Although bowerbirds are most famous for constructing their eponymous bowers, not all species indulge in this behaviour. The catbirds, so called because of their mewing cries, do not build bowers. Some species will, however, clear a “display stage” where the male will perform a mating dance, often with colourful feathers or leaves held in his beak. In other species, such as the spotted catbird, the male will court the female by offering her food.
Interestingly, although bowerbirds are usually polygamous, with males mating with multiple females, the catbirds are almost entirely monogamous. Once a pair has mated, they will remain together for life. While in most of these species, all of the male’s breeding energy goes into his bower, and he does not aid in the care of the eggs or chicks, the among the catbirds both male and female tend the young and defend the nest.
The kea is the only alpine parrot on the planet, and is one of ten parrot species endemic to New Zealand. It belongs to the same family as the precious moss potato, the kakapo, and the colourful kaka. Its clownish nature is so well-known that a group of kea is called a circus!
National Geographic contributing photographer Joel Sartore is 11 years into a 25-year endeavor to document every captive animal species in the world using studio lighting and black-and-white backgrounds. So far, he’s photographed 6,500 different species, which leaves approximately 6,000 to go.
Sartore tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that presenting the animals in the studio, rather than in nature, gives them equal importance in the eye of the viewer. “A mouse is every bit as glorious as an elephant, and a tiger beetle is every bit as big and important as a tiger,” he says. “It’s a great equalizer.”
Sartore chronicles his project in the new photography book, The Photo Ark. The ultimate goal of his project is to help ensure that the future existence of his subjects, many of which are either endangered or on the verge of extinction.
“I’ve been a National Geographic photographer for 27 years, and I photographed the first 15 years or so out in the wild doing different conservation stories, on wolves, on grizzly bears, on koalas all in the wild — and can I say that moved the needle enough to stop the extinction crisis? No, no it did not,” Sartore says. “So I just figured maybe very simple portraits lit exquisitely so you can see the beauty and the color, looking animals directly in the eye with no distractions would be the way to do it.”
Photo: Arctic fox by Joel Sartore / National Geographic
The rhinoceros is the 2-largest land mammal, behind the elephant. These stocky, Land Rover-sized vegetarians once numbered over 500,000, but they have been reduced to about 29,000 in recent years, largely due to humans’ appetite for their signature appendage: the horn.
Aside from being accomplished architects and artists, many bowerbirds are also skilled mimics. Male satin bowerbirds will imitate the calls of other local birds during their courtship displays. Even more startling, MacGregror’s bowerbirds have been heard imitating human speech, pigs grunting, and even the sound of nearby waterfalls.
Male and female banded horned treefrogs at El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center. These very rare banded horned treefrogs have a unique habit, they prey on other frogs. It is possible that this frog-eating habit brings them into frequent contact with other frogs and makes them much more likely to contract the amphibian chytrid fungus that is wiping out frogs in Latin America. These two individuals are part of a conservation breeding colony maintained by the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project @amphibianrescue in Panama.
The only way anyone will win this staring contest is with the cheat at the end.
A male Asian narrow-headed softshell turtle at the @stlzoo. This species can be found in large, clear rivers with sandy bottoms in Thailand. Their numbers throughout southeast Asia have dropped terribly because these turtles are so big and meaty, people hunt and eat them. This species is now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list.
The sun bear’s powerful claws are built for tearing into termite mounds and rotten wood in search of grubs and insects to eat. But this bear also has a sweet tooth; in Indonesian and Malay they’re also called “beruang madu”, literally meaning “honey bear”. Sun bears are known to love honey, and will fearlessly tear open bee hives to get it. They have an exceptionally long tongue, up to 25 centimetres in length, meant for lapping honey and grubs out of crevices and insect nests.