Tag Archives: Birds

Look another gull!

Of New Zealand’s 252 native bird species only 91 are land birds. (These numbers include recently extinct species.) The rest are wetland, shore or seabirds.

Of the 91 species of land birds in New Zealand 85 are endemic.

This low land bird representation is unusual as 90% of the world’s birds are land birds.

Red-billed gull (Larus novaehollandiae)

(#42 of 100)

What, show my true colour?

Normally colour is derived from pigment. This makes it possible to colour clothes, foods, paint etc by simply adding various pigments to the underlying substance.

Iridescent colour does not result from pigment but from sub-micron structures that causes interference and diffraction of light. This is called structural colour.

It appears that the peacock’s, bright iridescent feathers may be covered in brown (melanin) pigment. The pigment appears to absorb background light and in doing so make the iridescent colour appear more vivid.


(#38 of 100)

The fastest bird in the world…

if you consider size; is Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna).

During courtship, the male of the species perform a diving dance and reaches speeds of up to 385 body lengths per second.

When they pull up at the end of these dives, they are subject to forces up to 10 g (10 times the earth’s gravitational pull).

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) .

(#32 of 100)

Secretarybird, do you take notes?

What inspired the unusual common name, Secretarybird, (Afrikaans: Sekretarisvoël) for this bird?

Perhaps we will never know for certain.

It is regularly told in South Africa that the common name of the Secretarybird is due to the dark quill like feathers, resembling a quill pen behind the ear (apparently common practice for an 18th century secretary).

A more recent theory is that “secretary” is a French corruption of the Arabic saqr-et-tair or “hunter-bird”. Inspiration or after the fact fit?

Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius) at Spier, outside Stellenbosh.

(#11 of 100)

Did you know – owls have three eyelids?

Yes, they have three eyelids (per eye).

They have a normal upper lid that closes downwards when the owl blinks, a lower lid that closes upwards when the owl is asleep and a third translucent eyelid that closes diagonally across the eye to moisten and protect it while maintaining vision.

This third eyelid is called a nictitating membrane and can be seen in the left hand side eye of this Spotted Eagle Owl.

Spotted Eagle Owl (Bubo africanus) with nictitating membrane (left hand side eye) in mid blink.

This photo was taken at Eagle Encounters at the Spier wine farm outside Stellenbosh, Western Cape, South Africa.

A comprehensive owl website;  the Owl Pages.

(#1 of 100)