Thursday, 20 June 2019

What animal am I? -> Vervet Monkey

Week 8 of our “What animal am I?” series .…


Clue 1: I am primarily herbivore, but sometimes turn into an omnivore -> Living mostly on wild fruits, flowers, leaves & seeds they sometimes also enjoy insects, eggs and small birds!

Clue 2: Tyndall effect -> The vervet monkey has vivid blue “family jewells” (scrotum) which pales when the animal falls in social rank. The colour is not caused by hormonal shifts (mating interests), it has to do with the scattering of light by the skin itself -> like the Tyndall effect. It is concluded that the blue-to-white colour variation is modulated by the degree of dermal hydration. They do chemistry without knowing it!

Clue 3: I am a trichromat -> Old world monkeys and apes mainly see as humans do – they are trichromats, so they pick up red, green & blue. In some cases it's not as good as what we humans see - but it's much better than cats and dogs. Scientists say that good colour vision helps animals find ripe fruit.



Did you know…

The vervet monkey, is an Old World monkey of the family Cercopithecidae (Cercopithecus means ‘long-tailed monkey’) native to Africa. It sports a black face surrounded by a white fringe with various shades of grey to the reddish-green fur on the body, with long arms, long legs and a long tail. A vervet monkey is about the size of a large pet cat. Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent, especially the old world monkeys.  

VERVET MONKEY:
Lifespan: up to 12 years (up to 30years in captivity)
Speed: 45 km/h
Scientific name: Chlorocebus pygerythrus
Mass: 3.9 – 8kg (females are slightly smaller than males)
Body length: 420 – 600mm (females are slightly smaller than males; measured from the top of the head to the base of the tail)

Diet: The vervet monkey eats a primarily herbivorous diet, but sometimes turn into an omnivore. Living mostly on wild fruits, flowers, leaves & seeds they sometimes also enjoy insects, eggs and small birds!
Vervets have pouches in their mouths where they can store food to be eaten later. 

They are arboreal (living in trees) monkeys and use their long arms & tail to move quickly and safely through the trees in forests and wooded areas near rivers and streams.
Although they do venture down to the ground in search of both food and water, Vervet Monkeys rarely go further than 450 meters from the trees, which helps to protect them from predators. They are diurnal (day-active) animals spending the days foraging for food and then rest at night. They need to drink daily.

Seeing in colour: Old world monkeys and apes mainly see as humans do – they are trichromats, so they pick up red, green & blue. In some cases it's not as good as what we humans see - but it's much better than cats and dogs. Scientists say that good colour vision helps animals find ripe fruit.

Blue Family Jewells: The vervet monkey has vivid blue “family jewells” (scrotum) which pales when the animal falls in social rank. The colour is not caused by hormonal shifts (unlike the red bottoms of baboons and other primates in heat), it has to do with the scattering of light by the skin itself -> like the Tyndall effect. It is concluded that the blue-to-white colour variation is modulated by the degree of dermal hydration. They do chemistry without knowing it!

The Tyndall Effect is the effect of light scattering in colloidal dispersion, while showing no light in a true solution. ... Because a colloidal solution or substance (like fog) is made up of scattered particles (like dust and water in air), light cannot travel straight through.

A colloidal solution or substance (like fog) is made up of scattered particles (like dust and water in air), light cannot travel straight through. Rather, it collides with these micro-particles and scatters causing the effect of a visible light beam… or in the Vervet monkey -> Blue Family Jewells 😉
For a better explanation please follow this link: Theoretical Chemistry

Social behaviour: They have been noted for having human-like characteristics, such as hypertension & anxiety. Vervets live in close-knit social groups ranging from 10 to 70 individuals which are called troops, with males moving to neighbouring groups at the time of sexual maturityTroop members spend social-bonding time grooming each other, taking dirt and bugs out of their fur.

Hierarchy: Within a troop, adult males form a dominance hierarchy that is established and maintained by threat, aggression, fighting abilities, allies and age. Facial expressions and body postures are used to communicate threats or aggressive behaviour. Access to prime food recourses is determined by the dominance hierarchy.

Female hierarchy is dependent on mothering and producing offspring. Newborns are highly regarded in the troop, with all members acknowledging them in a supportive manner. Females that rear a greater number of infants gain respect and sit at the top of the female hierarchy.

Babies: Females have one baby at a time, typically every year. Babies are born throughout the year but mostly between October and March. Allomothering is the process when another individual besides the mother cares for an infant, generally they are choose siblings or infants of high-ranking individuals.

Grandmothers and grandchildren share one-quarter of their genes, infants approach their grandmothers more often than unrelated members and prefer their grandmothers compared to other adult female kin, not including their own mothers.

Communication: Vervet monkeys have four confirmed predators: leopards, eagles, pythons, and baboons and warn each other about potential threats using loud distinct alarm screams. Monkey are very vocal in their hierarchy displays and mothers can recognize their offspring by a scream alone.

Relationship with humans: In spite of low predator populations in many areas, human development has encroached on wild territories, and this species is killed by electricity pylons, vehicles, dogs, pellet guns, poison, bullets and is trapped for traditional medicine, bush meat and for biomedical research.

The vervet monkey has a complex and fragile social system, and persecution of the monkeys is thought to have affected troop structures and diminishing numbers. Many people living in close proximity to vervet monkey colonies see them as pests as they steal their food, fortunately however there are heavy fines in some cities to discourage the killing of vervet monkeys.



Thursday, 6 June 2019

What animal am I? -> Hippo


Week 7 of our “What animal am I?” series .…

Clue 1: I am adorably pudgy -> the adoringly pudgy hippos are one of the most aggressive animals on Earth and kill about 500 people in Africa each year.
 
Clue 2: I am related to whales & dolphins! -> Until 1909, hippos were grouped with pigs and other hoofed animals, based on molar (tooth) patterns and their physical resemblance. However modern research with blood proteins, DNA and the fossil records show that the closest living relatives of the Hippos are aquatic mammals like whales, dolphins etc. 

Clue 3: Usain Bolt might outrun me, how about you? -> A hippo can run 30-40km/h on land & “swim” 8km/h … Usain Bolt’s set the  record of 44.72km/h during the 100 meters sprint at the World Championships in Berlin on 16 August 2009. Bolt's average speed over the course of this race was 37.58 km/h… me thinks the hippo might win in a race against me!
  

Evolution: Translated from the ancient Greek it means "river horse”. After the elephant the hippo is the 2nd largest type of land mammal (only rivaled by some large rhinos). The hippopotamus is a large, mostly herbivorous, semiaquatic mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. There are only two species of hippos left: the common hippo and the much smaller pygmy hippo. 

Until 1909, hippos were grouped with pigs and other hoofed animals, based on molar (tooth) patterns and their physical resemblance. However modern research with blood proteins, DNA and the fossil records show that the closest living relatives of the Hippos are aquatic mammals like whales, dolphins etc. from which they diverged about 55 million years ago.



HiPPOPOTAMUS:
Lifespan: up to 40 years (up to 50years in captivity)
Speed: 30 km/h (on land running), “swim” 8 km/h.
Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius
Mass: 1300kg – 1500kg (female) to 1500kg to 1800kg (male), exceptional large males have been reported to weigh up to 3200kg
Height: 1.5m at shoulder
Body length: 3.3m – 5.2m long



-potami or -potamuses ;) More than one hippopotamus are called hippopotami, and 'hippopotamuses', or 'hippos' is also used. ... A male hippo is known as a bull. A female hippo is called a cow, and a baby hippo is called a calf.  A group is called a pod, herd, dale, or bloat.


Appearances: Females and young males are almost indistinguishable and very hard to identify. Common hippos are recognisable by large size barrel-shaped torsos (body), wide-opening mouths revealing large canine tusks, nearly hairless bodies and short columnar legs. They are incapable of jumping but do climb up steep banks.

The eyes, ears, and nostrils of hippos are placed high on the roof of their skulls. This allows them to breath and see while the rest of the body is submerged. They can hold their breath for up to six minutes underwater. When completely submerged, their ears and nostrils fold shut to keep water out.

The jaw hinge is located far back enough to allow the animal to open its mouth at almost 180°. The bite force of an adult has been measured as 8,100 newtons (similar to bench-press 825kg in weights!) and can easily snap a canoe in half with their powerful jaws, Hippos teeth sharpen themselves as they grind together. The incisors can reach 40 cm, while the canines reach up to 50 cm and are only used for combat.

Sunscreen: The hippo has very little hair, but a 6cm think layer of skin which provides great protection. The animals' upper parts are purplish-grey to blue-black, while the under parts and areas around the eyes and ears can be brownish-pink.
Their skin secretes a natural sunscreen substance which is red-coloured. The secretion is sometimes referred to as "blood sweat” but is neither blood nor sweat. This secretion is initially colourless and turns red-orange within minutes, eventually becoming brown.
Nevertheless, this natural sunscreen cannot prevent the animal's skin from cracking if it stays out of water too long.

Biggest killers in Africa: Humans, Mosquitos, Tsetse Fly, Black mamba, Buffalo, & Hippo — the adoringly pudgy hippos are one of the most aggressive animals on Earth and kill about 500 people in Africa each year.

Semiaquatic: Different from all other large land mammals, hippos are of semiaquatic habits, spending the day in lakes and rivers. Proper habitat requires enough water to submerge in and grass nearby. Despite being semiaquatic and having webbed feet, an adult hippo is not a particularly good swimmer nor can it float. It is rarely found in deep water; when it is, they sink to the bottom and move by pushing off the bottom in leaps.

Hippos leave the water at dusk and travel up to 10km inland to graze on short grasses, their main source of food. They spend four to five hours grazing and can consume 36kg of grass each night.
The hippo has a complex three-chambered stomach but does not "chew cud". They can store two days' worth of grass in their stomachs and can go up to three weeks without eating. Hippos are born with sterile intestines, and require bacteria obtained from their mothers' faeces to digest vegetation.

Speed: Though they are stocky animals, hippos can gallop at 30-40 km/h on land but normally trot; and can move at speeds up to 8 km/h in water, typically resurfacing to breathe every three to five minutes. Usain Bolt’s set the  record of 44.72km/h during the 100 meters sprint at the World Championships in Berlin on 16 August 2009. Bolt's average speed over the course of this race was 37.58 km/h

Habitat: Hippos inhabit rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps, where territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river and groups of five to thirty females and young. They emerge at dusk to graze and use the same paths on land which, over prolonged periods, can divert the paths of swamps and channels.
Grazing is a solitary activity and hippos are not territorial on land except if you get between IT and the water.

Territorial: The territories of hippos exist to establish mating rights and dominant males are very protective over their group. To warn off rival males, they open their huge mouths and display their long, curved canines! They also make loud grunts and aggressive splashes in the water.
“Yawning" serves as a threat display. When fighting, male hippos use their incisors to block each other's attacks and their large canines to inflict injuries. 
Hippos mark their territory by defecation. While depositing the faeces, hippos spin their tails to distribute their excrement over a greater area. 

Communication: Hippos appear to communicate vocally, through grunts and bellows, and they may practice echolocation. Hippos have the unique ability to hold their heads partially above the water and send out a cry that travels through both water and air; individuals respond above and under water. Hippos will also express threat and alarm with exhalations.

Cleaning stations: As with fish and turtles on a coral reef, hippos occasionally visit cleaning stations. By opening their month wide, they signal readiness for being cleaned of parasites by certain species of fishes.


STORIES: Hippopotamuses have been the subjects of various African folktales. According to a San story; when the Creator assigned each animal its place in nature, the hippos wanted to live in the water, but were refused out of fear that they might eat all the fish. After begging and pleading, the hippos were finally allowed to live in the water on the conditions that they would eat grass instead of fish and would fling their dung so that it can be inspected for fish bones.

In a Ndebele tale, the hippo originally had long, beautiful hair, but was set on fire by a jealous hare and had to jump into a nearby pool. The hippo lost most of his hair and was too embarrassed to leave the water.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

What animal am I? -> GIRAFFE

Week 6 of our “What animal am I?” series .…Clues during the week -> featured animal revealed on Thursdays.

Clue 1: Insomnia? -> They usually sleep standing, sometimes sitting, curl their necks and sleep for about five minutes at a time, sleeping no more than 30 minutes a day.

Clue 2: built like a battering ram -> Male giraffes fight for females by “necking”. They stand side by side and swing the backs of their heads into each other’s ribs and legs. Their skulls are thick and they have horn-like growths called ossicones on the tops of their heads. Their heads are like battering rams and are capable of breaking their opponents’ bones.

Clue 3: Ruminant -> any of various cud-chewing hoofed mammals having a stomach divided into 4 (occasionally 3) compartments. Ruminants are mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions.


GIRAFFE

Did you know: Evolution - around 15 million years ago, antelope-like animals were roaming the dry grasslands of Africa. There was nothing very special about them, but some of their necks were a bit long.

Within a mere 6 million years, they had evolved into animals that looked like modern giraffes, though the modern species only turned up around 1 million years ago. Giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth with the okapi being its closest relative.
The Giraffe’s legs alone are taller than many humans—about 1.8m, but their neck is too short to reach the ground.

Giraffe:
Lifespan: 20 – 25 years (in the wild)
Speed: 60 km/h for short sprints & 50 km/h for several km
Scientific name: Giraffa
Mass: 800kg – 1200kg (female – male adult)
Height: 4.3 – 5.7 m (female -male)

Name: “Camelopard" is an old English name for the giraffe deriving from the Ancient Greek for camel and leopard, referring to its camel-like shape & movements and its leopard-like colouring.

Herd: Giraffes live in herds of related females and their offspring, or bachelor herds of unrelated adult males, but are sociable and may gather in large aggregations. Males establish social hierarchies through "necking", which are combat bouts where the neck is used as a weapon.

Neck & necking
A giraffe's neck alone is 1.8 – 2.4 m long and weighs about 272 kg. The animal's legs are also around the same length. Their necks are however too short to reach the ground. As a result, it has to awkwardly spread its front legs or kneel to reach the ground for a drink of water.

Until recently it was assumed that giraffes’ long necks evolved to help them feed, reaching leaves on tall trees that nobody else can reach.  This advantage is real, as giraffes can and do feed up to 4.5 m high, while even quite large competitors, such as kudu, can feed up to only about 2 m high.

Picture: The giraffe (right) and its close relative the okapi (left) both have 7 cervical vertebrae (like us humans!). However the giraffe’s vertebrae’s can EACH be over 28 cm long

New research however has another theory: Male giraffes use their necks as weapons in combat to fight for females by “necking”. They stand side by side and swing the backs of their heads into each other’s ribs and legs. To help with this, their skulls are unusually thick, and they have horn-like growths called ossicones on the tops of their heads. Their heads are like battering rams and are capable of breaking their opponents’ bones. What do you think, plausible?

Horns: Both male and female giraffes have two distinct, hair-covered horns called ossicones. The ossicones of females and young are thin and display tufts of hair on top, whereas those of adult male’s end in knobs and tend to be bald on top.

Thick-skinned: The skin of a giraffe is mostly gray. Its thickness allows the animal to run through thorn bushes without being punctured. The fur may serve as a chemical defence, as its parasite repellents give the animal a characteristic scent. However some parasites feed on giraffes and they may rely on oxpeckers to clean them of ticks and alert them to danger.


High Blood pressure: The tallest ever giraffe was 5.8 m tall and to pump blood all the way up its long neck, the giraffe has several adaptations in its cardiovascular system. Its heart, which can weigh about 12 kg and measures 60 cm long, must generate approximately double the blood pressure required for a human to maintain blood flow to the brain. Giraffes have unusually high heart rates for their size, at 150 beats per minute.
Making it the biggest heart in the animal kingdom!

When the animal lowers its head the blood rushes down a complex web of arteries and veins lying very close to each other in the upper neck, prevents excess blood flow to the brain. When it raises again, the blood vessels constrict and direct blood into the brain, so the animal does not faint. The jugular veins contain several (most commonly seven) valves to prevent blood flowing back into the head while the head is lowered.

Legs & movement: The skin of the lower legs is thick and tight preventing too much blood from pouring into them. Their legs are incredibly powerful and each of them ends in a hard, sharp, 30-centimetre hoof. A giraffe can kick in any direction and in a manner of ways and its kick can not only kill a lion.

Unsurprisingly, very few predators bother an adult giraffe. However, in the Kruger National Park, lions have adapted to chase Giraffes across tar roads in the hope they slip so they can get to the Giraffes necks to kill them without exposing themselves to the dangerous kicks.

A giraffe walks like a camel, moving the legs on one side of the body at the same time, then doing the same on the other side. When galloping, the hind legs move around the front legs before the latter move forward. The giraffe relies on the forward and backward motions of its head and neck to maintain balance while galloping. If you have ever watched a giraffe gallop, you will agree – it looks like slow-motion.

Calf:  The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. A new-born giraffe is 1.7–2 m tall. After their +/- 2m drop at birth, the giraffe calf can stand up and walk about an hour later and within a week, it starts to sample vegetation.
Mothers with calves will gather in nursery herds, moving or browsing together. This is known as a "calving pool”.

Habitat: Grasslands and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Its scattered range extends from Chad in the north to South Africa in the south, and from Niger in the west to Somalia in the east. Giraffes usually inhabit savannahs and woodlands.

Food: A giraffe eats around 34 kg of foliage daily, primarily acacia species. As a *Ruminants*, the giraffe first chews its food, then swallows it for processing and then visibly passes the half-digested cud up the neck and back into the mouth to chew again. Giraffes only need to drink once every few days as most of their water comes from all the plants they eat.

*Ruminant*: any of various cud-chewing hoofed mammals having a stomach divided into four (occasionally three) compartments. Ruminants are mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions.


Tongue: The giraffe's tongue is about 45 cm long. It is purplish-black in colour, perhaps to protect against sunburn, and is useful for grasping foliage, as well as for grooming and cleaning the animal's nose.

Insomnia: In the wild, giraffes almost never lie down because of vulnerability to predators. They usually sleep standing, sometimes sitting, and they give birth standing up. When giraffes sleep, they curl their necks and sleep for about five minutes at a time, sleeping no more than 30 minutes a day.

Sounds: Whilst it was thought that giraffes did not make any sounds, this is now known to be untrue, as giraffes bellow, snort, hiss and make flute-like sounds, as well as low pitch noises beyond the range of human hearing. 

Thursday, 23 May 2019

What animal am I? -> MEERKAT

Week 4 of our “What animal am I?” series .…Clues during the week -> featured animal revealed on Thursdays.


Clue 1: False identity? -> The word Meerkat is Dutch/Afrikaans for “lake cat”, although Meerkats don't live near lakes and they are not cats. They in fact belong to the Mongoose family.

Clue 2: Mob & sentry go hand in hand -> A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". Meerkats forage in a group with 1 -2 sentries watching for predators while the others search for food.

Clue 3: Claim to fame in 1994 -> Timon (Meerkat) and Pumbaa (Warthog) are the famous duo introduced in Disney's 1994 animated film “The Lion King”. Hakuna matata – no worries!

MEERKAT - Suricata
The meerkat belongs to the mongoose family and are active during the day. It is the only member of the genus Suricata. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia, southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. 

Meerkat:
Lifespan: 12 – 14 years (in captivity)
Speed: 32 km/h
Scientific name: Suricata suricatta
Mass: 0.6 to 0.9 kg (adult)
Body length: 25 – 35cm (adult without tail)

Did you know: A mob/clan of meerkats will always have one "sentry" on guard to watch out for predators while the others forage for food.

False identityThe word Meerkat is Dutch/Afrikaans for “lake cat”, although Meerkats don't live near lakes and they are not cats. In addition in casual Afrikaans, mier means termite, and kat means cat. It has been speculated that the name comes from their frequent association with termite mounds or the termites they eat.

Mob: A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members of which usually all are related. They are normally territorial and live in large underground tunnels. The mob comprised of equal numbers of males and females and these family groups, are led by an alpha pair, with the female being the most dominant.

Each meerkat mob will have a territory which they mark off with their scent. It is usually around 10km². They won't allow another group or mob of meerkats into their territory and will fight them, if needed. They move around within the territory each day in order to forage for food in different spots. 

If the group feels threatened by a predator, they will sometimes try mobbing or attacking it in a group. Although they usually run, they can be fierce fighters when needed.

Sentry: Meerkats forage in a group with 1 - 2 sentries watching for predators while the others search for food. Sentry duty is usually approximately an hour long. The meerkat standing guard makes peeping sounds when all is well. Meerkats have binocular vision, with two eyes on the front of the face as well as sense of smell and hearing. Generally, the sentry or lookout, will stand up straight on its hind legs using its tail as a tripod to balance.

This is so that it can get as high as possible to look for predators in the air and on the ground.

When a predator is spotted, the lookout meerkats will give a warning bark or whistle and rest of the family will quickly escape into one of the many entrances of their underground burrow. They take night shelter in their vast network of underground tunnels which also doubles to keep them cool from the hot desert sun.

Claim to fame: Timon (Meerkat) and Pumbaa (Warthog) are the famous duo introduced in Disney's 1994 animated film “The Lion King”.
Famous quote: Hakuna matata roughly translates to "there are no troubles" in Swahili, was translated to the now popular phrase "no worries." Which is the opposite of the meerkat’s behaviour!

Meerkats popularity grew further with the TV show Meerkat Manor from Animal Planet that followed several Meerkat families in the Kalahari Desert.

When colonies are exposed to human presence for a long time, they will become habituated, which allows for documentation of their natural behaviour. It is not unusual for camera crews, who must largely stay still for long periods while filming, to be utilized as convenient sentry posts.

Features: Meerkats have four toes on each foot and at the end of each of them is a claw used for digging burrows and digging for prey. Claws are also used with muscular hindlegs to help climb trees. The eyes are distinctively dark-ringed, with their coat being usually peppered grey, tan, or brown with silver. They have short parallel stripes across their backs with dark-tipped, short-haired, tapered tails.
The underside of the meerkat has no markings, but the belly has a patch which is only sparsely covered with hair and shows the black skin underneath.

Diet: Meerkats are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They catch their preferred insects, small rodents, geckos, snakes, scorpions, spiders, eggs, small mammals, millipedes, centipedes and sometimes small birds with lightning swiftness, but also feed on plants and fungi (the desert truffle).

Since they don't have a lot of body fat, meerkats need to eat every day to keep their energy up. For example, meerkat adults teach their pups how to eat a venomous scorpion: they will remove the stinger and help the pup learn how to handle the creature.

Predators: Martial eaglestawny eagles and jackals are the main predators of meerkats. Meerkats are immune to certain types of venom, including the very strong venom of the scorpions of the Kalahari Desert. However some snakebites from the Puff Adder & Cape Cobras can lead to death.

Breeding: In each clan there is an alpha pair of meerkats that lead the group. The alpha pair typically reserves the right to mate and produce offspring. If others in the clan reproduce, then the alpha pair will usually kill the young and may kick the mother out of the clan. 
The entire group participates in the care and maintenance of young. While the pack is out foraging for food, one helper remains at the den to tend to the young. They babysit the young in the group and will protect them threats, often endangering their own lives. On warning of danger, the babysitter takes the young underground to safety and is prepared to defend them if the danger follows. Animals in the same group groom each other regularly. 

Meerkats, being wild animals, make poor pets. They can be aggressive, especially toward guests and they may also bite. They will scent-mark their owner and the house (their "territory")

Thursday, 16 May 2019

What animal am I? -> AFRICAN FISH EAGLE

Week 4 of our “What animal am I?” series .…Clues during the week -> featured animal revealed on Thursdays.

Clue 1: I am not lazy, just very efficient! ->  They spend most of the time perched in a tree beside the water watching for prey and territorial intruders, it only forages for 5 to 10% of the day. African fish eagles are very efficient hunters and only hunt for about 10 minutes each day.

Clue 2: Thief & kleptoparasite -> They habitually steal prey from other species.
Humans - You think we're above it? The truth is, we're master kleptoparasites! There are many instances in history of people stealing food from other people and we also “steal” edibles from other species. You might very likely be a kleptoparasite as well ... have you eaten any honey lately?

Clue 3: I am often described as the sound of Africa -> Its “characteristic call of Africa” is, for many, evocative of the spirit or essence of Africa and often described as the “Sound of Africa”. 

Which clue gave it away?


AFRICAN FISH EAGLE

This striking raptor is one of the most iconic birds of Africa, often also described as the sound of Africa.

The adult is very distinctive in appearance with a mostly brown body; large, powerful, black wings & the head, breast and tail are snow white. The exception is the featherless face, which is yellow. The eyes are dark brown in colour. The hook-shaped beak, ideal for a carnivorous lifestyle, is yellow with a black tip.
This species may resemble the bald eagle in appearance; though related, each species occurs on different continents, with the bald eagle being resident in North America.

African Fish Eagle:
Lifespan: 12 – 24 years
Speed: 80 km/h
Scientific name: Haliaeetus vocifer
Mass: 2kg – 205kg (male; 3.2kg – 3.6kg (female)
Wingspan: 2m (males); 2.4m (females)
Length: 63 – 77cm

Did you know: African Fish Eagle in isiZulu is inkwazi

Kleptoparasite: African fish eagles are kleptoparasites, which is to say they habitually steal prey from other species. Common victims of their piratical behaviour include goliath herons and saddle-billed stork.

Besides fish, they also eat young birds (especially water-birds such as ducks & flamingos), turtles and terrapins, baby crocodiles, lizards, frogs as well as carrion (decaying flesh of dead animals). Occasionally, it may even carry off mammalian prey, such as hyraxes, monkeys and even domestic chickens.

Should they catch very large prey and it is too heavy to allow the eagle to get lift, they will drag it across the surface of the water until it reaches the shore and will eat it on the ground next to the water.

Humans - You think we're above it? The truth is, we're master kleptoparasites! There are many instances in history of people stealing food from other people and we also “steal” edibles from other species. You might very likely be a kleptoparasite as well ... have you eaten any honey lately?

African Sound: The African Fish Eagle has two distinct calls which have become known as the 'sound of Africa'. The first of the calls are used in flights or when perched and is produces by flinging its head back as it vocalises, to make it louder.
When near the nest it has more of a 'quock' sound - the female is a little shriller and less mellow than the male.

Its “characteristic call of Africa” is, for many, evocative of the spirit or essence of Africa.

Fish eagle sound clip: CLICK HERE (source:klipvid1)

Habitat: This is a generalist species, requiring only large open bodies of water with sufficient prey and a good perch, as evident by the number of habitat types in which this species may be found, including grassland, swamps, marshes, tropical rain-forest, fynbos, and even desert-bordering coastlines. The African fish eagle is absent from arid areas with little surface water.

Acrobatic aerial skills: Courtship includes the birds calling in duet as they fly over their territory. The actual courtship display involves the male diving down at the female who roles over in flight to present her talons.
The female is usually the most aggressive of the pair in defense of the territory. If another female violates her airspace, she will either call to see it off or more likely attack it from below. They interlock talons and actually tumble sometimes 100m to the ground.
African Fish Eagles are believed to be monogamous and mate for life. Even so, the male must win the heart of the female each year. The pair meets in mid-air, locks talons and free-falls until they separate just above the ground.

For life: African fish eagles breed during the dry season, when water levels are low. They are believed to mate for life. Pairs often maintain two or more nests, which they frequently reuse. Because nests are reused and built upon over the years, they can grow very large, some reaching 2 m across and 1.2 m deep.

The females lay 1-3 eggs which are primarily white with a few reddish speckles. The chicks leave the nest at the age of about 3 months. The plumage of the juvenile is brown in colour, and the eyes are paler compared to the adult. They will take 4 – 5 years to develop their magnificent adult plumage.

Siblicide (the killing of an infant siblings, could also be mediated by the parents) does not normally occur with African Fish Eagle and the parents often successfully rear two or three chicks.

Talons: To help grip fish and other slippery prey, the African Fish Eagle has long sharp talons which are coated in barbs called spiricules.

Lazy or efficient? The African fish eagle spends most of the time perched in a tree beside the water watching for prey and territorial intruders, it only forages for 5 to 10% of the day. African fish eagles are very efficient hunters and only hunt for about 10 minutes each day.

Sight & flight: An eagle in flight can reputedly sight a rabbit 3.2km away. Talon–eye coordination is a hunting imperative. From its perch at the top of trees, the eagle can dive at speeds of 200 – 322 km/h to catch its prey by its talons.

Eagles (and most large birds) fly by soaring; it's much more energy efficient than flapping their wings. We do use the technique for our own flights.

Claim to Fame: This bird’s conspicuous nature and charismatic presence ensure it figures prominently in the folklore and heraldry of several nations. You will find it on the Zimbabwean & Zambian Flags as well as on the coat of arms of Namibia, Zambia & South Sudan.