Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Let a Frown be Your Umbrella

It’s been a while since I’ve written about birds. The major problem with them is that they tend to be, well, cute. With vultures, much like snakes, it is easy to throw them all in due to deep-seated associations people have with the whole taxa. So, I set out to find an ugly, non-carrion eating bird. What I found was a Muppet.
Image from Oriental Bird Club

This is the Sri Lankan Frogmouth1(Batrachostomus moniliger), and I believe that if Jim Henson set out to create an animal, this would be the result. A comically wide, flat mouth. Bulbous, ping-pong eyes. A single, large eyebrow. Remind you of anyone2? There are good reasons for each of those traits, and in fact, the Sri Lankan Frogmouth is not the only one with those traits. There are a number of other Frogmouths—a relative of the Nightjar—though none look quite as cartoony as the Sri Lankan.

As a nocturnal insectivore, the Frogmouth needs to be able to pick moths out of thin air, while flying through dense jungle. This explains both the gigantic eyes, and the gaping mouth acts as a funnel to increase the chance of an unsuspecting insect getting drawn into their maw. I’m not sure of the exact purpose of the monobrow, but it certainly aids in the magnificent camouflage. These birds are able to sit perfectly still atop a mossy branch and look like nothing more exciting than a stump. While I can’t seem to find a major predator, there seem to be plenty of choices.

Alas, it was only after I had decided that I needed to write about this animal that I found out… it’s not really endangered3. For a time, it was considered Near Threatened (possibly due to its amazing camouflage), and ARKive suggests that if habitat loss by non-sustainable agriculture were to get out of hand, it could go right back there, or worse. And, frankly, such a thing is not hard to imagine.

1Please watch the videos. It's even stranger looking when it moves.
2If you really want to freak yourself out, compare the pictures side-by-side.
3I would like to know what you think about this week’s other option, the
Bare-Headed Rockfowl. Is it ugly enough for a future post? I value your opinions.


TrueFliesBlogger said...

Muppets Live! The resemblance is uncanny. Fun post.

Rainstorm said...

The rockfowl is gorgeous. Am I just crazy? I don't think it's ugly at all.

Funny, the first thing I saw when I looked at those...birds...was Labyrinth.

You should do an endangered ugly plant.

Terrell said...

Just wanted to let you know we linked to this article in the March issue of Learning in the Great Outdoors. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Good job! :)