic regions vary in their mutation rates and evolutionary histories, including unknown patterns of gene introgression when different species hybridize (12). The divergence times of ordinal crown age also vary, spanning the Miocene and Eocene (9.9 to 47.6 Mya) (4, 5, 8, 9), yet the earliest crown group penguin fossil dates to the late Miocene (13).
Reconstructions of ancestral distributions and climatic niches are critical to our understanding of penguin diversification. Existing hypotheses conflict: positing either an Antarctic origin with later expansion toward warmer areas (5) or a sub-Antarctic origin with subsequent colonization of Southern Ocean islands and Antarctica (7, 11). Testing these alternative hypotheses on a broad scale requires accurate knowledge of the pattern and chronology of penguin phylogeny. Candidate drivers of diversification have been hypothesized and provide an explicit framework for testing. The extent of ice and changes in the currents of the Southern Ocean during repeated glacial cycles likely played a significant role in the structuring and lineage diversification of seabird populations (14), including penguins (15, 16). Population sizes of several penguin species contracted during glaciation and expanded during postglacial periods (17). Sharp changes in these effective population sizes suggest that the diversification of penguins has been sensitive to climate shifts.
Biogeographic boundaries in the Southern Ocean, particularly the Antarctic Polar Front (APF) and the Subtropical Front (STF), serve as barriers to dispersal for some penguin species (15, 16, 18, 19). Differences in abiotic (e.g., temperature and salinity) and biotic (e.g., types of food resources) variables on either side of these two fronts may promote local adaptation and enable niche divergence among penguins (20). Furthermore, the associated currents have varied significantly over time in latitude and strength in response to changing global circulation patterns (21). These changes have been implicated in the colonization, isolation, and extinction of some penguin populations and species (4, 9).
We report here on our reconstruction of the history of penguin diversification and adaptation using 22 newly sequenced genomes representing 18 extant species and one outgroup. The aim of this work is to address current uncertainties about the phylogenetic relationships of penguins and to uncover the relationships among the timing of penguin diversification, past climate changes, and oceanographic characteristics. Toward this end, we reconstructed the biogeographical areas of diversification and environmental niche through space and time for all penguin species and studied the adaptations of penguins across environmental gradients. We used reconstructions of ancestral effective population sizes to evaluate sensitivity to past climate changes and hence the potential that such changes influenced penguin diversification. Finally, we assessed the extent of introgression between species, a factor that might have contributed to previous disagreements over phylogenetic reconstructions.
Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg goes back to nature in the Falklands. Words and video by JM photographs by JM and Andy Stanworth. Please click through to the Flickr galleries for photo captions and credits
Jonathan Meiburg, the frontman for Shearwater, moonlights as an ornithologist, and his interest in the natural world and our uneasy place in it turns up often in Shearwater's music. The Austin and New York-based band is now at work on two new albums, but last August, in the midst of 200 shows in support of 2012's Animal Joy (Sub Pop), Meiburg took a month off to get out of the tour van and into the field. He travelled to the remote island of Steeple Jason to study Striated Caracaras, rare and strange birds of prey that scavenge at albatross and penguin colonies in the Falklands and Tierra del Fuego. This is his account of a few weeks away from the world - or much closer to it, depending on your perspective.
Travelling to the Falkland Islands from New York means about thirty hours in the air, much of it over the southern Andes, a chain of wild, snow-capped mountains longer than the Himalayas. Looking down from 30,000 feet, you can see the remnants of the Patagonian Ice Sheet, which still holds entire mountains and valleys in its grip but once swelled to the size of ten meters’ worth of global sea level. This wall of ice probably isolated Striated Caracaras from their Andean relatives hundreds of thousands of years ago, and confined them to the remote places they live now: a handful of islands south and west of Tierra del Fuego, and the Falklands, where they live and breed on the outer edges of the archipelago.
It’s not the remoteness or rarity of the birds that draws me, though it’s the birds themselves. Striated Caracaras are related to falcons, but they act more like crows. They hang out in groups, they walk almost as much as they fly, they favour scavenging to hunting, and they seem unusually conscious I can’t think of a better word for it. There’s something about them – their dark, searching eyes, their peculiar fearlessness, the way they’re always probing their surroundings for anything of interest– that’s almost eerily familiar. It’s like you can see them thinking, and even see a bit of yourself in them. They were one of the few features of the Falklands that really interested Darwin when he passed through – he devotes a few bemused pages of The Voyage Of The Beagle to these “tame and mischievous, quarrelsome and passionate” birds, and describes their strange habit of stealing unusual objects from the ship's crew– including hats, knives, shirts, a compass “in a red Morocco leather case”, and “a pair of the heavy balls used in catching cattle”.
Sheep farmers in the Falklands, suspecting that these odd raptors posed a threat to their stock, exterminated them from most of the islands decades ago. But their nickname for the birds – “Johnny Rooks” – stuck. Maybe I’m stretching, but I hear the echo of an old fondness in that name. James Hamilton, the Falklands government naturalist, admitted in the 1920s that “there is an irresistible, shambolic clownishness about them that demands attention”, adding that “one bird with whom I had a slight acquaintance would play for a long time with an empty sardine tin.” Bill Conway, the former head of the Wildlife Conservation Society, once told me with a bemused smile that “that bird is as close as the class Aves has ever come to producing a rhesus monkey.”
I couldn’t wait to see them again.
Stanley, the only town in the Falklands, is a quiet settlement of about 2,500 people that resembles what I imagine a seaside village in rural England might have been like in the early 20th century, despite the fact that it’s almost as far from London as London is from Beijing. (And yes, they do drive on the left.) I met up with my two fellow researchers, Robin Woods and David Galloway, at a guest house in town after an hour’s drive on the gravel road from the military base.
Robin probably knows more about Falklands wildlife and its history than anyone else alive, and I was delighted to see him we hadn’t been in the field together for six years, and he sparked my interest in birds when we first met in Stanley in 1997. He and David are more than twice my age, and when they first visited the Falklands as young men in the 1950s, horses were still a common mode of transportation, and even in Stanley you cut your own peat to heat your home. These days there are gas stoves and even a small internet café, but the Falkland Islands Company (remember the Virginia Company?) still exists, and a few old-style red phone boxes are posted conspicuously on the waterfront. Nights in Stanley are mostly silent except for the wind blowing in from Patagonia, rattling the iron roofs of the older houses.
From Stanley, we took one of the Falkland Islands Government Air Service’s little planes to Carcass Island, a traditionally farmed island at the edge of the human-inhabited portion of the Falklands. It’s become a favored stop for Antarctica-bound cruise ships due to its abundant birdlife thanks to decades of good luck and careful management, there are no rats, mice or cats on the island. We’d be travelling by boat from Carcass to the even more remote island of Steeple Jason, and as we bounced over the dirt track to the settlement in an aging Land Rover, I glimpsed the first Johnny Rooks I’d seen since 2006. Every time I leave them, I’m never sure if it’s the last time, and it was thrilling to hear the weird, raucous cries of a group at the house that afternoon, begging for scraps at the back door. (Lorraine McGill, pictured sitting outside her kitchen, isn’t above giving them a handout now and then).
The Steinhardt Field Station on Steeple Jason, owned and operated by the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, is a comfortable base for studies of one of the world’s wildest places. There’s no television, telephone, or internet, but there are warm bunks and an ample kitchen, and it’s perched above a gully where we could watch sea lions hunting penguins on calm days. Striated Caracaras seemed drawn to the station as soon as we’d moved in, they lit on the railing outside the front door and peered in at us.
I was more than a little relieved to see the caracaras. We weren’t certain that they’d be on Steeple at all in the winter, as no one had studied them there outside of their summer breeding season. As a part of Falklands Conservation’s Raptor Project, funded by a grant from the UK-based Darwin Initiative, one of our goals was to find out how they survived the winter while the island’s seabirds, whose chicks and eggs provide most of the caracaras’ food in the summer, were away at sea. (More on that in a minute.)
Our first step was to band as many birds as we could, so we could get to know them as individuals (and, with luck, learn more about their movements between islands in the coming years). Keith Bildstein, a raptor biologist from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania who’s researching Striated Caracaras on other islands in the Falklands, came with us to Steeple for a week to supervise the banding. Keith’s worked with birds of prey all over the world, but he seems especially taken with Johnny Rooks he says they’re one of the “easiest” species he’s ever encountered. And, sure enough, trapping them was an uncomplicated affair: Keith fastened a piece of mutton to the ground with two iron hoops, then surrounded it with a nylon rope bristling with fishing-line snares. He’d hardly finished pounding in the stakes when an excited mob of caracaras arrived and lunged for the meat.
We “processed” each bird in the garage behind the field station, placing ID bands on their legs, weighing them, snapping photographs, and taking tiny blood samples for genetic analysis. Some birds were relatively calm in our hands and gazed at us in silence others screeched and snapped at our fingers. When we released them, they usually stayed nearby, and some even walked back into the garage to see what we were up to. “They’ve just been abducted by aliens,” Keith said. “You’d think they’d be more upset about it.”
In the austral summer, Steeple Jason teems with birds. It’s home to the world’s largest breeding colony of Black-browed Albatrosses (about 140 to 170,000 birds imagine seagulls with eight-foot wingspans and you’re somewhere in the neighborhood), as well as three types of penguin and a few species of the little burrowing seabirds called prions, storm-petrels, and diving petrels. The eggs, chicks, and adults of these colonies provide a wealth of food for Striated Caracaras in the warmer months of the breeding season. But in the winter, most of these seabirds are gone they forage at sea, and can drink salt water. And at the site of the albatross colony – crowded with caracaras in the summer – we saw only a few adult Johnny Rooks, picking through the mud between the albatrosses’ empty nests. When we surveyed the entire island, however, we counted about as many caracaras on Steeple Jason this winter as we’d seen in previous summers.
What, then, were all these large birds of prey living on in these lean times? We were surprised to find groups of as many as fifty Johnny Rooks scratching in the turf at the base of the island’s central ridge, tearing divots in the earth with their powerful talons and shoving their beaks into the disturbed ground to feed. The effect they’d had on the landscape was remarkable in some places it looked like someone had tilled the earth to plant crops. (These “tilled” areas are so large that you can see them from space – they appear as dark ellipses on the northeast corner of the island on Google Earth.)
To see what the birds were digging for, we did some “gardening” of our own, and found that the peaty soil was studded with small beetle grubs and earthworms. It wasn’t a feast, but it might be enough to keep the birds going through a hungry season. I couldn’t help thinking that Striated Caracaras are what chickens might imagine themselves to be - fearsome-looking falcons, digging for worms.
Worms and grubs, however, aren’t the only items on the winter menu. Unlike other species of penguin that only visit Steeple Jason in the summer to breed, Gentoo Penguins roost throughout the winter in groups that range in size daily from dozens to thousands of birds. These groups are usually attended by Striated Caracaras, which spend most of their time pacing slowly among the penguins, picking at globs of excrement. The penguins, for their part, don’t seem to take much notice of them but caracaras are quick to take advantage of an injured or dead bird of any kind, and the penguin skeletons littered around the roosts (and clumps of penguin feathers we found in caracaras’ regurgitated pellets) suggest that they’re a significant, if occasional, source of food for Johnny Rooks.
Rooting around in so much dirt, excrement, and carrion can leave Striated Caracaras pretty filthy, so it wasn’t too surprising to find that frequent bathing seems to be an important part of their lives. I loved watching groups of caracaras at a little spring, soaking their feathers and calling softly to each other, or holding out their wings to dry in the sun. They seemed shyer than usual at these communal baths, and I sometimes felt a little abashed watching them. This video below shows a group at a pool in the lee of a boulder near the research station keep an eye out for the hunched-up young bird that can’t quite decide if it wants to get in the water.
Robin, David and I were joined on Steeple by four researchers from Falklands Conservation, funded by a grant from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Team leader Kalinka Rexer-Huber and her husband Graham Parker hailed from New Zealand they’d had previously spent just over a year studying the effects of invasive mice on the isolated island of Gough, in the middle of the Atlantic. Andy Stanworth, who’d recently moved to the Falklands from England, and Micky Reeves, a born Falkland Islander, both work full-time for FC in other capacities, but came along to assist Kalinka and Graham for the month.
Collectively (and affectionately), we called the four of them the “mouse team”. They were here to conduct experiments to see if house mice, introduced accidentally to Steeple long ago by humans, could be eradicated by spreading tons of poison bait on the island from a helicopter. Mice can pose a threat to ground-nesting birds, especially when the birds haven't had time to adapt to their presence, and a preliminary study suggested that the Steeple Jason mice are fond of smaller birds' eggs and young chicks. A little beachcombing bird found only in the Falklands, the Cobb’s Wren, is also conspicuously absent on Steeple, though it’s common on nearby islands that are mouse-free, and it seems likely that the mice have eaten Steeple’s Cobb’s Wrens out of house and home.
To test the bait-drop strategy, the team tagged mice in two study plots in the thick coastal grass, spread non-toxic cereal pellets marked with a UV-reactive dye in the plots, and then recaptured the tagged mice to see if they glowed under a black light. The pellets looked like neon-green rabbit food, and I ate one: it was chalky, grainy, nearly tasteless. Not too appetizing, I hoped, for a caracara.
At first, the Johnny Rooks didn’t seem to know what to make of the cereal baits. I watched one bird tentatively peck at a few pellets, then go back to tearing at the desiccated foot of a long-dead penguin. But about a week later, we started noticing green streaks near the caracaras’ roosts, and shortly after that we saw several birds eating the bait pellets like popcorn. (One of the photos in the gallery, taken by Micky, shows banded bird Y9 in the act of leaving a fluorescent dropping). I took a UV torch to a roost near the field station one night and watched the rocks light up like a cheap haunted house, and later I gathered regurgitated food remains from the same roost they, too, fluoresced under the torch, as did the tongues of some birds captured near the mouse team’s study plots. It seemed to everyone that if you wanted to avoid feeding cereal bait to caracaras as well as mice, you’d need to find a different way to deliver it.
As winter shaded into spring, the albatrosses began returning to their nests, and we noticed adult caracaras leaving the foraging groups and behaving more like the territorial pairs we’d seen in summers past. Seeing which of the banded birds paired up and where they hung out was a little like reading a gossip column. Y5 and F0, shown in the gallery on a patch of ground they’ve been excavating, patrolled an area just north of the station, where I saw them almost every morning. Another group of three young banded birds behaved like a pair, calling and defending a small territory together Andy dubbed them “our ‘progressive’ Johnny Rooks”.
My favorite birds, however, weren’t banded. They were an adult pair who kept a territory on a pretty little boulder beach north of the station, between a roost of penguins and a favorite napping spot for sea lions. What I loved about these birds was that they both had funny feet. One, “White Claw”, had all-white claws on all but one of its toes, and the other, “Long Claw,” had a wicked-looking claw on the middle toe of its right foot that stuck straight out instead of curving down. White Claw and Long Claw didn’t seem as excitable or curious as younger birds they were calm and efficient, and it was easy to imagine them raising brood after brood on this remote beach, year after year. We don’t know how long Striated Caracaras live in the wild, but it could be quite a while in captivity, they’ve lived for more than thirty years.
What drew these odd-footed birds, or the young trio, to one another? It’ll be a while before we can ask that question in a scientific way, but it’s the kind of question that sticks most in my mind. Right now we’re still in the earliest stages of getting to know them, asking: How many of you are there? Where do you live? What do you eat? The chance to shine even a little light on them is exciting, but there’s a great deal we don’t know, and may never know, about their lives.
Springtime also meant more scuffles among the caracaras, as pairs establishing breeding territories kicked out juveniles and non-breeders. These encounters were mostly sound and fury, with scruffy young birds running and flying away from sleek, aggressive adults, but sometimes they appeared to have gone further. We found the remains of a few younger birds near the field station, and one afternoon Andy and I came across the freshly killed body of one of our banded birds, G7. I was a little stunned Micky had seen him just that morning. G7 was one of the active, healthy-looking youngsters we saw most days, keeping an eye on the penguins or waiting for sleeping sea lions to leave something tasty when they woke from a nap, and here he was, half-eaten. What had killed him?
Kalinka performed a necropsy on G7 that evening back at the station. His insides looked healthy, she said they weren’t the guts of a diseased or starving bird. But his neck was broken, just below the base of his skull - a fatal injury, probably inflicted by another caracara. I took one of his smooth, limp feet in my hand, opened and closed the talons, and marveled at their breadth and toughness. It was as close as we could ever come to shaking hands. Graham watched over my shoulder. “Amazing,” he murmured.
Toward the end of our stay, the sea gave the Johnny Rooks a gift: after a few days of high winds and rough water, a long-dead sea lion appeared on the kelp-strewn gravel beach in White Claw and Long Claw’s territory. The pair probably got first dibs on the carcass, but a few young caracaras discovered it and began calling loudly and repeatedly, summoning all of their friends. Within a few hours, the sea lion’s body was swarming with a mob of about fifty birds, who cleaned it thoroughly in about a day and a half with the help of a few Turkey Vultures (see below).
White Claw and Long Claw occasionally charged half-heartedly at the intruders, but seemed generally overwhelmed, and mostly settled for perching nearby and looking annoyed. The mob’s frenzied behavior – swarming, tussling, and gorging themselves – was a stark contrast to the birds we’d seen patiently digging for grubs and worms, and a reminder that free-for-all ‘bonanzas’ of carrion are probably essential parts of Johnny Rooks’ diets year-round, especially for birds without breeding territories. Moreover, it struck me (and not for the first time) that their intense curiosity about anything new in their environment – so odd and comical when that new thing is you – is probably a shrewd adaptation to the unpredictable offerings of the sea.
All too soon, our month on Steeple Jason was over. The mouse team cleaned their traps and set them out to dry, and we packed our gear back into plastic buckets and rucksacks. A friend had loaned me a guitar in Stanley, but I’d hardly touched it as close as I’d come to making new music was recording waves sloshing in the gully below the station. It felt good to be away, away from crowds of strangers and rock clubs and music, especially since it would all come rushing back so soon the next Shearwater tour was only a couple of weeks away. But for the moment, I felt clear and calm, ready for whatever was next. We hauled everything down to the shore to wait for the boat that would take us back to the human world, and for the last hour we sat alone with our thoughts, watching the returning albatrosses wheeling overhead. A pair of curious young caracaras, checking out our kit (see below), seemed ready to come along with us. I wished I could give them a ride.
An elaborate method of preparing, cooking, and serving duck was developed by cooks in China's capital city and is known as Peking Duck. The cook will inflate the duck's carcass by blowing air between the skin and the body, blanch the duck in hot water, coat it with malt sugar, and pour boiling water into the cavity. The bird is then hung in a special vertical oven and roasted over a wood fire, preferably using the wood of fruit trees. The result is a bird with a taut golden skin and moist tender meat. Often only the skin is eaten at table, and the meat is sent back to the kitchen to make into other dishes. Or the meat can be cut into thin slices and rolled up in thin pancakes. Elaborate ceremony often attends the slicing of the bird.
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