Friday, April 18, 2014

Australian Pelican

Pelicanus conspicillatus
Despite its name, the Austrlian Pelican is found in more places than Australia. Fiji, New Guinea, and Indonesia are also countires that this bird calls home. Some have even made their way over to New Zealand!

These birds prefer habitats that have a lot of open water. Lakes, reservoirs, lagoons, and rivers are just some of the different bodies of water the Pelicans will live near. But really, any body of water that has enough food to sustain them will do.

Australian Pelicans are large birds, but are medium-size when compared to only other Pelicans. Tehy do, however, have the largest bill in the world-- the longest recorded was 20in long!

The Pelicans use those bills in order collect and store prey. They hunt together, working in groups to drive small fish and aquatic animals to shallower areas. Once that is accomplished they use their bills to snatch up prey. Fish is their primary food source-- but they have been observed killing other waterbirds to. Because they lack sharp claws or a tearing beak, they have to kill them by drowning them.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Australia
Size : Wingspan up to 8.5ft (2.6m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Pelecaniformes
Family : Pelecanidae -- Genus : Pelecanus -- Species : P. conspicillatus
Image :  Quartl

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Banggai Cardinalfish

Pterapogon kauderni
The Banggai Cardinalfish is a small tropical fish that is becoming very rare in the wild, even though it has been successfully bred in captivity.

You will only find these small, 3in long fish around the Banggai Islands of Indonesia. They are the only members of their genus, and you can tell them apart from other Cardinalfish by their three-striped bodies, tasseled first dorsal fin, long second dorsal, and their deep-forked tail fins.

Banggai Cardinalfish are diurnal and live in small groups of about a dozen members. They are opportunistic feeders who dine on whatever smaller plants and animals they can find.

Courtship and mating is pretty interesting for these guys-- females are the ones who initiate. They isolate a male and the pair will perform various courtship rituals before spawning. The Cardinalfish are mouthbrooders, which means that the males take the fertilized eggs (up to 90 of them) into their mouths and incubate them for up to 30 days. During that time they do not feed. The female will stay near the male and defend the territory for the first few days, but she eventually leaves.

Banggai Cardinalfish are very popular in the aquarium industry. They breed in captivity, but more than half a million fish are still captured from the wild each year. The small range and high rate of collection has led the species to an "Endangered" listing.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Indonesia
Size : Length around3in (8cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Perciformes
Family : Apogonidae -- Genus : Pterapogon -- Species : P. kauderni
Image : Jens Petersen

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Black Noddy

Anous minutus
The Black, or White-capped Noddy is a seabird that is found in tropical areas all around the globe. These members of the Tern family are named for the nodding motion that both sexes display during courtship!

The two possible common names both describe this bird pretty well. On one hand, they are almost completely black in coloration. On the other, that black is broken up only by a white cap of feathers on the head. No matter which name you chose, it would still identify Anous minutus.

Black Noddies live pretty close to shore. They hunt for fish and squid during the daytime but return to various coasts and islands at night in order to roost in large colonies. When it comes to breeding, pairs will choose each other thanks to flight displays and the aforementioned nodding dances, and will often form lifelong bonds. Only one egg is laid with each clutch, and depending on the location these birds will produce between 1 and 3 clutches each year. Many pairs will actually reuse the same nest over and over again each season.

The Black Noddy is listed as being of Least Concern, and their worldwide population estimate is between 1 and 1.5 million birds.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Tropics Worldwide
Size : Length around 15in (39cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Sternidae -- Genus : Anous -- Species : A. minutus
Image : Sirrob01

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Irrawaddy Dolphin

Orcaella brevirostris
The Irrawaddy Dolphin is a rare species of Dolphin that is found only in the coastal waters near Australia and Southeast Asia. They are sometimes called Irrawaddy River Dolphins, even though they are not true River Dolphins. This is because they often inhabit estuaries and river mouths, and because some sub-populations have even made their homes in freshwater rivers like the Mekong and Irrawaddy.

Unfortunately, many of those sub-populations are not doing too well, and are considered to be Critically Endangered. In the Mekong, for example, there are less than 100 Dolphins. The populations in India and Bangladesh appear to be more stable, and actually account for most of the worldwide count. They are listed as Vulnerable overall because of those groups.

Irrawaddy Dolphins look a bit like small Belugas, though they are actually closer relatives to Killer Whales. They aren't especially large, maxing out around 7ft and 300lbs. They live in very small groups, and are very slow moving, passive Dolphins who feed on a large variety of fish, cephalopods, and other marine invertebrates.

The major threats to the Irrawaddy Dolphins are fishing and habitat degradation. Because they live in rivers and so close to shore they are often accidentally captured by fishing nets. They are also affected by damming and mining run off, and they have also been captured for the performance aquarium industry. They are protected by CITES, but the conservation efforts vary country to country.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Indian and Pacific Ocean
Size : Length up to 7.5ft (2.3m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Cetacea
Family : Delphinidae -- Genus : Orcaella -- Species : O. brevirostris
Image : Stefan Brending

Monday, April 14, 2014

Coral Trout

Plectropomus leopardus
Meet the Coral Trout, also known as the Leopard Coral Grouper. These colorful fish make the western Pacific Ocean their home, and they can be found near the coral reefs that give them their name.

Coral Trout can be identified by their red and yellow bodies and their blue spots that have darker rings around them. They grow to a maximum of 2ft in length.

One amazing fact about these fish is that they are all born as females. No one really knows what triggers a female to male change, but they are usually well over a year old when it happens. The average length at change is around 1.5ft!

The spawning rituals of these fish are also pretty interesting. Males establish territories and they do dancing displays to attract females-- fanning out their fins and shaking from side to side. If a female likes what she sees, the two will spawn around sunset. This practice involves the pair swimming very quickly towards the surface and releasing the eggs and sperm into the water. The fertilized eggs float near the surface, and the larval fish will emerge after only a few days.

IUCN Status : Near Threatened
Location : Pacific Ocean
Size : Length up to 2ft (60cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Perciformes
Family : Serranidae -- Genus : Plectropomus -- Species : P. leopardus
Image :  Leonard Low

Friday, April 11, 2014

Boreal Chorus Frog

Pseudacris maculata
Today's animal is an itty bitty little Frog that is more often heard rather than seen. They are called Boreal Chorus Frogs, and they are one of the first Amphibians to emerge after the winter season, making lots of sounds as they do so!

Boreal Chorus Frogs only grow to about 3cm in length. They are typically brown in color, though some trend towards green. The darkness also varies. They all have dark facial stripes though, one of each side of the head that runs from the nose across the eye.

Boreal Chorus Frogs are found in North America, primarily in the middle-northern parts of the Continent, though they are also found in a few places of the American Southwest. They live in grasses near permanent bodies of water.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North America
Size : Length around 3cm
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Amphibia -- Order : Anura
Family : Hylidae -- Genus : Pseudacris -- Species : P. maculata
Image :  USEMC

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Northern Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis
Today's animal is the Northern Goshawk-- a bird that is found in North America, Europe, and Asia. It also happens to be one of the largest Hawks in North America, and is the largest of its genus in that range.

The Northern Goshawk has a dark back and wings, but an underside of light-colored feathered covered in dark lines. They also have white eye stripes and long tails. The exact chest coloration does vary by location-- some individuals in Siberia are almost completely white!

These raptors are incredibly powerful and persistent predators. They have been observed chasing after prey for close to an hour! They, like many birds of prey, are opportunistic feeders, and will go after rodents, hares, small birds, geese, and even larger mammals like foxes and raccoon!

Spring is the breeding season for these birds, and during that time they will perform undulating flight displays in order to entice a mate. Once mates are chosen the birds often pair for life. 2-4 eggs are laid at a time, and the male will do most of the hunting and feeding while the female incubates. Young Goshawks will hang around in their parents' territory for about a year before reaching sexual maturity and finding and mate and range of their own.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North America, Europe, Asia
Size : Length around 27in (70cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Falconiformes
Family : Accipitridae -- Genus : Accipiter -- Species : A. gentilis
Image :  Doctor Rukinogi
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