V. Neblik talks flamboyant, gorgeous and absurd birds:
Several years ago, I ran a wildlife blog called Weirdbeautiful. Over time (and with regular shameless plugs in my magazine work), it became modestly popular in certain circles. Of all the 350-odd posts I wrote for it, the one I got most e mails about was a feature called "The Cheering Up Bird". Not exactly rocket science, the column was just an extension of a joke with a friend about birds that look so simultaneously fabulous and ridiculous that they just brighten your day. So Monday mornings were “cheering up bird” day, because most Mondays need a cheering up bird in them.
Anyway, for reasons that aren’t relevant here, the Weirdbeautiful blog gradually got shelved. My personal ridiculous Cheering-Up Birds list on the other hand, has just continued to grow. Some are freakish, others are garish, some build multicoloured bowers to impress their mates, others dance or call or scuttle about in the darkest, farthest corners of the Earth in the dead of night, eating worms and insects. Some are well known, whilst others are decidedly obscure; one or two on the list had not even been discovered when I was writing for Weirdbeautiful (believe it or not)….all of which makes it all the more pressing that The Greatest Minds gets a Cheering Up Birds list of its own.
So what are they?
Well the list is long, so here is the first instalment of it: 5 birds, 5 little rays of sunshine in the day. There is no particular order to these entries- different critters appeal more or less than others on different days- but today’s set has a decidedly watery flavour, with some gorgeous waders and coastal species making the cut…
1. The Spinifex Pigeon, Geophaps plumifera, also known as the “plumed pigeon” is a rather absurd Australian native. This is the first but not the only pigeon to make the list (let’s face it, the whole bodyshape of the average pigeon is somewhat laughable- no doubt they “think” the same about us). In this case, though, the colours are really something to write home about-
This lovely image by David Bettini also captures the pretty nature of the beast beautifully-
A bird that looks even more absurd in pairs and small groups, if this Wikipedia picture is anything to go by-
Here’s a picture of it by John Gould-
2. Temmick's Tragopan.
Named after the Dutch Aristocrat and Zollogist Coenraad Jacob Temminck, Temminck's tragopan (Tragopan temminckii) is rather drily described as a “medium sized pheasant native to….the mountains of far northeast India, central China [and] far northern Myanmar [Burma] to northwestern Tonkin [Vietnam].” in Wikipedia. A couple of quick clicks later, though and anyone remotely curious can find out just how spectacular this creature really is-
Here’s one about to crow-
(with a few more details here- http://astronomy-to-zoology.tumblr.com/post/41707852731/temmincks-tragopan-tragopan-temminckii-is-a )
You can find a short video on youtube here-
3. The Macaroni Penguin.
Far better known is the next critter on the list- the Macaroni Penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus. As Joe Moore https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/joe_moore_391799 famously said “It's practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry.” http://qi.com/infocloud/penguins
In the case of the Macaroni Penguin, I think things go a stage further and it’s almost impossible not to feel immeasurably cheered up by the merest remembrance of their existence-
(Image by Suzi Eszterhas on sale here- https://fineartamerica.com/featured/macaroni-penguin-eudyptes-chrysolophus-suzi-eszterhas.html )
Bit of a bad-hair (feather-)day for this little fellow- http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-oQ7lDQPZVGI/U71B5hyLajI/AAAAAAAAMvQ/d1-hToa5EuY/s1600/royal-penguin.jpg
This one has no excuse-
( Source and more information: https://birdeden.com/macaroni-penguin-habitat )
Nor do these ones-
4. The Rockhopper Penguin.
Now, if you are not a penguin-lover, or even a bird-person… or you think that the Macaroni Penguin is somehow an exception- the absurd, slightly embarrassing cousin in the otherwise noble and sober Penguin family, I am happy to disabuse you of any such notion with No 4. on the cheering-up birds list : The Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes (chrysocome) chrysocome, is just as spectacular. The three types of rock-hopper penguin (Northern-, Eastern- and Southern- ) are all native to rocky shorelines in cool temperate climates, such as those (variously) of Tristan de Cunha in the Atlantic Ocean, St. Paul in the Indian Ocean, the Falkland Islands, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand.
( Source and more information-
(Source and more information: https://sites.google.com/site/southernrockhopperpenguin2012/ )
And if you ever wanted to see a possee of absurdity-
(Source and more information:
5. The Roseate Spoonbill.
Last but by no means least in this first instalment is the Roseate Spoonbill, Platalea ajaja. A couple of years back I inherited half a dozen small items from the estate of a relative- a very small, ornate box, a couple of limited-edition porcelain tea cups : that kind of thing. Anyway the stand out item in the “collection” was a neat, good-as-new copy of Audubon’s "The Birds of America", which might be large and impractical as anything other than a coffee-table book, but sure makes a great conversation piece. The pictures in there are famously glorious/luxurious/extravagant- take your pick. One particular favourite is this treasure-
Simultaneously instantly recognisable and absurdly stylized, the Roseate Spoonbill is one of the best cheering-up birds in a book full of them.
In the flesh, these shallow-water feeding birds are undeniably magnificent-
Roseate Spoonbills are native to parts of the Southern USA and were, once upon a time, very common. Today they are less so, but have a large range and remain locally abundant in certain “pockets” of coastal Florida, Texas, and parts of Louisiana. Consequently, they are considered neither endangered nor threatened according to the IUCN Red List- http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22697574/0 and for freak-bird-lovers the world over that can only be a joyous thing.
- V. Neblik for TheGreatestMinds Ltd.
Part 2 of "The Cheering Up Birds": COMING SOON.