Thursday, March 27, 2014

Snowy Sheathbill

Chionis albus
Meet the Snowy Sheathbill-- the only bird species in Antarctica that is primarily land dwelling and widespread. They are endemic to the continent and the nearby southern Islands, though very rare vagrants sometimes make it to South America and Africa.

Snowy Sheathbills are named for their cone-shaped bills that have a sheath made of a horn-like keratin covering their nostrils. They also have small, fleshy wattles, naked skin around the eyes, and bodies covered in white feathers.

These birds are scavengers, and will eat anything they can find. They live near the coasts, and seals are one of their favorite food sources-- they will pick as seal scabs and dried blood, eat placenta and umbilical chords, and will even eat seal feces. Yum.... The Sheathbills eat insects and seaweed as well.

Snowy Sheathbills have a large population and are widespread. They don't have any major conservation threats at present, and are listed as being of Least Concern.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Antarctica
Size : Length up to 16in (40cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Chionididae -- Genus : Chionis -- Species : C. albus
Image :  David M. Jensen

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