Saturday, 19 December 2009

Terror birding

If you fancy coming to see the wonderful wildlife of Brazil I have good and bad news. Firstly, there are many wonderful colourful and exotic creatures for you to see. The bad news is that the coolest are long extinct. Giant armadillos the size and weight of VW beetles, ground sloths the size of bull elephants that could rear up their hind legs, and the dominant predators, the superbly named "terror birds".

The Terror birds, or Phorusrhacids, were roaming the local hills from 60-2 million years ago. From 3ft to a massive 10ft high, with huge, strong beaks that could be deliver a blow with the force of a sledge hammer, and a kick that could break your leg, these were very potent predators. They couldn't actually fly, but when you can run 30 mph that's not such a problem!

It is tempting to let my imagination fly and populate the forests here with giant carnivorous birds, but actually my imagination doesn't have to work that hard, as anyone who has seem 10,000 BC will know. Ok, they didn't actually make survive long enough to be hunted by cavemen, AND they were never on the same continent as mammoths, BUT it is supposed to be quite accurate otherwise, and it's kinda exciting.
Perhaps slightly more authentic is this Discovery channel documentary.

Bird of the day

The closest living relatives of the Terror Birds are the seriemas, and one species still roams the neighbouring hills, the Red legged Seriema. Frankly, though, it's not actually that frightening, being only 30 inches tall. It's even less imposing when relaxing, as it sinks down to rest on it's knees and looks a little bit silly.
It can can fly, but would rather not, and will run up to 15mph when chased before it reluctantly takes to the air. It doesn't even nest in trees, and if it does nest in a large bush will jump rather than fly to get in it. How the mighty have fallen!

1 comment:

Sunshine said...

I have seen Siriema and they are very interesting indeed.