Jan 31, 2010

The Oilbird

This bird may not seem ugly at first appearance, but wait till you get the details. Here's a colorful quote:

"Raucous shrieking and frightful retching… which might express the sufferings of sea-sick demons." Not a passage from Milton, though this description by the early 20th-century zoologist John Golding Myers does describe his entry to a kind of earthly hell: a cave of roosting oilbirds...

This split-personality, cave-dwelling oddity, known to North Americans as the guacharo, doesn't seem to know whether it is bat or bird. It echolocates like a bat to perceive its surroundings, but as well as this crude form of sonar, the oilbird has the most sensitive eyes of any vertebrate.

And then there's this:

As Myers noted, oilbirds spend much of their time squabbling in caves, in colonies numbering up to 20,000 birds. Because of the immense numbers living there, the floor is carpeted with guano, which supports a host of insects and other small animals. The birds also put the guano to good use during the breeding season: they build nests with it.

These birds may be vital to their forests's health, but that doesn't mean I want to spend a night in an oilbird cave.

Thanks for the new bird, Morgan (a resident bird expert). And good luck in your studies.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if they get most of the worms, after all it's the Oily Bird that gets the worm!

dstinyfate said...

That was a corny joke. I like those tho, it gave me a chuckle :)