Saturday’s Featured Organism: Psittacula krameri

Psittacula krameri

I can't post this under the "Face to face" imprint because I'm a fuckwit and couldn't take any photo of the parakeets I saw, so here's a "Friday's Featured Organism" article and a stock photo from Google Images. Enjoy.

I’m back home, but this organism is still relevant to my short but sweet roman trip. Wait, what? A parrot like Psittacula krameri in an italian city like Rome? Fuck yes. Ring-necked Parakeets escaped or freed from captivity (they’re popular pets, after all) have been relatively common in many big european cities with warm climate for years now. I had seen them in Barcelona some years ago, so I read about them and discovered that they were in Rome too. However, I had started to think that the roman population was starting to die out, since I frequently visit Rome and I had never seen them. Until the other day, when I discovered a huge colony in a beautiful garden near the Appian way. There were dozens and dozens of beautiful emerald-green parrots flying around, many of them carrying twigs to help building the many enormous colonial nests on the pines nearby. The birds, and the fact that the park was so green and full of palm trees gave the impression of being somewhere in the garden of a powerful and ancient asian king.

While it’s an alien species (and alien species in general are one of the biggest danger to global ecosystems) I don’t think that the Ring-necked Parakeet causes any trouble to local biodiversity, especially since, at least here in Europe, it’s confined to big cities, as far as I know. So I, for one, welcome our new parakeet overlords.


Weekend’s Featured Organism: Strix nebulosa

Strix nebulosa


Yeah, I know, I’m late with the featured organism and this week there have been less updates than when I had to study for the last 2 exams. That’s probably because there’s a FUCKING SNOWSTORM here in Italy right now: days and days and days of snow, and thus, being the endotherm that I am, all of my energy (the part that is not devoted to the study of Physics, at least) is being used to mantain my optimal body heat. Or at least that’s the best excuse I could think of. Cheer up, anyway, because I bring you the joy of Strix nebulosa, the Lapland Owl, which is possibly the most awesome owl to ever exist on this planet. It’s easily recognizable thanks to the big round face with the two distinct (usually white) “C” shaped signs between the eyes, to the enormous size and also thanks to the fact that, quite frankly, it’s one badass mofo. Also, as you can see, it doesn’t give a fuck about snow. It fucking loves snow. God, I wish I was a Lapland Owl right now.

Face to face: Himantopus himantopus

Himantopus himantopus

Double doubles.

So yeah, the long awaited bird content is just actually me kicking off a new section for the naturalistic photographs me and my father occasionally take on excursions. “What a HUGE let down” I hear you whine. Be patient, my friends, and also don’t expect too much, since we started this new hobby relatively recently (less than a year) and the pictures aren’t certainly of National Geographic quality. These guys are black-winged stilt, Himantopus himantopus, photographed in april 2011 in one of the many protected swamps in the territory around Bologna, the northern italian city where I live. They are very common in every period of the year here in Italy (their italian name, “Cavaliere d’Italia”, means “Knight of Italy”). They’re part of the Charadrii, usually small or medium sized birds with long legs and long beaks, both features useful to hunt small aquatic animals in the shallow waters of wetlands and shores. In H. himantopus, males have usually a more intense shade of black on their heads and wings than females, so in this photo the bird in the foreground is probably a male and the one in the background *might* be a female (you can never be too sure).

Friday’s Featured Organism: Rupicola rupicola

Rupicola rupicola

Is that a slice of orange on your head, or are you just happy to see me?

The previous post was long, but I didn’t forget that today is friday! So, to continue on the theme of pornithology (and to compensate for my lack of effort in posting the bird-related content I anticipated), today’s organism is Rupicola rupicola, the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock! Since I’ve discovered its existence, I’ve always thought that the colorful males of this species are some of the most beautiful birds in the world, thanks to their vividly orange feathers and their unusually shaped crest. And then there’s of course their english common name, and I’m not referencing to the fact that this so called “cock” is not a Galliformes but actually a Passeriformes. Seriously, “Cock-of-the-rock”? That’s amusingly audacious, and whoever came up with this name is probably singing this song right now.

See ya later, folks.

Tits and Boobies


Fuck yeah. Anyway, this silliness is derived by the fact that I wanted to post something other and, since I’m a moron, I’m somehow unable to do it; also, since I’m lazy too, I don’t want to think of a way to solve the problem right now. I promise I’ll try something soon, and that what I’ll post will be relevant to birds.

Meanwhile, another bit of pornithology: remember good ol’ Konrad Lorenz?

Lorenz and geese

Things are gonna get ugly in a minute.

Everybody knows about imprinting and how Lorenz’s geese followed him everywhere and thought him to be their mommy. Attending a basic ethology class I learned something new and yet completely logic: thinking to be humans, the geese wanted to fuck Lorenz hard. The imprinting was not only parental, but also sexual, and the birds tried to court human beings and not other geese. That’s the part of the story they always forget to tell you.

Let’s talk camouflage – or not?

by Francesco Lami

Camouflage is a widely adopted trick by organisms, especially animals, to avoid predators or surprise preys. Awesome myrmecologist (what’s with this blog and myrmecologists, anyway?) Alex Wild of Myrmecos fame has posted some days ago an article about what might indeed be one of the most incredibly elaborated camouflage tricks in the already incredibly elaborated world of camouflage. Click the link and look at that goddamn moth, Macrocilix maia: as Alex himself pointed out, it’s a whole mural, depicting two red-eyed flies feeding on bird droppings, complete with light glinting off the wings and the poo. Especially if looked from a few feet of distance, those really look like real flies and real crap, probably realistic enough to trick a bird anyway, and to make the whole thing more convincing, the moth smells bad (what’s with this blog and smelly animals, anyway?). I must admit, however, that I’m a little bit skeptic, and I’m not even the first one, to feel that way. Matthew Cobb wrote a post at Jerry Coyne’s WEIT addressing the most important problem with the theory: ok, flies makes the whole “bird shit” scenario a lot more realistic, but wouldn’t they attract fly-eating predators? While I still think that this, while a good objection, might not be enough to completely destroy a theory supported by the fact that the moth not only does look like bird droppings with flies, but also stinks like bird droppings with flies, I can’t help but think that this might just us seeing things we imagine where there are none, not differently from a Rorscharch test. It’s a story similar to that of the Samurai Crabs, whose face-like carapace has been suggested by some to have been artificially selected by superstitious japanese fishermen who released all the crabs which remotely looked like human faces, while others think it’s just a case of paraeidolia.

Long story short, the question is: do the wings of M. maia look like bird shit thanks tnatural selection, which gave the advantage of not being eaten to the shittiest moths? Or is that just one of the many varieties of moth wings, in which we have seen what we wanted to see (which is… shit, I guess)?