Morepork & Laughing Owl, John Gerrard Keulemans, 1873

Pliny denounced the magicians’ claim that an owl’s heart placed on a sleeping woman’s left breast would compel her to tell all of her secrets. For an owl’s secrets are not a woman’s secrets. They are of the shadows on the moon’s face, the sapphire blue of a sky lit by stars and nothing else, the chuckle of a gecko on leaf litter, and how to pluck a squeaking bat from the air. An owl’s secrets are the notes of its call, the pattern of its breath, and the silence of an evening wingbeat. An owl’s secrets cannot be winnowed with charms and witchery. They are hidden in fissures and ledges, sites long unseen and forgotten, now that the owls have gone.


The Huia had the greatest degree of sexual dimorphism in beak variation of any known bird. Females were larger than males and had longer, thinner beaks, whereas the males had beaks similar to a woodpeckers’. 

They were last sighted (definitely) in 1907, though there have been credible sightings up until the 1960s. They were wiped out through commercial hunting and habitat destruction. 

(painting by John Gerrard Keulemans)

John Gerrard Keulemans [Johannes Gerardus Keulemans; J.G. Keulemans] (1842–1912): Dasyprocta azarae [Azara’s Agouti], 1876, Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London by Zoological Society of London for the year 1876, source: and Azara’s Agouti, Dasyprocta azarae, is a South American agouti species from the family Dasyproctidae. It is found in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. It is named after Spanish naturalist Félix de Azara (1746-1821), source: