Bestiarium of the future - Birds
In this section descriptions of various animals and plants, which could live on the Earth in Neocene epoch. The section will be supplemented as new ideas about possible ways of evolution of life will appear. If readers will not find here any species placed here earlier, it means that it is a reason to search for a new chapter in English version of "The Neocene Project". Forum

Amphibians and Reptiles



 Lilliputian ostrich (Nanostruthella lilliputiana)
Order: Ostriches (Struthioniformes)
Family: Ostriches (Struthionidae)

Habitat: tropical woods of Zinj Land.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

During a history of order known to people ostriches never flied. Already at fossil ostriches characteristic adaptation to running, disappearance of external toes, had been visible. Prehistoric ostriches were rather uniform group of birds, but they had successfully entered plain ecosystems of any geological epoch of Cenozoic era. In Pleistocene ostriches had not best times: at first their variability of species had reduced, and only one species had survived till historical epoch. And later, in historical epoch, its area and number also had reduced because of hunting of these birds by people. But ostriches had revealed the considerable adaptive potential when as the fates decree they appeared free from the main enemy, the human, and sets of competitors at change of geological epoch. And in Neocene one African species of ostriches became the highest animal in the world. But, as if a caprice of destiny, at the Eastern African subcontinent (or Zinj Land) which had broken away from Africa, its distant relative evolved in opposite way.
In soils of tropical wood there is lack of mineral substances: they are soaked up immediately by roots of trees. Therefore it is no wonder, that at apparent riches of a forest life in underbrush tiny species live, despite of the fact that their savanna relatives are rather large animals. So there dwarf wood antelopes, elephants, and even people (pygmies) had appeared. And the tiny representative of ostriches – the Lilliputian ostrich – lives in tropical forest of Zinj Land in Neocene epoch. This bird as if sneers at the fact that its ancestor, the African ostrich, was one of the largest birds of Earth in historical epoch. Growth of the adult Lilliputian ostrich up to top does not exceed one meter at weight up to 25 kilograms. This bird has kept typical features of its ancestor - long naked legs and neck, two toes, underdeveloped wings with long feathers and a homogeneous feathering on all body.
Living conditions in tropical forest strongly differ from savanna, and the Lilliputian ostrich has developed some adaptations to such conditions. For successful recognizing of congeners in twilight of tropical wood at the bird bright spots on the body had appeared: the head and neck at birds of both genders have caesious color, and on throat there is a rounded site of red skin – at males it is larger, than at females. Legs at this ostrich are black, and the feathering at birds of both genders has identical cryptic colouring: each feather is grey with longitudinal black strip. When the bird escapes from enemies, it can simply lie on the ground and keep fixity, becoming imperceptible among shadows and roots. But usually Lilliputian ostriches run away from the enemy: they accelerate the high speed and can jump highly, jumping over tabular roots of trees. At their prosecution along the cross-country terrain the predator lags behind from the first meters when it could not attack birds suddenly.
The Lilliputian ostrich eats various vegetative foods which can be found in wood litter: fruits dropping from trees, firm seeds, sprouts of trees. To fray seeds, the bird searches on riverbanks and swallows small pebbles. Also this ostrich eats any small animals which may be caught – insects, frogs, tiny mammal. These birds often leave forest to feed on sandy banks of rivers where they dig out turtle nests. Sometimes this ostrich even eats carrion. Due to absence of narrow food specialization these birds are widely settled in forests of Zinj Land.
At males on wings long feathers grow, but they are not curly as at this bird’s far ancestor, and have no characteristic white colouring. During courtship demonstrations the male involves females, opening wings like fans, "waltzing" and stamping legs by the ground. Thus it loudly cries, and its voice is similar to goose cackle. During the “serenade” displaying male puffs throat, and it serves as the resonator. The site of red skin on throat during courtship demonstrations is increased: it is an attribute of the male maturity. At young birds the red spot on throat is not present, and they have no success during courtship games though they start to perform elements of courtship dance, yet not having reached maturity.
Similarly to all flightless birds this species nests on the ground. In the past when people had intensively exterminated males of the African ostrich, it had passed from monogamy to polygamy. The Lilliputian ostrich, of course, had not undergone to such prosecution, therefore family relations at it represent not strict monogamy. Usually the male forms family with one female, but sometimes it allows other female to lay eggs in the nest, and birds look at the common hatch three together. Outside of nesting season hatches and parents unite to herds numbering 40 – 50 adult birds. One female lays up to ten rounded eggs like goose one by size, covered with grey shell with dark points and spots. The incubating lasts about 40 days Chicks hatch with opened eyes and well developed, covered with rich down, and abandon nest, having dried under parents. They are colored yellowish-grey with large longitudinal brown dabs and spots. Approximately since the second week of life at them the juvenile feathering of grey color without strips on feathers starts to grow. Head and neck of young birds are black. By the end of the first year of life young ostriches grow up to 75 – 80 cm, the juvenile feathering is replaced by the adult one, and head and neck brighten. At the second year of life sites of red skin on the throat appear, and young birds participate in nesting.

Pyrenean ostrich (Brachystruthio pyrenaicus)
Order: Ostriches (Struthioniformes)
Family: Ostriches (Struthionidae)

Habitat: Western Europe, plains, maquis and woodlands.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Due to fast breeding rate ostriches (Struthio camelus) were among few large inhabitants of African savannas survived in human epoch. The ability of ostriches to live in conditions of lack of water has played a considerable role in their success. Populations of ostriches large enough for a survival of species were kept in lonely and uninhabited areas at edges of Sahara, and therefrom new victorious procession of these birds in Old World after human disappearance. In savannas of Northern Africa giraffe ostrich (Deinostruthio altissimus) lives – it is the highest species of ever existing birds. And dwarf representative of these birds inhabits tropical forests of Zinj Land. One more descendant of African ostrich, Pyrenean ostrich, was settled to the north, to Western Europe. It is adapted to existence in conditions of seasonal climate and became one of characteristic species of woodland and plain fauna.
Pyrenean ostrich differs from the ancestor in more thickset constitution – it is an adaptation to reduction of heat emitting in winter. Growth of an adult bird is up to 1.5 m; weight is about 110 kg. This ostrich has heavier constitution comparatively to ancestor: short thick neck and thick legs. Head of this species also seems larger and more massive. The lateral toe on legs is reduced in great degree, almost useless and only slightly touches the ground. Despite of this feature, characteristic for quickly running birds, Pyrenean ostrich can accelerate momentum only about 50 kms per hour. Possible, it descends from quickly running ancestors, but has lost a part of speed due to development of northern habitats of colder climate.
The plumage of Pyrenean ostrich is rich and resembles wool more. In feather colouring the sexual dimorphism is expressed: male is dark grey, but its neck keeps reddish shade; female is colored lighter – it is brownish with grey spots on plumage. Male lacks white feathers in wings characteristic for the African species. The neck of these birds in bottom part is covered with large feathers like on body – approximately the half of its general length from shoulders. The top part of neck and head are covered with thin hairlike feathers.
Beak of this bird is thick and deep. Pyrenean ostrich eats fruits, roots and grass. With the help of strong hoof-like claws it is capable to dig bulbs out of the ground. Occasionally this bird tramples and pecks lizards and small snakes, and also may eat any rodent.
Similarly to African ostriches prior to the beginning of their extermination, these birds are monogamous and live in permanently existing pairs or in groups of three birds; in the south of area male may form family with two females at once, and they hatch eggs alternately and look after chicks together. If the herd is larger, it means two or three parents lead the grown up chicks.
The breeding season at this species begins in early spring. The female lays up to eight eggs, and all members of family incubate the clutch alternately: male at night, and female in day time. In hot weather female only protects clutch from the sun. The hatching proceeds till 45 days. Breeding rate at these birds is rather slow: chicks follow parents more than year and for this time they reach approximately 70% of weight of adult individual. Nesting and rearing of posterity takes away many efforts from adult birds; therefore nesting at these ostriches repeats once in two years. Young birds become sexually mature at the third year of life. Life expectancy reaches 25 – 28 years.

The idea about existence of this species of birds was proposed by Nick, the forum member.

One-toed ostrich (Unistruthio velox)
Order: Ostriches (Struthioniformes)
Family: Ostriches (Struthionidae)

Habitat: Arabia, Asian Near East (Levant), southern border of Mediterranean hollow.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

Ostrich order in human epoch demonstrated expressed enough uniformity of its representatives. Despite of a wide area, ostriches of Holocene epoch were representatives of one genus and several close enough species. Hunting activity of people and secular changes of climate in Pleistocene had caused great reduction of number and area of ostriches. In historical time these birds had completely died out in Asia, and their number in Africa was reduced many times over. But ostriches had rather successfully gone through human epoch – their populations had been kept in areas where human economic activities had been very complicated. Their maintenance in semi-domestic condition had played an important role in preservation of ostriches.
In early Neocene ostriches appeared among few groups of large vertebrates in impoverished ecosystems remained after epoch of human domination. It became a stimulus for their rough evolution, and the various species of ostriches differing in ecology and way of life had appeared right in first millions years after ice age at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. In Neocene the divergency inside this group has proceeded, and some genera of ostriches, including giraffe ostrich (Deinostruthio altissimus), the largest birds species of Neocene, had appeared.
One genus of ostriches had adapted to fast running and had occupied dry plains and deserts around of the Mediterranean hollow. This genus includes an only species – one-toed ostrich.
The anatomy of this species of birds is unique, because on its legs only one toe, the middle one is well advanced and completely functional. The lateral toe has not reduced completely, but it is very short, almost completely hidden under skin. From outside only its claw is seen. The claw of middle toe takes up weight of body of the bird during walking and run. It is wide and similar to horse hoof; traces of this species of ostriches have very characteristic outlines. Growth of adult bird of this species exceeds two meters, and weight reaches up to 80 kg – a constitution of this ostrich is more gracile, rather than at its ancestor of Holocene epoch.
One-toed ostrich runs quickly – at the short distance it accelerates momentum up to 80 kms per hour and can run at speed of about 60 kms per hour till one hour. Evolution of this species was directed to increase of endurance. It had allowed to one-toed ostrich to develop a habitat of very severe conditions – the Mediterranean hollow.
In due time ancient people compared ostrich to camel because of similarity of their legs, and this similarity is reflected even in the scientific name of the ostrich lived on the Earth in human epoch. One-toed ostrich with its legs resembles the horse more, but it quite can be compared to a camel in endurance. It can live without water for very long time, receiving metabolic water from eaten plants. This ostrich also easily endures very hot weather – its plumage is rather thin, and head and neck are covered with absolutely naked skin. On the throat of this bird there is a longitudinal skin plica penetrated plentifully with blood vessels and having bright red color. Through it ostrich radiates the superfluous heat. During the rest this ostrich faces with other problem – it should lie down on the heated ground or simply on salt crust. But the bird has the adaptation allowing having a rest this way without harm. On bird’s tarso-metatarsi there are advanced thick corneous callouses on which the bird laying on stomach leans. Moreover, fat layer gathers on stomach of bird, and from outside stomach is covered with thick cornificated featherless skin. Color of plumage also protects this bird from overheat – plumage of birds of both genders is colored very light, bluish-grey at males and yellowish at females. Chicks are covered with pale-yellow down with an indistinct longitudinal strip of grey color on back. At males demonstration feathers on wings are advanced, but they are much shorter, than at ostriches of human epoch.
This bird can come far into salty desert of the Mediterranean hollow where large predators appear only casually. Herds of one-toed ostriches numbering up to two tens of birds, wander on edges of Mediterranean hollow and in stony deserts of Near East. This species nests in one of the safest places of this territory – in island “oases” of the Mediterranean. Mountains serve as places of condensation of moisture in salt desert, and ostriches find there a favorable place for nesting. In the beginning of breeding season these birds gather in herds numbering up to hundred of individuals. They make migrations across salt desert to “oases”, moving on firm ground and avoiding salt swamps where the lost birds perish sometimes.
One-toed ostriches nest on the ground, forming the congestions numbering some tens of nests. Pairs are formed only to one nesting season. The female lays up to ten eggs in primitive nest representing a hole in the ground. Both birds from pair alternately incubate the clutch irrespectively of time. Chicks hatch after 40 days of incubation. They find enough food in bushes and under trees. They spend the first weeks of life in “oases” but after that the most important test in life is necessary for them: the grown up young birds make tiresome migration across salt desert together with their parents. Many chicks lag behind and are lost in desert where perish soon from heat and lack of food. Some of them stick in salty bogs. Strangely enough, but chicks lost in “oases” have chance to live about the next year and to make the passage across desert together with adult birds.
Life expectancy of one-toed ostrich makes 20 – 25 years.
In Pleistocene at the islands of Mediterranean Sea there was an original faunistic complex of dwarf species of elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, deer and other animals appeared in conditions of isolation when the sea level had risen. In Neocene the situation repeated in some degree except that the sea has completely dried up and the extensive spaces of dry saline desert became the main obstacle for animal settling. At the former islands of the Mediterranean close species of one-toed ostriches differing in dwarf size and settled way of life live.
Maltese one-toed ostrich (Unistruthio humilis) inhabits Malta mountain area in the Mediterranean hollow. Growth of this dwarf ostrich does not exceed 1 meter. It has a gracile constitution, and its colouring of plumage id darker, rather than at its large relative: background colouring is pale-yellow, back is dark grey, and faltering longitudinal strips atretch on each side. Actually, this species has kept juvenile colouring of its ancestor.
Cretan one-toed ostrich (Unistruthio cretensis) inhabits mountains being once Crete island. It differs in light grey, almost white plumage at birds of both genders, and more robust constitution. Growth of these ostriches is about one and a half meters, but their legs are rather shorter, than at close species. This species is original version of “wild goat” among the ostriches, adapted for movement on hillsides. These ostriches are able to make jumps up to five meters long and to move on narrow stone eaves.
The complex of indistinctly differed from each other local forms united to modular species, dwarf one-toed ostrich (Unistruthio intermedius), lives in “oases” of northern part of the Mediterranean hollow. This species is remarkable in very wide variability of appearance. Growth at different populations varies from 90 up to 150 cm and is in straight dependence on the size of “oasis” where they live. Their constitution, as a rule, is gracile, but the forms close to Cretan one-toed ostrich have heavier constitution and are less inclined to migrations. Shade of plumage varies from white and straw-coloured up to beige and light brown with several longitudinal strips. Between various local forms there are transitive variants freely crossed with each other and supporting the certain unity of this species.

Yagil (Carnocasuarius yagil)
Order: Cassowaries (Casuariformes)
Family: Cassowaries (Casuaridae)

Habitat: tropical woods of the north of Meganesia.

Picture by Timothy Donald Morris, colorization by Alexander Smyslov

Initial image by Timothy Morris

North of Australia, New Guinea and islands of Indonesia were few places at Earth where sites of the rainforest were kept during the ice age. Some of rainforest inhabitants could go through epoch of climatic changes and had occupied rainforests widely spreaded in tropical areas after the ice age. Among them there were not only small creatures like warblers and insects, but also rather large vertebrates. One of the largest inhabitants of Meganesian rainforests in early Neocene was the dwarf cassowary (Casuarius benetti). This bird had survived in epoch of people chasing due to secrecy of habit of life. But in human era the area of this species had been fragmented, and different populations had developed different features of behavior. After human extinction birds had settled again within the borders of former area, but distinctions in behavior reliably isolated different populations even in common habitats, and it had become an incitement to speciation.
One of descendants of the cassowary is yagil, rather large bird, up to 170 cm height, weighting up to 80 kg (female is smaller than male). Yagil had kept a characteristic for cassowaries constitution: moderately long neck and legs. But it became less bright, than its ancestor was: the feathering similar to wool is colored olive tone, on shoulders a little bit darkest, than on sides and back. In coloring of the bird there are no “excesses”: “lobes” and outgrowths, characteristic for cassowaries, at yagil are not present, and naked skin on head and neck is ash-grey. Only under beak of males there is brightly-yellow spot. Corneous “helmet” on head is small – it looks as small outgrowth sticking up back. Beak of bird is high, slightly bent down on the tip.
Soft coloring may be clarified simply enough: this bird is a predator, the active hunter killing various large ground animals. The bird chases prey, imperceptibly creeping to it hiding in thickets. And as soon as the distance between predator and prey will be enough shorten, the yagil sharply rushes from shelter on catch. Its killing instrument is long, powerful and sharp claw on internal toe. The bird rips up belly or side of prey by it, and then jumps aside, dumping preyed animal on side by strong push of the body. This bird is named after the hero of one myth of New Guinea used cassowary leg instead of the weapon. If the victim had survived after such furious attack, the predatory cassowary will chase it up to exhaustion. But the bird will not spend superfluous efforts, and it simply will walk follow the prey, waiting while that will expire with blood.
When the animal is killed, the yagil cleans and tears it apart to pieces by strong beak. The bird usually eats only soft tissues of large catch, and on the rests of carcass there is some meat for various scavengers. Except for large animals the yagil eats small creatures: lizards, rodents and insects.
This predator had kept many features of behavior of cassowary: yagil is the solitary predator zealously protecting extensive fodder territory. In case of excitation the yagil involves head in shoulders, fluffs feathers on back and straightens the rests of wings - the needle-shaped feathers which have turned into horn spikes even at its ancestor. This bird utters voice seldom, only sometimes it hisses during conflicts with congeners.
The courtship season at yagils lasts the year round. The female ready to pairing comes itself into the territory of the male. In the beginning she is cautious, and keeps at some distance from the male. Then, when he gets used to her presence, the female starts “close acquaintance”: she leaves to the male right after how he preys a large animal and is saturated so, that looses interest to catch. At this time he is less aggressive, and the female can involve him any more as probable meal: occasionally yagil males attack careless females. When contact is established, pair in common chooses nesting place, and arranges the nest: birds simply dig small hole without any litter. In clutch it is up to 10 eggs having bluish-green shell, they are hatched by the male during 45 days. For this time he strongly grows thin, as is compelled to eat casual catch, down to small invertebrates. Constant pair at yagils is not formed, and right after egg laying the female is expelled from territory of the male.
Young yagils differ in colouring from adults: these birds are spotty, black with white spots merging to longitudinal lines. Right after hatching they have “fighting” claw, and they try to attack insects and small vertebrates. Gradually birds shed feathers, and their colouring becomes one-color, as at adults. Sexual maturity at yagil comes at the age of about 3 years, at females earlier, than at males.

This species of birds had been discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Savanna false moa (Pseudodinornis savannum)
Order: Cassowaries (Casuariformes)
Family: False moas (Pseudodinornitidae)

Habitat: savannas of central and southern parts of Meganesia (Australian-New Guinean continent).
Neocene epoch differs from droughty and cool Holocene in significant biological efficiency. The areas of savannas and deserts were reduced and wood and bush areas had extended. In territory of Australia new habitats able to support numerous populations of large animals – thickets of eucalyptuses and perennial graminoids – had appeared. Accordingly, in fauna of this continent appreciable changes had cased: many large animals had evolved. A part of them was descendants of introduced species, and the other part had evolved from native species of continent. Among birds the group of false moas – large flightless descendants of emu – had appeared. They had occupied all Australian-New Guinean continent, and had formed some species adapted to different conditions of inhabiting.
In plain districts overgrown with grass, the savanna false moa, the largest species of this family, lives. Growth of adult bird may reach 350 cm at weight up to 350 kg. This bird differs in rather massive constitution and thick legs. Therefore is not able to run quickly. But due to large growth this bird beforehand notices danger, and life in herd gives advantage of collective defense.
The feathering of savanna false moa is colored sand tone. Feathers are narrow and more similar to wool. They cover all body in regular intervals, but sides of head, throat and forward part of neck of this bird are covered with featherless skin of violet-red color. White coloring of feathers on nape sharply contrasts with it. These feathers are long and also form thin crest which is used for submission of signals and recognition of congeners. At males it is larger, than at females.
At savanna false moa the beak is not specialized to any certain kind of food. It is natural feature: the bird eats practically everything that is possible to be found in savanna. The most part of diet of these species includes elevated parts of grassy plants, but this bird frequently digs out tubers and bulbs by sharp claws. Also savanna false moa willingly pecks insects and small vertebrates, down to young rabbits (this bird can swallow animals of such size entirely). To digest food better, savanna false moas swallow chicken egg-sized stones.
Usually herds of these birds numbering up to 30 - 40 birds wander on savannas, not adhering to the certain territory. As the need for water at birds is less than at mammals, they appear on watering places approximately once in two - three days, using the moisture contained in eaten plants in other time. Due to this feature birds can feed in districts unsuitable for life of local herbivorous animals like camelopes. There is no strict hierarchy in herd of birds, and the competition between males begins mainly during courtship season – shortly before rain season. During courtship season males start to show aggression to each other. They start to drive away each other from females, uttering loud blares and strongly puffing throat.
Savanna false moas are not strict polydins: in various cases one male can form pair family, or nesting group with several females – it depends on number of females in herd. Accordingly, the size of clutch of this species varies from ten up to twenty eggs and more in one nest. The clutch is hatched by both parents (or male and all females of breeding group) alternately. Chicks hatch after 45 days; they are well advanced, covered with down of yellowish color with narrow dark longitudinal strips. They can feed independently from the first day of life. Chicks keep mainly with female, and male protects territory where the hatch is feeding.
At the age of ten days at chicks feathers start to grow. Young birds till the first year of life reach about half of weight of adult bird. At three-year age they start to take part in courtship displays.
False moas have achieved the big success in struggle for existence, that is expressed in variety and prevalence of these birds in Meganesia. Close species of this genus inhabit other biotopes:

Picture by Eugeny Hontor

Desert false moa (Pseudodinornis desertophilum) lives in droughty areas of south-west of continent. It differs in graceful constitution and ability to live in hot dry climate.
Mountain false moa (Pseudodinornis orophilum) lives in completely other conditions, than the previous species: in mountain woods and bush thickets of Great Dividing Ridge. It is the smallest species in family: adult individuals grow up to 150 cm in height, and weigh about 100 kg. Birds of this species differ in stumpy constitution: neck and legs at them are rather short. Mountain false moas do not differ in run abilities, but they can skip on stones and easily move on abrupt slopes.
Featherless sites of skin on throat are not present, but at males fluffy “beard”, which it shows during courtship displays, develops. Feathering of this bird is rather homogeneous; feathers are narrow, a little similar to wool. To winter feathers become wider, improving thermal protection of birds. Coloring of body is soft, brownish-olive tones; head is lighter than body. Legs are feathered up to middle of hypotarsus, are covered with dark feathers. To winter feathers on legs extend, forming warm “trousers”.
These birds are steadier against a cold, than local mammal, mountain camelopes. They live at the greater height, than these animals, and avoid competition to them due to it. However, to winter mountain false moas of this species go down in valleys. They eat grass and branches of evergreen bushes.
Mountain false moas are monodins; they nest in rich bush, hiding the nest location. In their clutch it is to 5 - 8 large eggs.
Wood false moa (Pseudodinornis sylvaticus) lives in rich tropical woods at the north of Meganesia. This species is medium-sized representative of the genus: it reaches only 2 meters in height, and weighs 150 – 200 kg. Its feathering is colored greyish-green tone with white spots on trunk, imitating light spots on wood litter. Due to such colouring the bird can remain imperceptible, freezing in bushes or near the fallen tree. Besides this bird is able to run quickly, because it is combined rather gracefully, resembling an ostrich by proportions.
For recognition of congeners on throat of this bird there is a bright label - the blue area of naked skin bordered by silver-gray feathers. Except for this label, bird is differing in “eyebrows” of lengthened black feathers well distinguished on grey feathering of head.
Wood false moa is monodin, and pairs at these species are kept till all life. Male and female build in common nest somewhere in shelter, usually in bush in the fallen site of wood. The nest represents a small hole in the ground without litter. In clutch there are about green-shelled 10 eggs. The incubating lasts about 35 days. Chicks have striped colouring: along back and on sides wide longitudinal brown stripes stretch on yellowish background.
Striped, or jarra false moa (Pseudodinornis jarrae) lives in rarefied eucalyptine woods (this vegetative community is named “jarra”) at coast of gulf of Eyre and at southern coast of continent. As against other species, at jarra false moa it is striped colouring of body of alternating brown and yellow strips, representing a juvenile attribute. Head of bird is black; neck is white with pale longitudinal strips which become brighter on body.
It is one of large species of genus: the adult male reaches 2,5 - 2,8 m in height and weighs about 300 kg. Jarra false moa is rather sluggish bird which keeps in small groups – about 10 – 15 adult birds. It lives in districts overgrown with bush and undersized wood species of eucalyptus (the characteristic Australian vegetative community named “jarra”).
Jarra false moa eats eucalyptus leaves – this kind of forage is not accessible to many herbivores. Leaves of eucalyptus are poisonous enough, and contain a plenty of oils, therefore only the most specialized herbivores can eat them. Due to special enzymes this bird neutralizes and decomposes poisonous substances, and can browse even young sprouts of eucalyptuses. In districts where such birds are fed, eucalyptuses grow as low trees with “pruned” crone.
Jarra false moas are inclined to social life – birds nest together, and nests in colony are placed at the distance of several meters from each other. In clutch there are no more than eight large eggs with shell of brown color. Both parents hatch it, but the posterity is looked after only by the female. Usually chicks keep near mother only the first week of life, and later then unite to “kindergarten”, and females in common look at them. Young birds eat ground vegetation, and start to use for food eucalyptus leaves only from bi-monthly age.

These species of birds had been discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Pampas giant tinamou (Supercrypturus nandoides)
Order: Tinamous (Tinamiformes)
Family: Tinamous (Tinamidae)

Habitat: pampas of South America, including Patagonia, Chaco; Andean foothills.
Tinamous, or crypturids, have rather successfully gone through human epoch. Some species and subspecies of these birds had died out in epoch of human domination, but the most usual species of this group were widely distributed in epoch of disappearance of forests in South America. Disappearance of rheas, South American ratites, in human epoch also has urged the evolution of these birds. Clearing of ecological niche of large ground birds has allowed some descendants tinamou to increase considerably in size. Reluctantly flying in human epoch, tinamous had easily left flight ability in order to receive all advantages of ground way of life.
The most usual representative of these birds is pampas giant tinamou, the inhabitant of plains overgrown with grass in warm-temperate and subtropical zones of South America. It is an original analogue of bustards (Otis) of Old World, flightless bird weighting about 20 kg. In appearance this tinamou resembles a little any giant chick of emu: it has the remarkable longitudinal-striped colouring, allowing masking in grass. The basic background of colouring is straw-yellow with individual variations from yellowish-white up to ochre-red. On back along every feather shaft the longitudinal dark strip stretches. They form in common the striped pattern, allowing masking in grass. On wings primarily feathers, on the contrary, are dark with longitudinal yellow strip in the middle. There are only thin longitudinal strokes on feathers of neck, breast and stomach.
Head of pampas giant tinamou sharply differs in colouring from other parts of body. It is black with a cop of several long silky feathers of white color. Eyes are surrounded with rings of featherless skin of pink color. At displaying male blood flows to skin in these places, and this skin inflates strongly, turning red and warty.
Pampas giant tinamou is similar to small ostrich in the constitution. It has long and strong legs with short toes and thick blunt claws. Growth of this bird is about 1 meter. Similarly to ostriches of Old World and South American rheas, this species has kept rather well advanced wings. They are not used for flight: keel bone at giant tinamous is reduced. But during the run birds use them to change direction of movement. Chicks of this species, however, still can take wing and fly short distance; adult birds lose such ability. The tail at this species is reduced.
This species lives among undersized vegetation: in pampas and bush. This bird avoids places overgrown with forest. Pampas giant tinamou runs quickly: even chicks are remarkable in endurance and can deceive the opponent. Using the favourite tactics of protection of this species, birds sharply change direction of run and alternate high speed jerks with hiding in grass. Suddenly having hidden in grass and having freezed for some seconds, bird suddenly jumps and runs, having changed direction of movement. Birds escape from the enemy this way at any age. The main enemy of these birds is flightless hunting heron; obviously, protection tactics of these birds was generated for escaping from these birds, capable to run for long distances, but lack of maneuverability.
Beyond breeding season pampas giant tinamou lives in herds numbering up to hundred birds, without the expressed hierarchy. This bird is omnivorous and willingly eats both greens and seeds, and food of animal origin – lizards, small mammals and nestlings of ground birds. In rare cases birds peck carrion – it happens more often on southern border of their area, after severe winters.
Like all flightless birds, pampas giant tinamou nests in pairs. Male displays itself, extending its body vertically. Calling females, he utters loud buzzing call, directing the straightened neck forward. When female comes nearer to him, he begins courtship ritual: opens wings, displaying himself, and pursues in such pose the female he liked. At this moment rings of skin around of eyes are poured by blood and swell, giving to him the grotesque shape, and cop on head rises up. When the female stops as a sign of submission, male folds wings and cautiously touches her feathers on head by beak. At this time the skin around of his eyes is still swollen, and cop trembles.
Nest of this species represents simple hole in the ground without any litter. In clutch of these birds it is about ten eggs in green shell weighting up to 400 grammes. Female lays one egg each day and starts hatching after laying of the last egg. The hatching lasts till 50 days; usually the female incubates eggs, but at night male replaces her. Chicks come into light well advanced, with opened eyes and covered with down. They are capable to walk in two hours after hatching, and at the first week of life primarily feathers grow at them, and chicks get ability to fly for a short time. At the age of three years young bird becomes capable to breeding.

Azorean pseudododo (Terricolofulma pseudoraphoides)
Order: Petrels (Procellariiformes)
Family: Ground stormy petrels (Xenoprocellariidae)

Habitat: New Azora island, woods and bush thickets.

Picture by Carlos Pizcueta

Ecological crisis at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene had caused changes in efficiency of ocean - the most important and simultaneously the most sensitive to changes in biosphere source of food for set of species of animals. The global cooling and change of direction of currents had caused mass extinction of plankton and pelagic animals. As the result many species of large-sized sea animal appeared doomed to starvation. Ecological crisis had completely destroyed populations of sea cetaceans and other animals, undermined in Holocene by human activity. Sea birds appeared harder to these changes, and their species could evolve to new ones. And some of their descendants in Neocene lead absolutely new habit of life.
Island habitats appear rather favorable for evolution of birds, especially if on islands mammals are absent. In Holocene epoch people had introduced to various islands animals which could not appear there in the natural way, therefore only few islands have no mammal fauna. It is, for example, Iceland on which all ground fauna had been destroyed by glaciers. And on New Azora placed at the south ground animals had kept and evolved. But one of birds successfully competes to them, taking a high place in food chain. This bird is the Azorean pseudododo.
This bird differs by many features from rather stupid and harmless Mauritian dodo quickly exterminated by people and mammals introduced to its native island. It is flightless carnivorous bird, the descendant of sea bird mallimauk (Fulmarus glacialis) belonging to Procellariiformes order. The “true” dodo was herbivorous bird, but this bird has kept and has strengthened abilities of carnivorous creature: it eats small animals - murine rodents and small predators, nestlings of other birds, and also carrion. Obviously, the adaptation of ancestors of this species to feeding by ground animals was consequence of sharp falling of biological efficiency of ocean in early Neocene (the ancestral species ate plankton, but already in human epoch it had began to pass to feeding by waste products of sea crafts). This species differs from dodo also by aggression that helps the pseudododo to survive and succeed in the world of New-Azorean mammals. Besides it differs in large size (the adult bird weighs about 6 - 7 kg), and the majority of small inhabitants of New Azora represent delicious catch instead of enemies for it.
Despite of so obvious distinctions, one feature strongly makes this bird similar to dodo. Pseudododo, similarly to dodo, has kept many juvenile features of flying ancestors, becoming, actually, an adult and sexual mature nestling. Body and head of pseudododo are covered with soft down, feathers are only in tail and wings. The body of bird is colored grey with large spots merging to cross strips: such colouring makes bird undistinguished in underbrush of New-Azorean woods. The beak of bird is well adapted to predating: it is big and high, with sharp edges and hook on the tip. The characteristic feature of order, tubular nostrils, was kept at the Azorean pseudododo. The beak of pseudododo has rather bright colouring: it is ivory-colored with red - brown tip. At males the spot on tip of beak is larger, than at females.
Wings of this bird as if had stopped growth in juvenile condition: they are strongly reduced, narrow and short. Wings serve this bird for maintenance of balance at fast movement. Tail is short and fanlike.
Legs of pseudododo are strong and rather long. The manner of movement overland of this bird is original: these birds jump, similarly to kangaroo, pushing from the ground by all hypotarsus (such way of movement on the ground was characteristic for ancestor of this species). In case of necessity bird can run, chasing catch. The palama is reduced, toes are rather short, have grown together to one third of general length. On them thick strong claws are advanced, providing good coupling with the ground at movement. On back (actually bottom) side of hypotarsus and toes there is corneous calloused thickening.
Azorean pseudododoes develop rather slowly: the nestling develops in nest about eight months, and the young bird becomes sexual matured only at the sixth year of life. Pair at these birds is formed to all next life. Courtship ritual is accompanied by complex caring, and during all life birds express attachment to breeding partner. The bird chooses new breeding partner only at death of previous one. This species always nests on the ground, frequently in holes dug out by other animals. In clutch there is always only one egg. But nesting occurs only alternate years, and theoretically breeding pair of birds can bring up only 12 - 15 nestlings for all life. The incubating lasts 40 days; both parents hatch and look after nestling, and thereof survival rate of posterity at pseudododoes is very high. Parents feed posterity by small animals. While the nestling is small, one of parents constantly stays in nest or nearby from it. Later, when the nestling will grow up and will start to become fully fledged (approximately at the third month of development in nest), both parents start to hunt, leaving it alone. In case of necessity nestling can protect itself from enemies, spitting out in them repulsively smelling oily liquid, and biting. Having abandoned the nest at the age of seven and half or eight months, the nestling studies to search for food independently: parents do not care any more of it. It is the critical moment in life of pseudododoes, and the significant part of young growth perishes in this period. Survived birds can expect for long life - till 50 years and more.

Dwarf gannetwhale (Nanodelphisula odontophora)
Order: Pelecaniforms (Pelecaniformes)
Family: Gannetwhales (Cetornitidae)

Habitat: North America, Mishe-Nama lake.

Picture by Tim Morris

Destruction of habitats, pollution of ocean and noncontrollable hunting had caused extinction of sea mammals at the end of human epoch. Small populations of these animals continued the existing after the end of human epoch, but they had died out soon as a result of gene pool poverty and degeneration. In ice age at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene in northern hemisphere they had been replaced by gannetwhales, large descendants of sea birds. Because of the restrictions connected to oviparity they never reached the size of the majority of cetaceans and the largest pinnipeds. These large flightless birds in Neocene prosper in Arctic Ocean and reach a great number even in Neocene epoch, after the general warming of planet climate.
One species of this original group of birds lives in Mishe-Nama lake – it is dwarf gannetwhale. It is a typical relict of glacial epoch, the distant relative of very large polar birds, evolved independently of them, adapting to life in reservoir with the limited food resources.
Total length of dwarf gannetwhale does not exceed one and a half meters, not including beak; weight of adult individual is about 60 kg. This bird keeps seal-like shape, characteristic for the present group of birds – powerful flipper-like wings, horizontal position of body and legs shifted far back, which help this bird to push only on firm surface. This bird swims under water with the help of wing movements, as penguins of human epoch did, and rudders by legs. Tail of this bird is wide and flat, similar to beaver tail, but almost motionless. The main task of tail is the creating of favorable conditions for egg incubation. Tails of male and female do not differ in shape, because both birds equally participate in egg incubation. On wings of a bird there is a pair of thick corneous spurs, helping to clamber on rocks.
Plumage of dwarf gannetwhale is short and rigid. It had completely lost insulation function, which was undertaken by hypodermic fat layer. The body of bird is colored gray-blue; throat and stomach are white, tips of wings and tail are black. On head there is a black “bridle” – the thin ring of black feathers surrounds the basis of beak and lasts up to eyes. Paws have grey color.
Beak of dwarf gannetwhale is shorter, rather than at sea forms, but is deep and powerful, conic-shaped, of yellowish-brown color. On edges of beak teeth-like outgrowths are advanced, allowing keeping the caught prey. This species eats aquatic animals – fish and crayfishes.
Dwarf gannetwhale lives in numerous colonies numbering up to 200 individuals. The whole population of this species is presented approximately by two tens big colonies and set of small groups numbering no more than ten individuals. This bird, clumsy on land, is aggressive enough and successfully protects itself from land predators, biting them by beak. Frightening enemies off, bird throws out into them a jet of semidigested content of stomach. In winter birds keep at edge of ice cover of lake. If winter is cold, birds keep ice-holes, breaking away ice formed in them by beak.
Dwarf gannetwhales raise posterity at stony islands in the central part of Mishe-Nama lake where almost whole population of this species gathers to the end of winter. These islands are located just at the edge of the former glacier ard formed as a result of congelation at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. Here, among poor vegetation, in early spring the female lays an only egg weighting about 3 kg. She hatches it, holding in paws kept like a dipper and having covered it by tail. Male replaces female, cautiously rolling egg in its own paws. If the egg was casually broke during the incubation or had been infertile, birds do not repeat egg laying because the nestling develops for a long time and birds will not have time to rear it. The incubation lasts till 48 days. The nestling hatches naked and blind, but already at the first week of life it becomes overgrown with rich black down. While the nestling is too small, male incurs a duty on getting food for female and nestling. At the second week of its life parents stop holding the nestling on paws and leave it on the ground. From this time the nestling receives food from both parents and starts to grow much faster. By the end of the second month of life it(he) already completely becomes covered by feathers, but continues to receive a forage from parents. By the end of the third month of life the young bird has weight of about 50 kg. Parents gradually stop feeding of young bird, forcing it thus to creep to water and to study food getting independently. Young dwarf gannetwhale gains the weight typical for adult birds to an autumn. It becomes sexually mature only at the sixth year of life. Life expectancy of this species is about 60 years.

The idea of existence of the present group of birds was proposed by Dougal Dixon.

Hummock gannetwhale (Delphisula glaciophila)
Order: Pelecaniforms (Pelecaniformes)
Family: Gannetwhales (Cetornitidae)

Habitat: polar seas, ice sheet of North Pole.

Picture by Tim Morris

Gannetwhales, large seal-like birds lost ability to flight and walking on the ground, were a characteristic group of sea vertebrates of Arctic Ocean in epoch of Holocene – Neocene congelation. These birds, being, as a matter of fact, “hyper-penguins” of Northern hemisphere, had evolved in Northern Atlantic, but at the glacier receding they had been distributed farther to the north, having formed some species in polar seas.
One of the largest species of this kind is hummock gannetwhale – the northernmost species of genus, almost never appearing on firm ground. It is a huge flightless bird weighting up to 500 kg at body length of about 3 meters. Prominent features of appearance of this bird are long flipper-like wings, long beak with jagged edges and large sensitive eyes, helping to hunt in sea during the polar night. Eyes are surrounded with a ring of gristle plates protecting them from damages during the diving. Plumage of this species is snow-white with black irregular-shaped spots on breast and front side of neck. Feathering is considerably thicker, rather than at other representatives of genus. Feather barbs do not form vane, feather shaft is very short. As a result of such changes the plumage of this bird is very similar to rich wool and also represents the additional protection against cold along with a layer of hypodermic fat.
Hummock gannetwhale lives on floating ice sheet of Arctic ocean. It may appear on firm ground only during summer migrations. This species is well adapted to existence on ice field. The female lays egg in the beginning of polar night and incubates it on paws, having covered it with wide tail. It lives mainly due to stocks of fat, and presumes to itself to eat only some snow to satisfy thirst. At this time male is actively fed, filling a full stomach of fish and invertebrates. It may leave to the distance of about 100 kilometers from the female for feeding, but it necessarily comes back to her approximately two times per week. Having got out on ice sheet, males exactly find the females hidden among snowdrifts. Having found out the female by its voice, male feeds her, belching the swallowed food. For once he can bring up to 40 kg of food in stomach. At the middle of winter at the female nestling is hatched. As against to other species of these birds, the nestling is covered with rich down right at hatching. At this time the female grows thin strongly – her organism starts to produce a liquid rich in proteins and similar to “bird milk” of pigeons. It is the first food of nestling, and female feeds it with these secretions waiting for male with a stock of food. Till two first weeks the food is homogeneous and resembles fat cream, but further the female starts “mixing” it with the semidigested rests of food brought by male. When the nestling reaches the weight of about 10 kg (at the age of two months, approximately in first half of March), female leaves it in shelter representing a snow burrow. Parents go to the sea for fishing and come back by turns to feed it. On breast and stomach of nestling skin is thicker, and fat deposit provides good insulation. At this time uninterrupted feeding is important for nestling – it should grow with the greatest possible rate. Before summer will come and ice will melt, nestlings of hummock gannetwhale reach weight of 200 kg and fledge. At this time they start swimming for the first time, but yet are not able to get food independently, and parents feed them up till about one month.
Hummock gannetwhales eat fish and cephalopods, and also crustaceans and echinoderms. Birds of this species can dive to the depth of 150 – 200 meters and to hold the breath for half an hour. They search for food with the help of sight sense.
Hummock gannetwhales migrate in Arctic Ocean with currents, stopping for a short while at the northern coast of Greenland and at polar islands near coast of Eurasia. At this time adult birds are fattened intensively in order to save up stocks of fat to new breeding season. Sexually immature birds of various ages wander near edges of the ice shield of Arctic Ocean and regularly winter at the south, at the islands or at the coast of the continent. They become capable to breeding at the age of eight years. Adult birds do not come far to the south, and keep in area of drift ice. If ice-holes freeze, the female can move closer to edge of ice, holding egg or nestling on paws. Life expectancy of birds of this species may reach 60 years.

The idea of existence of the present group of birds was proposed by Dougal Dixon.

Chatham barocygnus (Barocygnus chathamensis)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: Chatham islands (to the east from New Zealand), bush thickets.

Picture by Amplion

Before the beginning of human settling the majority of ocean islands belonged to birds. These creatures, able to overcome sea open spaces independently, were among the first immigrants at islands and occupied ecological niches of large vertebrates. At various islands flightless feathered giants – moas, elephant birds and dodoes – appeared so. Practically at all islands of tropical and subtropical zone of Earth endemic species of rails and other flightless birds lived. But in human epoch the situation had sharply changed: all large islands appeared occupied with descendants of mammals introduced by people. Flightless birds were exterminated either people, or introduced mammals. After the disappearance of people species, introduced by them, had continued the existence and evolution. Thus they had excluded the new occurrence of feathered giants in their former habitats. But nevertheless in some places flightless birds appeared even in Neocene. They managed to occupy a leading position in ecosystems of some islands. For example, at Hawaiian Islands very large geese have appeared. And in other hemisphere their success had been repeated by the descendant of related birds – swans.
Chatham Islands are in Pacific Ocean, in rather high latitudes. In Holocene at them cool and damp climate dominated. In Neocene due to global warming, character of vegetation of islands had changed. At these islands trees and bushes have appeared, being mainly of New Zealandian origin. In Holocene due to human mammals (rodents) had got to islands. They damaged to the local bird's population, but in Neocene the fauna of islands had replenished with large bird successfully resisting to them.
In XX century people had introduced the Australian black swan (Cygnus atratus) to New Zealand. The bird had received “training” in struggle for existence at the continent successfully superseded local species of ducks and occupied new habitats. Black swan had gone through ecological crisis, and even began to settle over New Zealand and nearest islands independently. After human disappearance black swan had appeared at Chatham archipelago (to the east of New Zealand) where it became the largest local inhabitant. Due to aggression it successfully defended nests from rats and cats dwelt at archipelago, and had formed a stable population. Though there were only few freshwater reservoirs at islands, descendants of black swan managed to survive. They passed to terrestrial habit of life and had changed a ration: they began to eat grass and leaves of local bushes. Gradually the descendant of black swan had turned to dominant species of herbivores of archipelago.
The former water bird had strongly changed to Neocene. Distinctions between an ancestor and the descendant appeared significant enough to find the Chatham species of birds as the representative of separate genus Barocygnus (it literally means: “heavy swan”). It is very large bird: the height of barocygnus makes about one and half meters at weight up to 40 kg. It is a sluggish bird unable neither to run nor to fly. Legs of barocygnus are moderately long, strong, and with thick toes; the palama between toes is reduced (like at Hawaiian nene).
By constitution barocygnus is a little similar to ostrich: it has long neck and rather small head. The beak of bird is short and thick; it had lost filtering device on edges characteristic for ducks. On jaws of bird small corneous denticles have remained, assisting to browse rigid ground vegetation.
Barocygnus is too heavy for flight. Because at islands there are no large and fast predators from which it is possible to escape only in flight, it had completely lost this ability. Wings of barocygnus are strongly reduced, though they have remained appreciable outside. They are used only for submission of signals to congeners. The tail is also reduced and presented only by several very short feathers, almost imperceptible at first sight.
Feathering of barocygnus is black like at ancestor, but wings are completely white and well appreciable. They are narrow, but primary feathers are strongly lengthened and very appreciable. Opening wings and flapping by them, barocygnuses exchange signals with congeners. The beak of barocygnus is brightly marked on background of rather strict colouring of feathering. It is shining and coral-red. Legs of bird are covered with black skin.
Barocygnus eats leaves of bushes and seeds of graminoids. Due to rather tall growth it can eat branches of low trees. Barocygnuses living on ocean coast can go to coast and to feed with seaweed cast ashore after storm. Also barocygnuses can eat small rat-sized animals. The large size gives advantage to birds: in long intestines of bird swallowed plants are digested maximum fully. But to eat plenty, the bird is compelled to feed almost all day.
Similarly to ancestors, swans, barocygnus lives in pairs which form to all life. Each pair keeps very amicably and preserves nesting territory against contenders in common. Protecting the territory, barocygnuses hiss, open wings and stamp legs, calling synchronously. The voice of barocygnus is similar to loud and lingering goose cackle. Out of nesting time birds form small herds of adult birds and their posterity.
Barocygnus nests on the ground, choosing place among bushes well protected from bad weather. In clutch of this bird it may be only 2 – 3 large eggs with bluish-gray shell. Both partners hatch clutch and protect it by turns. Birds hatching posterity are very aggressive to congeners and drive them off by impacts of body and legs. Birds beat small animals (for example, rodents which can steal their eggs) by legs.
The incubating lasts approximately 40 days. Nestlings appear quite advanced. They have opened eyes and also are covered with grey down with black spots. Parents at once withdraw them from nest and do not come back to it any more.
Young barocygnus becomes fully fledged at the age of about two months, and stays with parents up to four-monthly age. It differs from parents in colouring: feathering of young bird has an appreciable brownish shade, and beak is black. Adult birds are less aggressive in relation to young growth. But when young barocygnus casts feathers and gets adult colouring, and its beak becomes bright red, it should test force of impacts of beaks and legs of adult birds on itself.
Barocygnus becomes able to nesting at the age of three years. Life expectancy of bird makes approximately 40 years.

The idea about the existence of this species was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Kelp sea swan (Nereolor algophagus)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: Atlantic coast of South America, marshlands and sea coasts in zone of temperate climate.
For seas of temperate latitudes thickets of brown algae, or kelp, are very characteristic. They form a special productive zone of shoaliness which can be compared to deciduous or coniferous forest of temperate latitudes on land. The main feature of algae is very fast growth. Therefore in coastal waters of South America at the kelp even huge sea mammals algocetuses feed. In parallel to them some representatives of anserine birds had adapted to feeding on algae. Near to family groups of algocetuses, in coastal zone where these animals swim seldom, sea swans, large herbivorous waterfowl, feed. Despite of the name, these birds are the special genus of large ducks which are similar to swans only remotely. Sea swans belong to number of large birds – weight an adult bird may reach 15 kgs. Long flexible neck pemits such bird to get seaweed from depth of about half meter, almost not diving. Sea swans of South America are ecological analogues of flightless algal goose from northern part of Pacific Ocean. However, as against to it, sea swans have kept ability to flight. Wingspan of adult bird makes about 3 meters. For rise the massive bird runs up on surface of water against wind, clapping by wings. Despite of weight, these birds are good flyers, and are capable to extended migrations. All sea swans live in areas where seasonal changes of climate are expressed, and are birds of passage.
Kelp sea swan nests on the ground in places inaccessible to ground predators. Usually its nesting areas are located on small islets separated from mainland by strip of fenny sea bogs. At the lack of suitable places for nesting bird can arrange nest on rocky islets. On small islands where large predators are absent, kelp sea swans nest in bush, and even simply in forest. This bird is a social species and forms large colonies in which it may be up to two hundred of adult birds, and also their posterity of several previous seasons. In case of occurrence of predator the colony shows to it concurrent resistance.
The voice of kelp sea swan is similar to duck quacking, but is more sonorous. The annoyed bird hisses.
The inhabiting in sea water had caused changes in physiology of bird. For secretion of surplus of salt at all species of sea swans very big salt gland above the beak is developed. It is divided to two symmetric halves which are covered with corneous cover stretching from beak back. Salt glands look like two smooth corneous crests sticking out of feathering of head and form similarity of eyebrowes. These glands open in cavity of nostrils, and secret the surplus of salt as dense mucous brine when the bird immerses head in water.
Kelp sea swan has monotonously grey colouring of body with blue shade and black secondary feathers. Black areas of feathering become appreciable when bird stretches wings or flies. They serve for recognition of congeners, and are used till courtship games. Bright spots in colouring of bird are blue paws and light yellow horn cover on beak and salt glands.
Inside colonies birds keep in nesting pairs of approximately identical rank. The pair forms for some seasons; separate pairs can be kept till tens years, and each year successfully hatch chicks. Even if the pair is kept till many years, in courtship season male all the same courts after the female. Courtship ritual takes place in sea, often far from the coast. During the courtship male swims around the female, touching to her plumage by beak. He also raises and slightly opens wings, showing black feathers. The older and stronger male, there is more black feathers in its wings. Young females not always permit the courting male to touch their plumage, and the male during the courtship ritual only touches by beak a surface of water at some distance from the female.
These birds nest on the ground. The nest represents a heap of dry plants which is raken by the female from above, when she forms the pit of nest. She covers the bottom of nest with its own down, pulling it out from breast and stomach. In clutch of kelp sea swan there are only 2 – 3 large eggs (weighting up to 500 grams) with greenish brown shell. Both birds alternately hatch them within approximately 50 days. Chicks hatch well advanced. They are covered with black down, and beak at them is white. At chicks the salt gland is already advanced, and they are able to feed independently. Chicks are exposed to great danger at feeding in the sea – they are attacked often by fishes seizing them from below. Therefore chicks, having heard an alarm signal, prefer to get on back of parents. If danger has overtaken them far from parents, chicks have one more way of protection against underwater predators. They simply make the same, as adult birds going to fly up. The escaping chick runs very quickly on sea surface, splashing on water by webby paws. It can run so up to 9 – 10 meters, and has an opportunity to reach a back of the parent. But only the smallest chicks can use such protective reception.
Young birds become able to breeding at the age of three years. The maximal life expectancy of sea swans makes over 50 years, but the significant part of birds lives no more than 30 years.
The temperate climatic zone of Southern hemisphere is inhabited by some species of sea swans. The species closely related to kelp sea swan inhabits coast of Chile. It is Pacific sea swan (Nereolor pacificus) which prefers the areas near the current flowing from polar latitudes of Southern hemisphere (in human epoch it was Humboldt current). Pacific sea swan has darker colouring, than its Atlantic colleague – it is dark grey, and covert feathers of wing at this one are almost black. Legs at these birds are colored grey, and beak is snow-white, clearly visible on background of plumage. At Tierra del Fuego this species forms mixed colonies with kelp sea swan, but birds of different species never form a pair, because they precisely distinguish relatives by voice and plumage. At Pacific sea swan there is sonorous loud voice, and the congestion of birds feeding in sea is easily distinguishing even in rich fog. These birds migrate along Pacific coast of South America, and reach even Galapagos Islands in winter. In diet of Pacific sea swan there is a significant part the food of animal origin – various invertebrates with soft covers, and even nonpoisonous jellyfishes.
Antarctic sea swan (Nereolor frigophilus) lives at coasts of Antarctica, and flies out for wintering to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, replacing there migrated to the north Pacific and kelp sea swans. The special settled population of this species lives at Falkland Islands where this bird shares habitats with Falkland paralgocetus – large herbivorous sea mammal. Earlier the number of Antarctic sea swan at the coast to Antarctic Region had reached several hundreds thousand individuals, and they migrated to more northern latitudes of the whole Southern hemisphere, reaching up to the south of Africa, subantarctic volcanic islands and the coast of New Zealand. During several thousand years number of this species had considerably decreased due to the settling of Falkland paralgocetus at the Antarctic coast. Between these species there is a certain competition for food resources, but both species coexist rather successfully. The Antarctic sea swan lives at coasts and eats algae mainly at shoalinesses where large algocetids can not get. This species nests at sea coast in thickets of high grass.
Antarctic sea swan has plumage of light grey, almost white color. Legs and beak of bird have yellow color. At males of this species plumage around of eyes forms black “glasses”.
One species of sea swans had changed the way of life, and had developed productive, but hard for life inhabitancy – graminoid and sedge meadows of Antarctica. Antarctic meadow swan (Nereolor pratensis) actually replaces large herbivorous mammals lack at this continent. Antarctic meadow swan leads terrestrial habit of life, and is not able to swim at all. It nests in meadows and in bushes of Antarctic in colonies numbering several tens of birds. Chicks of this species at once after hatching leave nest and uneven-age herds of birds wander on meadows of Antarctica, eating leaves of graminoids and sedges, and also sprouts of local bushes. At this bird palamas are reduced, toes are strong and short, adapted to walking, and legs are lengthened. In connection with inhabiting on land salt gland at this bird is only slightly advanced and represents small knob at the basis of beak of the bird.
Plumage of Antarctic meadow swan is grey with cross strips on feathers. Because of it its colouring resembles colouring of some breeds of domestic chicken of human epoch. Head at this bird white, and beak and legs have reddish-orange color.
The seasonal climate of Antarctica represents the main difficulty for life of terrestrial inhabitants of this continent. Some of them had adapted to outlive winters and hide under snow, and others prefer to spend winter time in other places. Antarctic meadow swan had not lost ability to flight, and easily migrates, spending winter at the territory of South America.
Antarctic meadow swan nests on the ground. The pair of birds digs not deep pit in soft ground, which bottom is covered with dry last year's grass. In clutch of these birds there are 4 – 5 eggs. Chicks of Antarctic meadow swan have striped colouring – they are grey with several longitudinal black strips on back and black head. They eat not only grass, but also small invertebrates. Consuming food rich in protein they grow quickly and to an autumn have time to study to fly to avoid severe Antarctic winter. Antarctic meadow swans remain in Antarctica longer, than other birds, and fly out to South America only when the continuous snow cover is formed on meadows of Antarctica.

Greater paradise duck (Paradisanas magnifica)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: Far East – Amur basin, Northern China, south of Big Kurils and the north of Japan Islands; freshwater reservoirs.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Damp winds from Pacific Ocean carry huge amount of water to the coast of Eurasia. They penetrate rather far deep into the continent, and water which they carry spills as rains even in Mongolia represented the dry desert in human era. Flatland areas of Far East in Neocene represent a fine habitat for near-water animals – rains constantly fill rivers and lakes. Coasts of reservoirs are overgrown with high marsh plants in which the set of species of birds and other small animals lives.
Among water birds of Neocene epoch the important place is occupied by anserine birds. Some species of these birds had adapted even to overland inhabiting and had grew up to huge size at ocean islands, but the majority of representatives of this group remained faithful to traditional habit of life, and settles near water. Some species of anserine birds had suffered in human epoch from hunting and destruction of habitats. But after extinction of mankind number of these birds had been restored, and till some millions years new species had replaced irrevocably dyed out ones.
On the background of other anserine birds the representatives of separate genus of paradise ducks look like birds of paradise. These birds differing in size from teal-sized up to small goose-sized ones are endemics of temperate and subtropic areas of Far East. They differ in beautiful plumage in which bright colors and metal shine are combined. Various species differ from each other in color of plumage and presence of “ornaments” of overgrown feathers. But such attributes are characteristic mainly for males. Females of the majority of paradise ducks have dimly colored plumage with few elements of “ornaments”, only remotely similar to magnificent plumage of drakes.
Greater paradise duck, the largest representative of genus (equal to small goose by size), simultaneously is the most northern species of these birds. In the early spring it flies from wintering and up to middle of an autumn is the true gem of reservoirs in its habitats. In colouring of drake of this species white color prevails – the body of bird and the most part of wings is colored so. On covert feathers of wings there are black tips forming a pattern of faltering black cross strips. Primal feathers have crimson pink color, and are clearly marked out at flying bird. Some middle pairs of quill feathers are very much lengthened, and because of it the tail of bird resembles pheasant’s tail a little. These feathers have white color with black cross strokes. Paradise ducks have one more special “ornament” in plumage. On shoulders of these birds the long narrow feathers forming some kind of “shoulder-straps” grow. Vanes of these feathers are friable, barbs are not linked, and shafts are thin and flexible. During the courtship displays drake lifts them vertically, and they flutter from wind. At the female “shoulder-straps” are shorter, than at male.
The head of drake is colored bright – it is orange with silky shine, and from forehead to nape the strip of shining cyan feathers stretches. In courtship season male displays to females the fluffed cop sparkling with blue sparks. At the background of bright head of male black beak with white tip is contrastly marked.
Colouring of the female is considerably duller. The female of greater paradise duck is grey with dark striped pattern on wings. On breast and neck on tips of feathers there are dark spots, therefore the colouring of these parts of body is speckled. On nape and back of the female feathers are bordered by black strip, and colouring of the top part of body of bird looks “scaly”. Due to not striking coloring the female of greater paradise duck can easily hide from predators in time of clutch hatching. It would be difficult to recognize her as a partner of magnificent male with sparkling head, but the body shape indicates it. On head of the female of greater paradise duck there is mobile cop, and feathers of tail are as lengthened and peaked, as at male, and have the same striped pattern, but on grey background.
This bird eats plants, and also small aquatic invertebrates – snails and water insects. Due to long neck birds of this species can get food from greater depth, rather than other ducks, and thus they avoid a competition to them.
Beautiful males of paradise ducks get in claws and teeth to predators more often, than females. Therefore at paradise ducks in population females prevail, and males are inclined to polygamy - usually at the territory of strong male two females nest.
Greater paradise duck nests in shelters. More often it arranges nest in reeds, but sometimes it can nest at some distance from water, under roots of trees, in trunks of trees rotten from within, or in holes of any large mammals which do not represent danger to clutch. The female builds nest of thin rods and grasses, and covers the bottom by its own down and thin leaves of grass. In clutch of greater paradise duck there is about 12 small eggs with grey green shell. At these birds exclusively the female incubates eggs till 32 – 33 days. Ducklings hatch active and mobile, covered by grey down with longitudinal black strips on back and head. Having dried under the female, they at once leave nest. Male because of bright plumage is too visible for predators, and first some days of life ducklings almost do not see him. At this time male keeps at the edge of territory of nesting pair, protecting borders from neighbours and withdrawing predators from hatch. Only when ducklings become strong enough and hardy to escape from danger, he joins a family.
The first feathering of young birds is similar to plumage of the female. Young birds have such plumage within the first year of life. Only after the first mew males get characteristic bright colouring.
At the Far East other species of paradise ducks live:

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Butterfly-faced paradise duck (Paradisanas papiliofrons) is a small bird similar by size to domestic duck. It has received the name because of features of appearance and ritual of display. Drake is bluish-grey with bright green “mirrors” on wings; duck has brown plumage with small specks on covert feathers. In tail of birds of both genders only two middle feathers are lengthened.
On head at birds of both genders the double cop of white color with black edges of feathers grows. At drake on each side of beak there are large feather “whiskers” of the same color, as a cop. But on these feathers it may be more of black color, and at separate males “whiskers” are completely black or have only few white spots in the basis. The displaying drake stretches feather “ornaments” in sides, and feathers form the figure similar to stretched wings of butterfly.
This species lives at Big Kurils, Japan Islands and Pacific coast of Asia in area of subtropical climate.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Necktied paradise duck (Paradisanas focalefera) is similar in colouring to the previous species, but lives at the south – at Korean Peninsula and in adjoining areas of China. It has another type of feather ornaments: from the bottom jaw down to breast of drake the strip of feathers of black color with green metal shine lasts. Besides on neck of drake there are some freely hanging down lengthened feathers of the same color. The displaying bird bends neck back, puffs throat, and feathers of “tie” stick upwards. When drake utters an advertisement call, these feathers tremble and shine in sunlight.
Tail at birds of both genders is fanlike; at the male tail feathers are white with brown tips. Displaying male lifts and unwraps tail like a fan. Feathers on waist of male have blue color with metal shine. Till the courtship displays they fluff and brightly shine, shading strict colouring of tail. “Shoulder-straps” have white colouring; at the display male stretches them in sides, and they shudder at each movement of bird.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Cuckoo paradise duck (Paradisanas parasitica) differs from other species of these birds in some features of appearance and way of life. At these birds male and female are colored equally brightly – they are rusty with brownish wings, white fluffy “shoulder-straps” and dark blue head with greenish metal shine which sharply contrasts with the general colouring of bird. The female differs from the male only by darker wings and completely black beak (at drakes beak has bone color with black tip). This feature is closely connected to nesting behaviour of bird: cuckoo paradise duck does not build its own nests, and only lays eggs in nests of other ducks – as of the same genus, as of less related ones. Such feature of behaviour was more or less characteristic for many ducks of Holocene epoch, and has reached the top at South American duck Heteronetta which has completely passed to nest parasitism. In Neocene the cuckoo paradise duck had independently repeated the same step of evolution and consequently does not require masking colouring.
Before the sexual maturity young birds of this species have the modest order – brown with black tips of feathers on wings and black primal feathers. Extremely seldom sexually mature females of cuckoo paradise duck keep such plumage till all further life. Presumably, before the transition to nest parasitism females of the ancestral species had been colored similarly, and then as a result of mutation at them the colouring incorporated in male genes, which the female should transfer to posterity, simply began to express. Because of bright colouring the female is compelled to be very cautious, laying eggs to other ducks. Usually it tracks down for a long time ducks which may become foster mothers for its posterity, and remembers the location of their nests in coastal thickets. The bird chooses the best hidden nests for egg laying, and bright colouring does not cause any obstacle for egg laying to another’s nests. Besides at the moment of laying of eggs the female of cuckoo paradise duck is very cautious.
It is a small species of ducks, and this circumstance permits the cuckoo paradise duck to be the nest parasite at the much greater number of species of ducks living in the neighbourhood. The cuckoo paradise duckinhabits Japan Islands and subtropical areas of China, and also the south of Korean Peninsula.

Dwarf paradise duck (Microparadisanas lemnivora)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: the south of Japan Islands, forest marshes and rich thickets of swamp plants.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

As a rule, development of fantastical “decorations” of feathers, skin or hair at various species of animals is a result of sexual selection. At ducks sexual selection was expressed, first of all, in apparent sexual dimorphism: drakes of the majority of duck species appreciably differ from females. At Japan Islands one of the most colorful ducks of Neocene epoch – paradise ducks distinguished by especially bright colouring – live. The majority of paradise ducks has rather large size, but among them there is one tiny species – dwarf paradise duck, the representative of the separate genus of these birds, related to typical paradise ducks. This species is very tiny bird: the body length of adult duck does not exceed 15 cm. Because of small weight it dives not well, but flies perfectly. Flight of dwarf paradise duck is maneuverable and fast; escaping from feathered predator, the bird sharply changes direction of flight, therefore it is very difficult for preying, even if it is well appreciable. Flying up above reeds, dwarf paradise duck sparkles in sunlight by bright feathering of head.
Characteristic feature of this bird is the presence of strip of bright crimson feathers with red metal shine on head. These feathers form the mobile crest similar to crest of cockatoo parrot. At drake head is much brighter, rather than at female: on each side of the head at it feathers with blue metal shine grow. At females head is brown from sides. In courtship display time drake fluffs feathers on head and involves female with their shine in sunlight, trembling up head. The head of displaying drake at this moment turns to sparkling fluffy sphere of feathers.
In colouring of the body of male and female there is an expressed sexual dimorphism. The body of male is colored grey with silvery metal shine on wings. Edges of covert feathers of wings have black border with dark blue metal shine, and primary feathers are coal-black. The female has black feathering on the top side of a body; sides and stomach are colored white, and on back under wings there is an area of cream colored feathering. In tail of male middle pair of feathers is lengthened; in courtship display time drake raises tail vertically, showing these feathers. Paws at birds of both sexes are bright yellow.
Despite of bright colouring it is the extremely difficult to notice these birds in their habitat. They live in marshland in small lakes surrounded with a zone of bogs and almost impassable thickets of reed and other coastal plants. Dwarf paradise ducks are very reserved and at occurrence of predators hide among water plants. Due to small size they are able to hide among reeds dexterously. On their wings there is special corneous spur, with which help ducks can cling to stalks of reed by wings. Main enemies of dwarf paradise ducks are water snakes easily chasing these ducks among reed thickets. Also these tiny birds may be attacked by fishes, and ducklings are eaten by large frogs.
Dwarf paradise duck eats mainly the duckweed. This food source is widely distributed in nature and differs in high rate of renewal; therefore dwarf paradise ducks concern to congeners rather tolerantly. Out of nesting season they gather in reservoirs to small groups and feed in common. Also this bird willingly eats forage of animal origin: tiny snails, worms, leeches. Because of small size dwarf paradise duck eats rather large quantity of forage – for day it eats the amount of forage approximately equal to half of its body weight. The forage of animal origin makes in its diet the bigger share, than at other species of ducks: it is connected to fast growth and high rate of metabolism at small bird.
Dwarf paradise duck does not dive: feathering serves as a good float to it. Therefore it gathers food only from surface of water. Birds are able to catch larvae of mosquitoes dexterously, and hunt for them even among thickets of floating water plants. These tiny ducks are one of main fighters of mosquitoes in swamps of Japan Islands.
This bird arranges nest in reed thickets, choosing sites of swamps inaccessible to ground predators. Frequently it occupies old nests of warblers, having repaired them a little. Dwarf paradise duck breeds very quickly: the incubating lasts about 2 weeks, and for one nesting season female has time to make two hatches. Daily ducklings of this species are tiny creatures equal to large bumblebee in size, covered with yellow down, with black longitudinal strip on back and black head. They at once leave nest, and do not come back to it any more. Ducklings bravely jump in water out from nest, even if they were hatched in old nest of any warblers, made high above water. At week age they already completely change down for juvenile feathering.
Young birds do not have metal shine on feathers of head, and male looks similar to female. But after the mew young drake gets bright order characteristic for males of this species. Nestlings of first hatch grow very quickly, and the next year they nest normally. In favorable years separate individuals have time to hatch chicks already till the first year of life. Life expectancy of dwarf paradise duck is rather short – no more than 5 – 6 years.

Bustardgoose (Terrestranser otiformis)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: Middle and Central Asia – Southern Siberia, Mongolia, the north of China; bushes and grasslands.

Picture by Tim Morris

The brief period of decrease of number and specific variety of herbivorous mammals at the end of Holocene had caused by influence from the side of people. Only few species of wild ungulates could survive – they became the ancestors of hoofed mammals of Neocene. Simultaneously birds had taken advantage of this circumstance; in early Neocene they gave a number of specialized herbivorous of forms partly replacing mammals. Later the majority of them had become extinct, but some species had continued the existence in Neocene.
Deserts of Central Asia in more humid climate of Neocene are overgrown with various bushes created a special mosaic landscape, alternating with sites of grass vegetation. Among bushes, under legs of large herbivorous saigochenias, large birds bustardgeese feed. They are terrestrial not swimming geese without palamas on legs, adapted to life in dry area. They had partly repeated the evolutional experiment of extinct in Neocene Hawaiian goose, or nene (Branta sandvicensis) which also had lost palamas, having adapted to terrestrial life. Bustardgoose is very large bird more than meter in height and weight of about 15 kgs, having strong constitution.
The feathering of this bird combines in colouring yellowish and brown tones. On head and neck plumage is brown with yellow longitudinal strips along every feather. Because of it the head of bird looks lighter, than the body. On wings feathers have darker edge; when wings of bird are fold up, edges of feathers form dark cross-striped pattern.
Legs of bustardgoose are rather long, with thick short toes. The palama between them is reduced. The bird is rather heavy to fly long, therefore bustardgeese spend the most part of life on the ground, searching for food. Nevertheless, the bustardgoose has kept ability to fly. These birds are able to run very quickly, accelerating momentum up to 50 kms per hour at the short distance. The running bustardgoose extends head forward, and becomes less appreciable among high grass. If there is no other way to escape from predator, bustardgoose flies up, loudly flapping wings. Skill to fly is vital for bustardgoose for other reason: it is the bird of passage wintering in Southern Asia – at the south of Hindustan and in mountain areas of Jakarta Coast. Wingspan of bustardgoose reaches 3 meters.
Neck of bird has moderate length and is mobile. Beak is rather short and deep, slightly similar to beak of turtle, dark grey with white tip. Above the beak of sexually mature male big corneous knob grows. Edges of beak are jagged – it is an adaptation to tear off grass and leaves of bushes. However, bustardgoose can put strong bites to the opposer in case of need.
By their nature bustardgeese are peaceful herbivorous birds. They eat mainly the variety of grasses and leaves of bushes, avoiding continuous thickets of graminoids with rigid stalks and leaves. These birds willingly eat sappy stalks of non-graminoid grasses – members of carrot family, mints and other species. Because of specific character of feed bustardgeese live mainly at the edge of bush thickets where non-graminoid grasses dominate and where herbivorous mammals from plains do not come.
These birds are strict monodins nesting on the ground. The pair at this species is forms to many seasons, and sometimes to all further life. Nesting cares of bustardgoose begin right after birds come back from wintering – pairs of birds hasten to occupy best protected places for nesting in the center of colony. Males till the courtship season fiercely combat with each other, winning the right to the nesting site. During the fight they strike each other strong impacts by wings and paws. Females, supporting males, can combat with each other, not entering a duel of males.
The colony of bustardgeese arranges nesting place at the plain area - so it is easier to birds to find out the predator in time. The main protection of bustardgeese is harmonious active defense. Operating together, they easily can drive away from a nest the majority of species of four-footed predators, living in the neighbourhood.
The clutch of bustardgoose totals about 5 large eggs with spotty brown shell. The clutch is hatched mainly by female, and male occasionally replaces her on the nest. The hatching lasts 44 – 45 days. Chicks of bustardgoose come into the world covered with down and well advanced; they at once leave nest. The down of young birds is light brown with longitudinal black strips – it provides fine masking to them. Young birds eat not only vegetative food, but also small animals; therefore they grow rather quickly, growing up to an autumn up to the weight of about 7 kg. In the beginning of an autumn young birds try to fly, and shortly before approach of winter fly out to wintering places in common with parents.
The young growth becomes able to nesting at the age of about 3 years. Life expectancy of this species reaches 40 years.

Sargasso eider (Eusomateria algophila)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: algal fields near New Azora island.
Ice age at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene rendered significant influence to distribution of some groups of typical polar animals. In ice age many inhabitants of polar latitudes had moved to low latitudes. At the receding of glacier some immigrants had died out, others had receded after glacier, and the third ones had adapted to changing conditions of life, having remained at the former area. The Sargasso eider, the representative of ducks living in algal fields near New Azora island, belongs to the number of such immigrants. During the ice age its ancestor, one species of eiders (Somateria spp.) had moved to the south. Expansion of Atlantic Ocean and occurrence of cold Antigulf Stream current promoted the naturalization of immigrants in new habitats.
Sargasso eider leads very specific way of life – this duck spends almost whole life, except for the nesting periods, among algal fields of New Azora. It has a rest on floating trunks of trees or on carpets of tangled sea macroalgae, and eats sea animals living in algae thickets. It is a medium-sized duck – weight of adult bird is about 500 grammes.
The remarkable feature in appearance of this duck is the original comb with straight top edge – an outgrowth of corneous cover of beak. Inside it there is a pair of large salt-secreting glands – it is the necessary adaptation for permanent inhabiting in sea water. Cornificated cover of beak and comb is colored very brightly and is appreciable from apart. Females have beak of black color and bright pink comb with white edges. At male beak is cherry red, and comb is orange-red with wide yellow edge.
The sexual dimorphism in colouring of plumage at this species is expressed in high degree. Male has black-and-white plumage characteristic for eiders: it has white wings with black secondary feathers, black “cap” on head including the area of around eyes, black back part of neck and horseshoe-like black spot on breast. Other parts of its plumage are snow-white. The skin of legs is black – such color is less attractive for underwater predators. Female has modest brown colouring with black dapples on back and wings. Only around of eyes it has thin rings of white feathers. Its legs are also black.
At algal fields of New Azora Sargasso eider eats small gastropods and bivalves settling in algae. It occasionally eats small crabs. Bird dives for them, pressing wings to body and paddling by paws alternately. This bird can hold the breath for two minutes, but dives not too deep – not deeper than to five meters. The haw is transparent – under water it serves as glasses, allowing searching for food with the help of sight.
Abundance of forage permits sargasso eiders to be tolerant to the presence of congeners. Birds frequently rest in common, gathering in numerous groups on floating tree trunks. They are sociable, and in their sound “dictionary” there are some signals used in various situations. The loud voice helps these birds to communicate at great distance and to reproduce alarm signals. The main hunter of these ducks is the sea harrier, the bird of prey living on algal fields. Escaping from it, sargasso eiders dive and hide in algae thickets, having jutted out at the surface only a beak under covering of seaweed thalli floating on water. Under water predatory fishes and cephalopods threaten to these ducks, because sometimes they attack diving birds.
Seasonal prevalence in breeding at these birds is not expressed, and in algae fields birds and their posterity may be observed at any time. This species of birds is strictly monogamous; the pair is formed for one nesting cycle only. Displaying male shows itself to the female, inflating throat and stirring up a head.
Sargasso eider hatches posterity at New Azora island. Birds nest on rocky islets near coasts where there are no ground predators, and often side by side with plesioloons. Female litters nest with its own down and hatches eggs alone. Nevertheless, male constantly keeps near the nest, protecting it from encroachments of other sea birds. The incubation lasts till 35 days. Ducklings, having dried under the female, at once make long sea transition, following parents from island coast up to algae fields, and further permanently live in algal fields. They live with parents within first two months of life, and then become completely independent. Young males before sexual maturity have the plumage similar to plumage of female, with only wider rings of white feathers around of eyes. At the age of two years their plumage is replaced by one characteristic for adult individuals. Within one year birds succeed to make two hatches.

White-breasted goose (Gainsboro albicollum)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: tundra of Northern Atlantic coast of North America, Greenland.
In human epoch the number of waterfowl decreased rapidly due to hunting and the destroying of habitats. Because of it in rests of former habitats mixed populations of some species of geese appeared. Before the human-driven destroying of natural habitats their ancestors lived separatedly and the interspecific contacts had been minimal. But in epoch of global biological crisis the hybridization appeared the way of survival of the residual populations of these species. As a result the Genus Gainsboro, the pale grey geese, appeared.
This genus has a polyphyletic origin: they descends from the white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons), however there is the presence of genes of feral domestic geese (Anser anser domesticus + Anser cygnoides domesticus) and the snow goose (Anser (Chen) caerulescens). These genes express themselves in phenotypes similar to those of their ancestors.
Their feathers have white and pale gray shades; however the predominance of these two colors varies with the species. They have orange feet and legs. Their beaks are similar in size to that of the snow goose, but with the beak being dark grey and with a knob, like that of the African goose, the domestic breed of swan goose (Anser cygnoides domesticus), and one of the ancestors of the feral population of domestic goose that give rise to this genus. The size of their knob varies according to species. Originating from North America, Gainsboro geese spread to Eurasia and Meganesia and formed some distinct species there.
The typical representative of this genus is white-breasted goose from North America. It has a distinctive coloration of feathers: white feathers in the breast, neck and head, in the other parts of its body there is the presence of pale grey feathers. This bird is about 93 cm long and has a wingspan about 150 cm.
Geese of this genus normally pair for life, so courtship only occurs at the time of first maturity. Females are strongly philopatric, meaning they will return to the place they hatched to breed. The female chooses a nest site and builds the nest at the area of high ground to avoid the casual flooding. The nest is a shallow depression lined with plant material and may be reused from year to year. It is built from pieces of reed, sprigs of heather, grasses and moss, mixed with small feathers and down. A typical clutch is 6 to 8 eggs, but greater or lesser number of eggs is not unusual. Eggs are creamy-white at first but soon become stained. They are mostly laid on successive days and incubation starts after the last one is laid. The female does the incubation, which lasts about 29 days, while the male remains on guard somewhere near. Goslings are precocial and able to leave the nest soon after hatching. Both parents are involved in their care, and they learn soon to feed independently and become fully-fledged at 8 or 9 weeks about the same time as their parents regain their ability to fly after moulting their main wing and tail feathers a month earlier. Immature birds undergo a similar moult, and move to traditional, safe locations before doing so because of their vulnerability while being flightless.
These birds are herbivorous, eating grasses and aquatic plants. Avoiding the competition to another species, traveler goose (Chen migratorius), this species searches for food mainly in water and in coastal zone.
They are gregarious, forming large flocks and breeding colonies. It has an advantage for the birds, because the vigilance of some individuals in the group allows the rest ones to feed without having to constantly be alert to the approach of predators. After the eggs hatch, some grouping of families takes place, enabling the geese to defend their young by their joint actions, such as mobbing or attacking predators. After driving off a predator, a goose returns to its mate and gives a “triumphal call”, a resonant honk followed by a low-pitched cackle, uttered with neck extended forward parallel to the ground. The mate and even unfledged young reciprocate in kind.
Young geese stay with their parents as a family group; in the migratory species they stay united in a larger flock, and only dispersing when the adults drive them away from their newly established breeding territory the next year. These birds migrate to marshes of southern part of North America for wintering.
This genus has five more species widespread in the world:
White-headed goose (Gainsboro leucocephalus) nests in tundra of Arctic Ocean coast of North America and Beringia. Their size is about 88 cm, and only their head is white. It winters at the Pacific coast of North America.
Boreal goose (Gainsboro nivalis) nests in tundra regions of Eurasia, migrating to the southern coast of Fourseas in winter. Adults of this species are 86 cm long and are almost completely white, with only their primary feathers pale grey. Sometimes it forms mixed pairs with the previous species, and hybrid birds may be seen in their flocks.
Grey-winged goose (Gainsboro griseopterus) inhabits lakes and rivers of Europe, migrating to the southern coast of the Fourseas in the winter. They grow to 80 cm and have their wing feathers completely pale grey and the rest of the body is white.
Great knobbed goose (Gainsboro magnodus) prefers warmer climate and nests in marshes of Far Eastern Asia in regions of temperate climate, migrating to swamps of Southeast Asia in winter. They have the biggest knob of the genus. Its length is 79 cm and the feathers of its underbelly are white, with other feathers pale gray.
Lesser knobbed goose (Gainsboro micronodus) is the southernmost species living exclusively in tropical areas in rivers and lakes of the north of Meganesia and Jacarta Coast. This is a smallest species of the genus compared to its northern relatives (only 70 cm long) and has the same color as a previous species. The difference between the two species is their size and the size of their knobs, the knob of the lesser knobbed goose is medium sized, smaller than that of the great knobbed goose, but bigger if compared with the others species. It is a non-migratory bird species also.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Yallal, or Common sea merganser (Thalassomergus poseidonii)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: Pacific coast of North America and Asia, temperate area.
After the ending of human epoch the long period of recovery of ecosystems had taken place. During this period the descendants of survived species developed new habitats, and new species evolved due to the ecological differences expressed increasingly better with every new generation. Among anserine birds the new group evolved rapidly to occupy marine habitats – sea-dwelling descendants of mergansers (or sawbills), freshwater fish-eating ducks of human epoch. Red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) – rather common and widespread species wintered at the sea coasts of both Atlantic and Pacific oceans – evolved to specialized marine fish-eating waterfowl of separate genus Thalassomergus adapted to life in water of oceanic salinity. Birds of this genus live in waters of Northern hemisphere from cold to tropical waters. The most common species of these birds is yallal, or common sea merganser (“yallal” is the name of sawbill in Koryak language). This species of merganser nests in the costal forests of Beringia and spends winter in the costal waters of Japan.
It is a rather large aquatic bird – the total body length is about 72-78 cm at weight of about 3-4 kg. Body of this bird is of streamlined shape, with rather short, but mobile neck. Head is rather large, with elongated beak prominently serrated along its edges. Wings are strong; these birds make long annual migrations for wintering to warmer Asiatic waters of Pacific Ocean. Their feet are strong and highly adapted for swimming; body is elongated, and legs are shifted far back. So these birds have difficulty walking on land, keeping the body in semi-erect position. In water these birds are highly mobile and can dive deeply. They use only legs and wide webbed feet to swim, in a similar way to loons and grebes ща human epoch. Making fast turns under water, they use wings to steer, but not for “underwater flight” like penguins and auks. Wings of these birds are pointed, and tail is short and rounded.
One more adaptation to marine life is visible in appearance of these birds: both males and females have large outgrowths in the base of upper jaw. These structures contain salt-removing glands inside and allow these birds drinking salt water without any harm for their health.
Like other marine birds, they have a “standard” coloration of body – darker upper side and wings, and light breast and belly, like auks and penguins. But they inherited bright colors of heads from their freshwater ancestors. Yallal has black back and wings with blue or greenish metallic shine, and white underside of body. Male’s head is of dark blue color with prominent green shine. Females have black upper side of body with brownish shade and dark brown head without shine. The bright spot in its coloration is the color of the beak including salt-removing gland. At females beak is orange with yellowish outgrowth containing salt gland. At males both beak and outgrowth are of bright red color. Birds of both sexes have some elongated feathers on the crown.
Yallal is a strictly zoophagous bird adapted to underwater hunting. Its beak is serrated and thus allows keeping slimy prey like fish and small squids. Feeding birds gather in flocks and arrange coordinated cooperative hunt in sea. These birds can dive to 30-40 meters and stay in water for 10 minutes, but at fast swimming they inhale fresh air every 2-3 minutes.
Breeding takes place in spring, after returning from wintering places. Breeding pairs at these birds form only to one breeding season. Displaying males utter loud hoarse calls and swim in water, following the female ready to breeding. Sometimes the combats take place between competing males, but females are choosy and may form a pair with males they like, despite of their success in combats.
These birds breed in islands of the Bering Sea, preferring nesting in places inaccessible for land-dwelling predators. They construct their nests in rock cliffs and are able to climb on rocks skillfully. Nest is made of dry seaweed and grass, and clutch numbers up to 6 eggs of greenish color with brown speckles. Incubation lasts for about 35 days. The youngs hatch well-developed with opened eyes. Being about two hours old, they jump off the cliff and fall; their small size, feathery down, and very light weight helps to protect them from serious injury when they hit the rocks below, but some of them die. After jumping they walk to the sea with their parents. Juvenile feathering is of dark grey color with darker head and white belly. Young birds become mature at the age of two years. Life expectancy is about 20 years.
This genus of anserine birds is relatively common in the northern part of Pacific.
There are some species of these birds at the Pacific coast of Old and New World. Asian coast is populated by Asiatic sea merganser (Thalassomergus asiaticus) – non-migrating species very common in Sea of Okhotsk, Big Kurils, Sakhalin and Japan Archipelago coasts. It has a physical appearance more similar to yallal, being 72-76 cm long, but heavier compared to it. It differs from yallal in robust constitution, lesser ability to fly and prominent green shine of feathering at males. Females are very similar to ones of yallal species, and sometimes in northern part of the range mixed pairs form. This bird prefers benthic prey and often eats crabs, shrimps, gobies and small flatfishes.
Warmer waters of Pacific are inhabited by three island species having no seasonal rhythm in nesting:
Dwarf sea merganser (Thalassomergus nanus) is geographically isolated form inhabiting Hawaii. It is a smallest of the genus, with 40-45 cm of length. It walks well and prefers to nest in bushes of small rocky islands not populated by rodents and land-dwelling predators. It has bright red bill and paws at both sexes. Primary feathers of wings have white tips, and it also has white spots on shoulders. These birds are good flyers and are able to swim fast, jumping from under water like penguins.
Californian sea merganser (Thalassomergus californicus) is also geographically isolated from forms of northern part of Pacific Ocean. This species from California Island is remarkable in its large size (80-100 cm long) and strong bill. Its color is less contrast compared to yallal – light grey belly and dark grey back. Males have chocolate-brown heads and thick orange beaks. It is a poorly flying species able to keep in air no more than 10-15 minutes. It feeds on large fish and squids.
Atarapan flightless sea merganser (Thalassomergus atarapaensis) is the biggest representative of the genus, being 120-150 cm long. Life in isolation made it flightless; its wings are short and robust, used for underwater “flight” like at auks. Its beak of pink color is long and has rather large “teeth” near to tip. Body coloration is less contrast – entirely grey with dark speckles on upper part of the body. Heads are black at both sexes, sexual dimorphism is poorly expressed – males are larger and have loud vocalization. This one is very territorial bird; each breeding couple protects its feeding area from neighbours. These birds are adapted to fishing in coastal reeves, pulling fishes and invertebrates from crevices and cracks of the reef.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Crested wasp burglar (Pappopernis fur-vespinus)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: Europe from the Alpes up to Ural: hibernates in savannas of Northern Africa to the south of Mediterranean swamps and in Arabia, occasionally reaches northern coast of Zinj Land.

Picture by Sergey Ivanov

In Holocene the majority of birds of prey became extremely rare as a result of pursuit from the side of people and destruction of native habitats. Because of ecological crisis mainly large species – eagles and vultures – had suffered. Populations of “noble” large falcons appeared undermined by human activity, and these birds also had disappeared. But the few of birds of prey nevertheless managed to survive in ecological crisis – they were mainly low-specialized species eating rodents or insects. During ecological crisis, right after human extinction, in Earth biosphere the ecosystems formed by smaller species of animals dominated short time. This period had served as though as the “filter” which had kept only predators eating small catch. But separate specialized species of order also managed to survive because of specialization. One of species of feathered predators, honey buzzard, or pern (Pernis apivorus) ate insects – mainly social hymenopters (wasps and bees). Such numerous and stable food source had permitted this bird to survive and evolve further to the way of deeper specialization.
The descendant of pern, crested wasp burglar, lives in Europe. This bird inhabits woods of temperate and subtropical zones, and spends winter in African savanna. Because of specific diet crested wasp burglar does not compete to wood insectivorous birds.
It is rather small bird: by size it is a little bit larger than pigeon. At crested wasp burglar there are long tail and rounded wide wings. This bird does not hunt for vertebrates, therefore the special maneuverability in flight is simply not necessary for it.
The food of crested wasp burglar is made of social insects, mainly hymenopters. This species is less specialized than waxeater and beekeeper parrot: crested wasp burglar eats not only bees, but also much more numerous wasps.
The main hunting weapons of predatory birds are hooked beak and sharp claws. The beak of wasp burglar had kept the shape typical for these feathered predators, but became more lengthened, with small hook at the tip – it is more convenient so to pull out larvae of insects from nests. Claws of bird had a little changed: they became blunt, thicker and shorter. Crested wasp burglar does not catch prey by paws, but spends a lot of time on the ground. It can walk and run fast, and is able even to dig out underground nests of hymenopters, working by legs like gallinaceous birds. On sandy steeps of riverbanks crested wasp burglar digs out nests of digger-wasps and eats their larvae both with stock of insects.
This bird has kept soft colouring similar to colouring of ancestor. Back, top part of head, wings and tail of crested wasp burglar are colored brown without spots. Bottom part of head of bird is white; at the neck on tips of some feathers dark spots appear. On stomach some feathers have black fringing on edges, and because of it on feathering of bird the faltering scale-looking pattern appears.
Crested wasp burglar is able to ravage nests of bees and wasps, not being afraid of their stings. The presence of the special protective adaptation, very important at attacking of nests of stinging insects is the main difference of this bird from an ancestor. Above the beak of bird the crest of rigid feathers is advanced; it is opened and protects eyes when bird ravages nest of wasps or bees. The similar adaptation is present at the beekeeper parrot, and at the waxeater there are “eyebrows” of rigid feathers protecting eyes. Thus, wasp burglar represents a nice example of convergence connected with feeding at the same food source.
In connection with feeding by specific kind of food crested wasp burglar is a territorial bird – pair of birds supervises territory about 9 square kilometers in size. Birds declare rights to territory by loud repeating calls. Pair keeps very amicably and in common expels competitors from their posession.
Because this species lives in areas of seasonal climate, it is the bird of passage. At wintering places crested wasp burglar frequently accompanies insectivorous animals and feeds on termitaries ravaged by them. Sometimes crested wasp burglar obtains food in common with other bird eating hymenopters, the savanna waxeater belonging to honeyguides family. These birds compete with each other, and sometimes fight near the ravaging nest. Usually well armed crested wasp burglar succeeds to win savanna waxeater, and common feeding actually turns to robbery.
This bird nests two times per one year – in Neocene summer (understanding as this period warm season suitable for nesting) became actually longer, and insects meet longer in enough amount. The ancestor of this bird in Holocene had time to make only one hatch for a season.
In clutch of crested wasp burglar there are about 3 eggs, they are hatched only by the female within 15 days. The male feeds the female on nest and takes part in feeding of posterity. The posterity develops in nest within 5 weeks. The first feathering of young birds is dimmer, than at adults – the bottom part of body is grey, and head is entirely brown.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

The related species, Far East wasp burglar (Pappopernis orientalis), lives in woods of Far East, Japan and Indonesia. It is settled bird; only birds from northern part of area migrate to the south. It differs from crested wasp burglar in larger sizes (it is crow-sized bird), and brighter colouring – primary feathers are white with cross black strips, protective feathers of crest are also white. Individuals from southern populations also have white cross strips on feathers of tail (they are separated to subspecies Pappopernis orientalis callocaudis) and differ in smaller size.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Sea harrier (Algocircus longipes)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: algae fields near New Azora.
Volcanic activity in area of Mid-Atlantic Ridge had caused significant expansion of Atlantic Ocean in Neocene epoch. Besides tops of this ridge had grown to the surface of water, and the ridge was designated at the surface of water as a circuit of islands and New Azora island is one of them. Currents form near the island slow, but steady whirlpool, in which floating brown algae plentifully expand. Algae form on water surface a kind of dense carpet, on which small tetrapods can move. Some birds nesting at New Azora are able to walk on these algae, searching for food. Among them large ghost wanderers, the birds similar to ibises with long toes, are characteristic. Besides them, on algal fields ducks of some varities, and also fog swifts live. Fog swift does not perch on algae: in this case it simply can not fly up from surface of this sea swamp. It is involved with insects feeding on tissues of algae.
Such abundance of the live beings living at algal fields has caused occurrence of the hunter preying these birds. An only species of birds of prey, which could adapt to inhabiting in so specific conditions, was marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus). This migrant of the European origin had settled at New Azora during an ice age – it migrated to this island from the Western Europe via Canary Islands. The small population of this species lived at New Azora, followed its prey, various birds, moving to algal fields. Changes in habit of life had caused respective changings in its shape and had resulted in evolving of new species – sea harrier.
By its size sea harrier does not differ from the relatives lived in Holocene epoch. But it seems larger because of long legs and peaked wings. The tail of this bird is also lengthened, and is similar to tail of swallow. Sea harrier is fine flyer.
This bird is well adapted to life at algal fields. To move easier on algae carpet, sea harrier developed long toes with straight claws; tarsometatarsus of this bird is also lengthened, and the plumage almost does not touch water. But for additional protection of feathers from wetting at this bird the coccygeal gland is strongly advanced. Sea harrier spends a lot of time, clearing plumage and greasing it with oily water-repellent secretions.
Plumage of sea harrier is bicoloured. Bird has gray-blue bottom of body – throat, breast, stomach, bottom part of wings and primarily feathers. Therefore during the flight this bird is poorly appreciable from below. The top part of head and neck, back, covert feathers of wings and quill feathers of tail, on the contrary, are brownish-green. Sea harrier occasionally hunts flying birds, hiding on surface of carpet of floating algae. At this time colouring makes this predator imperceptible at the sight from above. When the flying bird appears beside, sea harrier promptly flies up and strikes a blow to it by strong claws growing on back toes. Sea harrier frequently practises air hunting for fog swifts above forest. In dawn time flocks of these birds fly to algal fields, and at sunset come back to nesting place. Sea harrier hides in trees crones near to favourite routes of daily flights of fog swifts. Hunting these fast birds, it flies at full speed into their flock, having put forward claws, and succeeds to kill one or two birds during the attack. Also this bird occasionally can feed on carrion. At New Azora these birds frequently fly to beaches where large sea birds, plesioloons and gannetwhales have a rest and raise posterity. Sea harriers eat dead birds and nestlings there, not paying attention to healthy individuals many times surpassing them in weight and size.
Sea harriers nest at New Azora. Nesting pair at this species is formed to one nesting season. In lowland marshy areas of island these birds arrange nest in reeds, but the part of population chooses for nesting thickets of high grass at the mountain meadows. Sea harriers nest on the ground; the nest represents a wide platform of grass and branches. Female is larger, rather than male, and dominates in family relations. She hatches a clutch of 3 – 4 eggs with dark brown spotty shell. Nestlings of sea harrier hatch with open eyes and covered with rich grey down. Usually they rather peacefully behave relatively to each other, and only at lack of food stronger nestlings kill weaker ones. Parents feed nestlings on small birds, and during the raising of nestlings prefer to hunt small prey at sea coast or at the edge of forests. They actively protect posterity from ground animals. During an attack on enemy birds try to strike in its eyes or nose. Development of nestlings lasts till about three months, and usually 2 – 3 nestlings survive up to leaving of nest. They differ from adult birds in dark grey colouring with lighter stomach. After the second mew young birds get colouring characteristic for adult birds.

The idea about existence of present species of birds was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Neopueo (Strigocircus vespertinus)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: Hawaii, woods.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

In Hawaiian “pueo” means “owl”. At Hawaiian archipelago inn human era short-eared owl, obviously, bird of North American origin, lived. Its descendant in Neocene epoch also inhabits these islands, but the new Hawaiian predator partly competes with it – the descendant of harrier migrated to Hawaii, one of recent settlers of these islands. This feathery predator is neopueo, the nocturnal predatory bird which is very similar to owls. Probably, otherwise owls simply wouldn't allow the appearing of such competitor at the islands, but neopueo and owls are clearly differing in their activity time and therefore compete for prey not so rigidly. Unlike owls, activity peak of neopueo takes place twice per day: in late evening and early in the morning, in twilight. It is so because this bird hunts mainly with the help of sight, relying on hearing to the lesser extent. Therefore it spends the darkest night hours in relative rest, and owls hunt right at this time.
Neopueo is rather small bird of the pigeon size. It hunts small vertebrates and large insects. The nocturnal habit of life made a bird similar in shape to an owl, of neopueo. The head of neopueo is roundish, and the feathers growing around eyes form a characteristic face disk. The head of bird has dark brown color, and the face disk is white, looking like a mask.
Long tail and rather short and wide wings allow the maneuvering among branches: this predator lives only in forests. Primal feathers of neopueo are similar to owl’s ones: on them there is a set of bristles along the vane edge. They extinguish air turbulences at flaps of wings, and because of it flight of this bird becomes almost silent as at true owls.
The body top of neopueo is colored brown with dark cross stripes; stomach is grey. On the head stripes are more dense and narrow; therefore head seems darker than body is. Primal feathers are light brown, and long tail feathers have black tips.
One more “heritage” of harrier in shape of neopueo is the length of its legs. Because of it the bird seems slightly larger, than it is actually. Legs of neopueo are covered with smooth small scales of yellowish color, toes are armed with hooked claws. Neopueo has an interesting feature which is characteristic for some African birds of prey of Holocene: it has an exclusively mobile joint between tarso-metatarsus and shin; it can bend not only forward, but also sideways, and even back a little. Due to such adaptation neopueo can hunt small animals hiding in hollows, just pushing paw in tree trunk hollow and seizing the animal hidden there.
Neopueo is a solitary one, and only during the mating season a couple of birds builds nest on high trees and grows up posterity in common. Nestbuilding skill of neopueo is developed better, than at other birds of prey. Birds of this species build in branches a big nest of brushwood looking like deep bowl though more often they occupy and re-build the ready nest of other birds. The most remarkable feature of the nest of neopueo is that birds build a friable roof of brushwood over the nest, and because of it nest of this bird is more similar to thу nest of magpie. In completely finished nest of neopueo there is a through pass, and bird having got into the nest from one side, leaves it from another. And the long tail of hatching bird sometimes even juts out from the pass. There are some advantages in presence of the roof over the nest: it perfectly protects from hot sun, and in the midday heat both birds hide in the nest. Neopueo has very sensitive eyes, and daylight irritates them.
The neopueo female is larger than male, and she “inherits” the nest: it is located on her territory, and males ready to make a couple migrate from the next sites of forest. In clutch there are 2 - 3 eggs, and both birds of couple hatch them in common. But despite of such care, only 1 or 2 young birds survive to the age of the moving out from the nest: at these birds the cannibalism is usual, and the weakest chick is sometimes eaten by stronger brothers and sisters. Sometimes already grown up young bird throws out another one from the nest, or pecks it to death, especially if the food is not enough (for example, when one bird of the couple is perished, and the remained one can’t supply both chicks with food).

Translated by Alexander Smyslov

Salt hawk (Haloaccipiter nudifrons)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: Mediterranean lowland, swamps, desert and “oases”.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

When Africa had collided with Europe and strait of Gibraltar was closed, Mediterranean sea had gradually dried up in several thousand years. It had turned to some practically lifeless (bacteria were kept only) deep lakes with extremely salt water. These lakes were surrounded with dry and hot desert in which ground is impregnated with salt. Here it is difficult to survive to mammals exacting to presence of water and not enduring too hot climate. But reptiles and birds prosper in “oases” – former islands of Mediterranean Sea which represent mountains among lifeless desert. Here it is possible even to find water: at night stones cool down, and on them the moisture from air is condensed. In some places of mountain “oases” small streams flow, and there are more-less constant ponds with fresh water. To get here, mammal should cross many kilometers of district completely hostile to them.
In Neocene climate began more damp, and the continuous salt desert had receded: in Mediterranean hollow the extensive salt swamps giving life to the whole world of small live creatures were formed. Water in these swamps is unsuitable for drink, and the deadly quagmire preserves “oases” of Mediterranean against ground animals even more reliably. Only some species of reptiles managed to colonize these islands among swamps and deserts.
But where ground animal can not pass, there are no barriers to flying creatures. Therefore birds form the most part of the population of “oases”. Here it is possible to meet various passerine birds, nightjars and strange flightless flamingoes. Here there are no ground predatory animals, but feathered predators were kept. One of usual species of predatory birds of the Mediterranean lowland belongs to hawks. Hawks are among few predatory birds of Holocene managed to survive in mass extinction which had finished human epoch. Due to ecological plasticity and ability to coexist humans rather successfully these birds could be kept in amount, sufficient for survival.
One of hawks had survived from human epoch is sparrow hawk (Accipiter nisus). In human epoch this small feathered predator was widely settled even in cities where it hunted rodents and small birds. In ecological crisis epoch large prey had disappeared, and because of it the majority of feathered predators had died out. Besides habitats of large predatory birds in Holocene were reduced because of the anxiety factor from the side of people. In such conditions this bird had received advantages in survival and was widely settled in Europe. In Neocene descendants of this species meet in various districts. One of original descendants of sparrow hawk lives in swamps and desert of Mediterranean lowland.
It is a daw-sized bird; colouring of its feathering is white with black speckles. On back there are few spots, and on stomach they are much numerous. When the bird stands on the ground covered with crust of came out salt, it is very difficultly to see it from air. This feathered predator frequently keeps on saline soils, for what it has received the name “salt hawk”. In salt deserts of Mediterranean lowland it is not enough catch, and the amount of shelters is even lesser. Therefore salt hawk had changed hunting tactics. This bird hides, dropping to the ground, and catches flying birds, sharply flying up and dropping them in air.
Orange beak and paws look bright spots on feathering of bird. “Face” of bird is naked (it improves heat emission in hot climate) and yellowish. Paws of salt hawk are lengthened, and the bird seems larger than it really is.
Salt hawk is not specialized to certain kind of catch: it is the universal predator of salt plains. It catches not only flying birds and insects, but also eats other kinds of prey. Using long paws, salt hawk snatches out from water swimming lizards skinkfishes and water turtlebeetles. Long legs help this bird to chase on ground small lizards and beetles. Having an opportunity, this bird willingly eats carrion and catches small inhabitants of Mediterranean “oases”. Despite of inclination to life in hot climate, in especially hot time salt hawk migrates to the north and in mountain areas, to the border of maquis.
This species of birds nests in bushes, preferring richest and shady thickets. Large ground predators are not found in its habitats, therefore this bird does not try to make nest at high tree. At lack of bushes salt hawks can arrange nest among stones. Birds prefer for nesting shady places in which the weak wind constantly blows: it protects clutch and nestlings agains overheat. Nest of salt hawks is simple-looking and cup-shaped; among bushes it is located at small height from the ground, and among stones birds arrange it so, that in midday it remains in shadow.
Female and male of salt hawk do not differ in color, but female is approximately 20 % heavier than male. Pair at these birds is formed to all life. Male constantly renders to female signs of attention, feeding her up with belched pieces of meat from beak. Otherwise female can start to behave aggressively relatively to it, and it may cost of life to the male.
In clutch of these birds there are only 2 eggs which female lays with an interval of 2 – 3 days. Because female begins hatching from the first egg, nestlings hatch not simultaneously. They are covered with white down and have opened eyes; they stay in nest about two months. Parents feed them mainly with birds. Salt hawks nest two times per one year - in spring and in autumn, dating the nesting to time of bird migration between Africa and Europe. In favorable years they cucceed to bring up both nestlings, but at lack of food stronger of nestlings can kill and eat another one. Young bird becomes sexual matured at the second year of life.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the forum member

Humminghawk (Nanastur pugnax)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: South-Eastern Asia – Sunda Land, Jacarta Coast.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

In Neocene epoch diurnal predatory birds are submitted in ornithofauna by small amount of species. Extinction of significant amount of feathered predators had been caused by changes in biosphere at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, and also direct prosecution from the part of people and destruction of habitats. Because of it many groups of predatory birds had not gone through biosphere crisis. Only most plastic and low-specialized forms had survived and evolved in Neocene to the set of new species. Mainly, various hawks were among them. These birds had survived due to absence of strict specialization, evolved in Neocene to various highly specialized descendants occupying ecological niches being empty earlier. One of them lives in South-Eastern Asia and in nearby islands.
When this bird hunts, it can be confused with large species of hummingbirds dwelt in New World. The small size of body and quickly flapping wings strengthen this similarity, but instead of thin and long beak of the nectar getting expert the bird is armed with sharp hooked beak. This combination of features has determined the name of bird – it is the humminghawk.
Despite of small body size this bird is still a predator – it is the tiniest species of the order, smaller than birds of prey known to people. By size the humminghawk is smaller, rather than sparrow, but small growth obviously does not correspond to its gluttony and hunting courage. As the humminghawk is insignificant, but belongs to endothermic animals, it has big losses of heat, and because of it the high requirement for food was developed at this bird: for day it eats approximately twice more than weighs. Humminghawk eats any catch which it can overcome: it hunts tiny birds, lizards and amphibians, and also large insects. Flight of humminghawk is very fast and maneuverable: it can make fast turns in air and fly even among branches of forest canopy, chasing birds. Till the flight bird emits muffled rustle by wings (making about 15 – 20 flaps per one second). Attacking large catch, humminghawk tries to strike by beak in head or to pierce by claws spinal cord of catch. The bird dexterously seizes fine catch like insects from branches and eats it right in flight. It happens that humminghawk attacks even lizards or snakes, whose weight exceeds its own twice or even three times.
Outlines of body indicate that humminghawk is the skilful flyer: its wings are narrow and peaked, and tail is wide and fan-shaped. In flight bird can make sharp turns and somersaluts in air.
Hummingbird of Holocene epoch differed in bright colouring, but their Neocenic “doubler” has much more dim colouring. The top of body of humminghawk has cryptic colouring (like the color of bark) – it is brown with black longitudinal strokes on each feather. Stomach of this bird is grayish-white, on the neck there is wide black cross stripe with dark blue metal shine. The area around of eyes of humminghawk featherless and naked skin is colored white. The bared skin serves for emission of superfluous heat – metabolic processes at tiny bird are very intensive, and the power consumption is great. One more important purpose of this attribute in behaviour of birds is being a signal of pacification for aggressive birds: turn of head removes beak aside and opens weak spot – the eye surrounded with naked skin. At males “mask” of naked skin is larger, than at females, and cross strip on neck is wide and black.
Life cycle of humminghawk is very fast – this bird lives not longer than three years. Pairs at this species of birds are formed only to one nesting season. The female of humminghawk is larger than the male, in nesting season it is engaged in care of posterity, and the male continuously supplies hatch with food.
It may be 3 – 4 nestlings in hatch of this bird, but, as a rule, only two young birds survive up to nest leaving. At lack of forage the weak nestling may fall a victim to stronger brothers. The female actively protects posterity, attacking any predators despite of their size. Usual tactics of the bird protecting posterity is the attacking of eyes and nose of predator.
Till one year this species has about three clutches, and seasonal prevalence in nesting is not expressed – in tropical climate with feebly marked seasonal prevalence readiness for nesting depends on physical condition of bird. Feeding the posterity adult birds grow thin strongly, therefore when the posterity abandons the nest, adult birds feed intensively. Young birds become able to nesting at the age of about half-year.

American fishing eagle-hawk (Aetopiscator americanus)
Order: Accipitriforms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: North and South America, tropical to temperate areas, wetlands, rivers and lakes.
During the end of the Holocene many members of the Accipitriform order had disappeared. However, the few survivors continued their evolution. Roadside hawk (Rupornis magnirostris) was one of these survivors; this bird was able to survive even in cities during the human epoch. The disappearance of large eagles and forming of new habitats gave roadside hawk an opportunity to evolve into the genus Aetopiscator, fishing eagle-hawks. This new genus spread to both continents of New World, benefiting from the extinction of ospreys and sea eagles. The type species of this genus is American fishing eagle-hawk, which lives near lakes, rivers and coastal areas from Southern South America to Mishe-Nama Lake in North America. Populations living in North America migrate to South America during the winter. Individuals from the populations living in South America can settle to North America together with the northern populations and fishing eagle-hawks living in North America can stay permanently in the wintering areas together with individuals from southern populations.
American fishing eagle-hawks are large birds of prey, with female being large than male. She has 83 cm of length, while he has 76 cm. The wingspan is of 178 cm for females, and 170 cm for males. Plumage of both sexes is greyish-brown with white head with dark mask across eyes reaching to the sides of neck. Belly and tail are also white. Breast and neck are brown with the wings dark brown with blacker primaries on top and brown lower side. Hooked beak is dark grey and feet are pale yellow. Birds have closable nostrils to keep out water during dives and dense plumage which is oily and prevents its feathers from getting waterlogged.
All birds of the genus Aetopiscator feed mostly on fish; however, they can occasionally eat rodents, small birds, amphibians and lizards. Fisher eagle-hawks are capable to detect prey under water. When the prey is detected, the bird hovers momentarily then plunges feet first into the water. These birds are capable to take fish in deeper water, using their strong wings to propel them back to the surface.
American fishing eagle-hawks are sexually mature at the age of 5 years. When they are old enough to breed, they often return to the area where they were born. These birds mate for life. However, if one member of a pair dies or disappears, lone bird will choose a new mate. A pair which has repeatedly failed in breeding attempts may split and look for new mates. The courtship involves elaborate calls and flight displays. The flight includes swoops, chases, and cartwheels, in which they fly high, lock talons, and free-fall, separating just before hitting the ground.
American fishing eagle-hawk nests near freshwater lakes and rivers, and sometimes is coastal areas of brackish waters. Nest represents a large heap of sticks, driftwood, turf or seaweed built in forks of trees, on rocky outcrops or offshore islets. Female lays two to four whitish with bold splotches of reddish-brown eggs. Eggs are incubated for about 37 days to hatching and the chicks fledge in 10 weeks. Its lifespan is about 30 years.
Another species in the genus Aetopiscator is austral fishing eagle-hawk (Aetopiscator australissimus). Living in Antarctica, the females of this species are large than the males, with 78 cm of length and a wingspan of 169 cm, while males have 74 cm and a wingspan of 165 cm. The plumage of both sexes is white with a dark grey face and wings. Differently of the previous species, austral fishing eagle-hawk hunts more other birds than fish. This species migrates in the winter to Tierra del Fuego and southern part of South America (to the north up to Falkland Islands).

This bird species was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Gladiator eagle (Gladiatornis maximus)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: Meganesia – plains, woodlands.
In human epoch many predatory birds of the order Falconiformes appeared at the edge of extinction. It was the consequence of destruction of natural habitats, chasing of these birds, the increased factor of anxiety and the result of use of pesticides in agriculture. As a result species of feathery predators which could not adapt to life near to people had died out. But human activity promoted the prosperity of separate species of these birds. In Australia actively bred rabbits turned to main food source of local wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax). Due to presence of extensive territories not populated with people this species managed to survive in human epoch, and had given rise to the several Neocene species which had occupied various natural habitats of Meganesia, the continent included Australia and New Guinea. In savannas of Meganesia the descendant of this eagle is the monstrous gladiator eagle, a huge predatory bird: wingspan of this species is over 4 meters, and weight reaches 14 kg. It is one of the largest flying birds of the Neocene world. Only nomade albatross (Thalassocrator magnificus), a sea bird of the Southern hemisphere, valkyrie owl (Valkiriostrix robusta) from temperate areas of Eurasia and North America, and huge bird acatou (Sciopterornis acatou) from South America surpass this one.
Meganesian gladiator eagle is the analogue of dyed out in early historical time New Zealand Haast’s eagle (Harpagornis moorei). This species is one of top predators of plains of Meganesia: it eats large representatives of megafauna - large flightless birds false mihirungs and false moas, and also descendants of camels camelopes and young caballocameluses. It imposes essential restrictions to settling of gladiator eagle: it lives only in places plentifully inhabited by representatives of megafauna. But out of nesting period gladiator eagle moves far from usual habitats – to deserts of southwest of Meganesia, to coast of Eyre Gulf, and even to foothills of Great Dividing ridge.
The gladiator eagle is a large bird. Partly the impression from its size is amplified by very big legs with long hypotarsuses of this bird. Growth of gladiator eagle standing on the ground, reaches 80 cm. Feathering of this bird is yellowish-brown; primal feathers are white. On head, shoulders and the top part of back feathers are dark brown. The area of head around of eyes and beak is lack of feathers and covered with naked grey skin – this adaptation helps to keep cleanliness of plumage during the feeding.
Gladiator eagle looks for prey, soaring highly. This bird is lack of maneuverability and speed of falcons of Holocene epoch – its prey is made of rather sluggish creatures. But the weight of prey many times over surpasses the weight of feathery hunter that creates the big danger to attacking bird. Attacking on prey, gladiator eagle tries to kill it as soon as possible. It seizes by claws neck and back of prey, and puts a strong bite by beak in basis of skull. The beak of gladiator eagle is very strong, also it is similar a little to beak of parrot – the bird easily crushes bones of small animals by it. In connection with habit of killing of prey the skull of this eagle has strongly changed: bird has powerful maxillary muscles, and for their attachment the skull of bird has extended. The head of gladiator eagle seems flat and wide in comparison with heads of eagles of Holocene epoch. Tip of beak of this eagle is strong and pointed. During the fatal bite it destroys myelencephalon of prey where the vital nerve ganglions are concentrated, and after that even the largest prey instantly perishes. Usually these eagles attack young animals, but small camelopes become their prey at any age. Gladiator eagles are able to break open a skull of prey, and often eat brain of killed animals. Also these birds search for the rests of prey of other predators (including congeners), and at lack of large prey catch small animals. If these eagles are not occupied with nesting, they spend the day near the prey and feed on carcass some times in succession; at this time they drive scavengers away from the prey. The nesting pair does not come back to the prey the second time.
Gladiator eagle nests on high trees. The pair at this species forms to all further life. Partners express attachment to each other by poses and movements. Male is smaller, than female, and behaves very circumspectly in relation to her. Shortly before nesting male starts to feed up the female, bringing for her pieces of meat and cautiously delivering it from beak to beak. If birds hunt in common, male of gladiator eagle gives up the place near prey to the female and from time to time feeds up her.
Breeding rate at these birds is very low: nesting occurs once in two years, and only one nestling lives up to flight from nest. Nesting of these birds has no strict attachment to seasons, and in droughty years birds can not nest at all till some years in succession. The pair of gladiator eagles builds eyrie at top of tree – eucalyptus or large acacia. This eyrie is annually renewing and is used by birds till many years. In clutch there are two eggs hatched only by the female. Male feeds her in nest, and the female leaves clutch only for short while to take dust-bath and to stretch wings. The hatching lasts till about 40 days, and the nestling leaves nest at the age of 4 months. If two nestlings hatch, weaker of them, as a rule, perishes from lack of food or aggression from the side of stronger nestling. Connection of parents and posterity lasts for very long time and is too strong. The young bird during 4 – 5 months after leaving from nest feeds in common with parental pair, training simultaneously in receptions of hunting. Young bird frequently plays, “attacking” prey killed by parents, or frightening by false attacks herds of herbivores. The young growth nests at the fifth year of life; life expectancy may reach 40 years.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the forum member

Aella (Aella atropos)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: rainforests and mountain forests at the north of Meganesia.
Rainforests formed at the north of Meganesia are very productive ecosystems. They give a wide choice of refuges and kinds of food for various live beings: invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. The majority of inhabitants of forest canopy belongs to the number of vegetarians, omnivores and insectivorous animals. Abundance of prey involves to forest canopy a number of predators: snakes, carnivorous marsupial mammals and birds. The supreme feathered predator of rainforest canopy of Meganesia by right is aella – forest species of eagles, the descendant of Australian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquilla audax). Other descendants of wedge-tailed eagle live in various biotops. Largest of them is gladiator eagle (Gladiatornis maximus), the inhabitant of savannas eating representatives of megafauna.
Aella differs from gladiator eagle in much smaller size: wingspan of this bird seldom exceeds 250 cm. At this bird species males are smaller, than females.
Aella may be easily recognized among inhabitants of Meganesian forests because of white plumage with black marks. Separate feathers on breast and stomach of bird have black spots on tips, forming irregular pattern. In some cases the plumage on stomach may be snow-white. On nape and back part of neck of this eagle feathers are black more, than on half, and form a similarity of cop. Covert feathers of wing are white with wide black border. On wings of perching bird the characteristic scaly pattern is formed. Feathers on back and waist are almost completely black.
Wings of aella are rather short and wide, and have rounded tips. Primarily feathers are white with black tips. Long tail helps bird to make sharp turns in air, when aella chases prey. Aella is a master of air acrobatics. Despite of large size, this bird dexterously flies in forest canopy, and even can seize in flight animals hidden from it on the bottom side of branches, having turned upside down to one instant.
In the name of this bird two names of characters of antique mythology are joined: one of harpies, violent spirits of storm, and moyra breaking off a string of life. This ominous name is quite justified by predating bents of aella. The present eagle is analogue of South American harpy eagle (Harpia harpyia) and other forest eagles. Aella eats various birds, possums and reptiles. Skilfully manoeuvring among branches, this eagle can easily seize the prey having hidden on trunk or on branch. The bird can break from tree by one jerk and easily carry away prey weighing up to 3 kgs. The animal caught by aella perishes instantly: claws about 7 centimeters long are stuck into its body. Aella has deep cutting beak with long bent tip, which easily tears skin of possum or dense scales of reptiles. The cornea of beak is colored cream shade.
By its habits aella is furious and fearless predator. Birds protecting nest, can attack without any doubt even marsupial biruang many times surpassing them in size. Claws and beaks of birds protecting the nest are dangerous weapons.
The nest of aella is arranged at the top of tree broken by wind, or among large branches. If the forest grows on hillsides, aellas nest in rocky niche. The nest of these birds exists till many years. Birds regularly renew it, spreading a new layer of branches and leaves atop of last year’s one. In the bottom part of nest of aella epiphytic plants, masking nest at sight from below, frequently expand. The pair of birds occupies extensive territory – of about 30 square kilometers.
Aella’s life is very long: average life expectancy of these birds exceeds fifty years. The constant pair forms, when partners reach complete physical maturity – at the eighth year of life. Up to this age birds can form temporary pairs, which can break up easily though birds have time to bring up one or two hatches.
In clutch of aella there are only two eggs laid by female with an interval of 3 days; the hatching begins from the first egg and proceeds till about 50 days. The nestling of aella sharply differs from adult birds by color: its down is brown or almost black. Juvenile colouring suppresses aggression of adult birds and stimulates their parental behaviour. Nestlings hatch not simultaneously, and the difference in age renders decisive influence to the success of their survival. Usually elder nestling since the first days of life starts to attack younger one, and at lack of food simply eats him. If the forage is abundant, the further development of nestlings smooths age distinction, and they start to behave more tolerant to each other. But at food shortage aggression between them may amplify at any age, and usually ends by pushing out of weaker one from the nest by stronger nestling.
Development of nestling of aella lasts till about four months. The young bird has dark juvenile plumage – it is grey with black marks. Parents finish feeding of young bird about one month after it leaves nest, and later start to show aggression to it, compelling young bird to leave their territory and to search for new place for life.

Naked faced eagle (Griffonaquila nudifrons)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: Meganesia, plains and woodlands.
In human epoch many species of birds of prey had hard times. Their number had been decreased because of exterminating, destruction of habitats, anxiety and pesticide using. When the human epoch was finished, the majority of species of feathery predators had become extinct or was presented by residual populations, too rarefied and genetically uniform for the further restoration of the species. In Eurasia large predatory birds – eagles and see eagles – had been replaced by eagleravens (Aquillorax spp.), which occupy various ecological niches and live from steppes up to the coast of Arctic Ocean. But in other continents representatives of true birds of prey, including descendants of Holocene eagles, were kept. Some species of descendants of wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax) inhabit Meganesia, living in various natural zones. In tropical forests at the north of Meganesia large eagle aella (Aella atropos) lives, and plains of Meganesia are under the rule of huge gladiator eagle (Gladiatornis maximus), which prey includes representatives of local megafauna.
When gladiator eagle is lucky in hunting, around of it various meat eaters gather very quickly. Usually eagle eats rather small part of carcass, and the rest is a share of scavengers. Among the animals waiting for the share near prey of the gladiator eagle, the large flesh-eating birds behaving safely and independently are remarkable. They are perfectly adapted to feeding on corpses of large animals – the forward part of their heads is lack of feathers and covered with dark red skin. They are not vultures, but the close relatives of gladiator eagle, descending from the common ancestor – naked faced eagles.
Naked faced eagle is rather sizable bird. The height of the bird standing on the ground reaches 70 cm, and its wingspan is about 3 meters. In proportions of these birds long legs and neck pay attention to themselves. These features indicate the ability of bird to walk good on the ground and to feel free among high grass of plains. Claws of naked faced eagle are rather short, thick and blunt: this bird does not carry prey in claws, and brings food to nestlings in stomach or in the beak. But such claws do not prevent walking and running on the ground.
Wings of naked faced eagle are wide; they have long primarily feathers and rounded tips. Using ascending streams of air, naked faced eagle can soar till the hours above plains, looking out for dead animals or hunting predators. These birds watch closely one after another and after hunting gladiator eagles. If the gladiator eagle attacked prey successfully, naked faced eagles searching for food within a radius of five kilometers from the place of its hunting quickly gather to it. Tail of this species is short, and has the lengthened feathers in middle part.
The feathering of naked faced eagle has soft colouring: brown with white primarily feathers; back and neck are darker, than trunk and wings. Stomach and vent of birds have sandy-yellow color. The forward part of head – forehead, beak, area around of eyes, cheeks and throat – lacks of eathers and is covered with skin of meaty red color. Large yellow eyes are surrounded from above with small skin combs, which surface is covered with small warts. The beak of bird is very long and resembles a little the beak of vulture of human epoch. These birds are not able to tear thick skin on corpses of large tetrapods, and do not start meal at once, having found out a corpse. Usually they wait for appearing of birds with powerful beaks or the predatory mammals, capable to tear skin. The long beak permits to penetrate deep inside the corpse and to eat away interiors of prey. Naked faced eagles can hunt independently medium-sized prey – kangaroos, cubs of local camels and chicks of large flightless birds. But more often they prefer to search for the rests of prey of large predators, even at early stages of decomposition. Extremly acidic digestive juice interferes with infection of these birds with bacteria.
Naked faced eagles inhabit plains of Meganesia in places where there are rocks or large single trees on which they arrange nests. Pairs of these birds are kept for many years, and each year they nest in the same place, renewing and repairing old nest. In clutch at this species there are two eggs, but only one nestling grows up to adult condition. The second nestling, if it hatches, perishes during two first months of life from aggression of stronger congener. The nestling develops for very long time: it stays in the nest till about half-year, and keeps near parents till approximately the same time, training in hunt and in search of carrion. The young bird reaches the sexual maturity at the fifth year of life, and life expectancy of naked faced eagle reaches fifty years and more.

Seashore griffon eagle (Griffonaquila littoralis)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: Meganesia, the south of Indonesia, coasts of large reservoirs, seashores.
Descendants of Australian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax) inhabit various areas of Meganesia – from savannas up to tropical forests. But one species of these birds had developed the completely particular habitats – coastal zones.
After storm sea coast represents a plentiful table for scavengers. In Northern Atlantic sea coasts are patrolled by “sea vultures”, very large birds of skua family. And at the opposite side of the Earth, at the coast of Meganesia, the birds very similar to them and leading the similar way of life wander – these ones are seashore griffon eagles. They are descendants of wedge-tailed eagle and close relatives of naked faced eagle from savannas of Meganesia. But these birds lead completely different way of life. Couples of seashore griffon eagles patrol coast in searches of the animals cast ashore by storm. Their prey includes large fish and various sea animals.
Seashore griffon eagle, like its relative from savannas, is rather large bird: its growth reaches 1 meter. But the constitution of this bird is very gracile – this bird resembles secretary birds and herons. Long legs with sharp claws make about a half of bird growth – this bird is able to keep small prey in paw and to bring it to the mouth, as if a parrot. Neck of seashore griffon eagle is also long enough, flexible and mobile. Head is large and has lengthened beak which tip is hooked. Head and top part of neck of this bird lack of feathers, and nostrils are supplied with leathery covers and can close densely. It is connected to features of food behaviour of bird – seashore griffon eagle gathers prey in water and frequently immerses head in water completely, gathering small invertebrates.
This bird is good flyer. As against the savanna relative, seashore griffon eagle has rather narrow wings and flies not due to ascending streams, and using permanent light wind. Wingspan of this species is about two meters; the female is little bit larger than male. The feathering of seashore griffon eagle has very light colouring in comparison with savanna species – back and wings are almost white with slight beige shade, and neck and breast are straw-coloured. Primarily feathers have black tips, feathers of tail are almost entirely black, and only at the basis they are light yellow. Head and featherless part of neck are covered with smooth pinkish skin; above eyes there are small longitudinal combs.
Seashore griffon eagles live in couples and have extensive territory. Usually the couple controls a narrow strip of coast about 20 kilometers long, but in mangrove thickets and among islands territories may be shorter, but much wider. These birds willingly settle near freshwater reservoirs and are usual representatives of fauna in vicinities of Arafura and Carpentaria lakes.
These birds relate to congeners with the moderate degree of aggression. Near large prey some couples of birds may gather, but if food is not enough, owners of territory may banish newcomers, attacking them in air or pushing aside from prey on the ground.
The pair at seashore griffon eagles is kept till the whole life. Partners concern to each other very gently, constantly displaying signs of attention to each other. Forms of expression of mutual attachment include feeding the partner and cleaning of naked skin on its head, especially near to eyes. In courtship season male displays to the female the clumsy dance including jumps with opened wings. Right before nesting male and female exchange with “gifts”: they entrust each other twigs, pieces of stalks of plants and other material, suitable for nest repairing. The huge nest (up to three meters) is building and renewing till the whole life of the couple. Sometimes the tree on which it is arranged, does not maintain its weight and falls. On rocks nests are more durable – sometimes they are used by some generations of birds in succession.
In clutch of this species there are two eggs. Female and male incubate them alternately during two months. Nestlings relate to each other rather peacefully, and approximately in two cases of three parents succeed to bring up both young birds. Young birds leave nest at the age of half-year. For some time they live in parent territory and fed in common with parents, but after 1 – 2 months parents banish them.
Young birds become capable to nesting at the age of 4 years. Life expectancy reaches 45 – 50 years.

Giant crested Eagle (Megaetus cristatus)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Acciptridae)

Habitat: Malayan peninsula, islands of Indonesia.
Usually mammals are the main terrestrial predators in Cenozoic. In early Cenozoic birds had made an effort to become the dominant predators, but only in conditions of isolation in South America this attempt had been successful. In other cases birds lost the position of terrestrial apex predator to mammals.
The Neocene birds have evolved into large predators: in New Zealand there is the ruakapangi, at the Hawaiian islands kuahana lives, and in deserts of North America the praire groundowl is found. These species can easily compete to mammals, living near them. In South-Eastern Asia there is also the terrestrial bird of prey of its own kind – one of the few species of falconiform birds survived to Neocene.
Giant crested eagle, reaching the body length of one meter, is one of the largest birds of prey in South-Eastern Asia. A tireless hunter for smaller creatures, this feathered giant is one of the few falconiform birds almost completely lost the ability to flight and passed to terrestrial habit of life.
Giant crested eagle looks externally like a typical eagle, but it has traits of adaptation to new way of life. It has large hooked beak to kill its prey, but the talons on its feet are less hooked to allow walking on the ground. This eagle looks much larger than its relatives from Holocene era because of the changes of body proportions. It has long and strong legs, so the height of this eagle at the shoulder is over one meter. It has powerful pectoral muscles, and its wingspan reaches three and a half meters. This eagle retains the ability to fly, but it takes to the wing only in extremely rare cases. This bird’s wings are broad and rounded at the tips, and tail is fan-shaped with smooth sides. There is a small crest of white fluffy feathers on the head of this bird.
The plumage of those birds has dull black and white coloration and cross-striped pattern. These stripes are thinner on the chest and head, and on the wings and tail they are broader and pattern is clearly visible from the distance. This pattern perfectly merges with the chiaroscuro world of the underbrush, where the eagle hides in ambush. This powerful but not very agile bird prefers to attack from ambush and kills its prey with powerful beak impacts; also it eats rests of prey of more agile carnivores or searches for carrion. Adult eagles are strong enough and well armed to fear predators, but various snakes and carnivorous mammals sometimes eat eggs or chicks of these birds.
Giant crested eagles nest on the ground, gathering various fallen vegetation and leaves to a pile and laying 1—2 eggs on top of it. Unlike their smaller relatives only the female hatches eggs and a little bit smaller male brings food. When the nestlings hatch, the parents switch roles: male remains near the nest and takes care to chicks and female hunts and drives away the intruders. Hatchlings grow quickly and soon they leave the nest and begin waiting nearby for the parents bringing food to them. They resemble in constitution the gallinaceous birds rather than smaller hawks or falcons. Young eaglets grow quickly and at the age of one year they are completely independent. The juvenile coloration of these birds is also striped, but there is rusty reddish color instead of white. Three years old birds acquire the adult coloration and become sexually mature. The life span of giant crested eagle is about 50 years.
Giant crested eagle competes successfully to carnivorous mammals because the early stages of the evolution of this species took place in island conditions. These habitats could not supply large carnivorous mammals with food, and large population of eagles could exist in such conditions due to regular migration of birds between the islands. The return of giant crested eagle to mainland Asia seems a secondary event that took place after the forming of this species of bird at the archipelago of Indonesia.

This species of birds is discovered by Bhut, the forum member.
Translated by Bhut.

Ethereal kite (Seraphimornis gracilissimus)
Order: Hawk-forms (Accipitriformes)
Family: Ethereal kites (Seraphimornitidae)

Habitat: tropical areas of Pacific Ocean, seashores and large rivers near forests tracts.

Picture by Amplion
Colorization by Carlos Pizcueta

In Holocene flesh-eating falcon birds had great damage from human activity. The majority of species of these predators became rarity – especially large “noble” falcons and the most part of eagles. Ecological crisis at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene had resulted in mass extinction of animals that became the reason of disappearance of large feathered predators. Because of it up to Neocene this group was present by not numerous low-specialized forms – mainly by hawks. In Neocene corvid birds had substituted large feathered predators of Old World, and descendants of butcherbirds had replaced falcons. In such conditions falcon birds evolved to very specialized forms.
Above river fauces, in mangrove thickets and above the coastal sea waters one representative of Neocene falconiforms hunts. It is a medium-sized bird with long legs and peaked wings. Its wingspan makes about 2 meters, but long primarily feathers make a significant part of this size. These birds were widely settled in tropics of Indian Ocean and have reached even the far islands of Pacific Ocean. This bird is named seraph kite or ethereal kite, and is one of the best flyers on the Earth.
Ethereal kites are capable to stay in sea far from the coast till up to three or four days. Due to long wings bird uses air streams with the same dexterity as the albatross, and almost does not make efforts to flight. Forked tail with firm edge feathers provides the bird good maneuverability in air.
Ethereal kite has long and rather weak legs. It spends a little time on the ground – mainly during egg hatching and posterity care periods. This kite seldom walks on the ground, and prefers to have a rest, perching on large branches high above the ground. Ethereal kites gather for rest on trees with the broken top and thick branches especially frequently.
Weak legs do not permit this bird to hunt terrestrial animals, but ethereal kite eats absolutely another prey. Its food includes fish and aquatic invertebrates; bird snatches them out from water and brings to mouth, not interrupting its flight. During their sea flights ethereal kites receive water strictly from the eaten prey, but in estuaries, where the top layer of water is fresh, they can drink it like swifts, flying right above water surface.
The sexual dimorphism at these birds is expressed precisely enough: the female is approximately a quarter heavier than male is. Colouring at birds of both genders is identical: light grey with thin cross ripples on breast and white stomach. Edges of wings and tips of tail feathers are black. At males legs are colored light orange, at females they are yellow. In courtship period legs of male become bright orange, and at separate individuals they turn almost red.
These birds nest the year round – in tropics the regularity of nesting is not expressed. Pairs at ethereal kite form only for one nesting season and break up when young birds become independent. Male starts the display. It chooses a tree with flat top or forked branch to which it is possible to fly up easily. It drops into branches some large rods making a basis of nest, and begins courtship flight above the chosen place. The bird flies upwards almost vertically, and begins slow spiral descent, using ascending streams of air. Such flights may proceed for some hours in succession. If the female is interested in male, he shows a place for nest to her, and birds build it up in common. Birds make friable nest, throwing in suitable fork of branches rods and branches picked up on water surface. From time to time they fall to the nest and trample it down, giving the necessary form to the basis of nest.
In clutch of these birds it may be one or two rather large eggs (compared to large hen eggs in size). Egg shell is colored yellow with brown irregular-shaped sopts. Nestlings hatch after 18 days of incubation and develop rather fast. The bi-monthly bird already has completely advanced feathering. It leaves the nest and gradually learns flшпре skills. The young growth spends about one month with parents, and then leads independent life. In first two years of life plumage of bird is grey with bluish shade and without black marks. Life expectancy of these birds makes about 30 years.

The idea about existence of this species of birds was proposed by Bhut, the forum member.

Thick-billed caracara (Crassirhynchus apiphagus)
Order: Falcon birds (Falconiformes)
Family: Falcons (Falconidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of South America.
During the Holocene the humans caused great alterations in the ecosystems of Earth, from the destruction of habitats to the introduction of exotic species. Africanized bees were introduced in South America to produce honey; however these insects escaped and spread across the continent. It prospered and in Neocene its descendants evolved. At the same time, animals evolved to prey on it. The thick-billed caracara is one of these animals, a descendant of red-throated caracara (Ibycter americanus). This bird lives in the tropical forests of South America.
The female of this species is larger than the male, she is 56 cm long with a wingspan of 78 cm while males grow to 50 cm length and have a wingspan of 71 cm. Both sexes have black plumage with white undertail feathers. Their throat is not bare like that of their ancestors, but the region around the eyes is exposed, revealing their red skin. Their feet and legs are strong and yellow. The grey-colored beak is thick and strong.
The diet of this bird consists mostly of bees, wasps and their larvae. Ants, termites, other insects and fruits are also eaten. When hunting wasps, thick-billed caracara makes an aerial-diving attack to knock nests down onto the forest floor, while skillfully evading most wasp stings. The birds use air squadron precision, repeatedly diving then scooping upward, to drive off or confuse angry defender swarms around the hive. While doing it, it can catch adults and crush them with the beak. Its strategy to hunt bees is different: it excavates the hive using its thick bill and strong legs. When the defender bees start to attack, thick-billed caracara makes fast aerial maneuvers to confuse and catch the bees. These birds are also resistant to the bees poison, being capable to be stung many times without suffering damage. Sometimes bee-eater tanagers follow thick-billed caracara to attack and eat the adult insects that escape. Thick-billed caracara also follows jaguapes to search for bee hives; this way the birds can have an easy way to catch the insects.
Thick-billed caracara is monogamous bird forming pairs for life. Its lives in family groups, with the parents and their young, which help to take care of the next generation of chicks. The nest is made of twigs and branches high in the trees. The female lays 3 to 5 white eggs, which are incubated by both parents and older siblings for 30 days. The chicks fledge at the age of 33 days. These birds reach sexual maturity in 4 years, but can stay with the family group until their sixth year. The lifespan of thick-billed caracara is about 28 years.

This bird species was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil

Antarctic carancho (Carancho antarctophron)
Order: Falcon birds (Falconiformes)
Family: Falcons (Falconidae)

Habitat: Antarctica, wintering in South America.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

At the end of human era the falcon family sustained heavy losses: large species of true falcons disappeared because of destruction of their habitats, disturbance and direct hunt from the man’s side. But in New World other representatives of family – caracaras – survived and even reached certain prosperity. After human disappearance they expanded an area and became among the main feathered predators in new ecosystems. In South America caracaras live at the South of the continent, in the field of temperate climate. And it was the important circumstance which further had allowed these birds to occupy the new continent, the Antarctica.
Meadows and bushes of Antarctica are occupied by the separate species of caracaras – by antarctic carancho. This bird is similar to South American caracaras from which it descended, but differs in number of unique features.
Wingspan of antarctic carancho reaches one and a half meters, and weight of adult bird is about three kilograms. In cold climate these birds have denser and thicker plumage in comparison with ancestors. Antarctic carancho has ash-gray color with white primarily feathers and black “hat” on the head. Tips of tail feathers are also black. The winter plumage is much denser than summer one. The skin area near eyes and in the base of beak is covered with small feathers. Some extended feathers on nape form a kind of crest. Their fans are strong untwisted, and cores of these feathers are very elastic.
Legs of these birds are long, with rather short toes. The distinctive feature of antarctic carancho is that feet of this bird are feathered almost to toes (but toes are naked). Toes are rather short, and claws are blunt, therefore bird can't tear prey using them. Antarctic carancho walks on the ground good and for a long time and often looks on the ground for prey – small animals and carrion. In spring after rivers overflow antarctic carancho explores the pools remained in flood plains of the rivers, and catches the small fish had got to these traps. Also these birds settle near colonies of sea birds and gather dead chicks or the prey dropped or belched by adult birds.
The head of this bird is more extended in comparison with ancestors. Beak is short, of black color, very sharp, with cutting edges and the hooked tip, adapted for tearing of skin of large animals. Antarctic carancho is the main scavenger of Antarctica and often wanders on an ocean coast, searching and eating large fishes and other sea animals that had been cast ashore by storm.
The development of sense organs in this species is peculiar: as at New World vultures, at antarctic carancho sense of smell is well developed. It is connected with need of search of food: in the conditions of Antarctica ascending streams of the air, allowing soaring at great height, aren’t formed. Therefore birds are compelled to use other ways of search of food, and the main thing among them is the recognition of smells. Due to the secondary development of olfactory parts the head of bird has more extended shape, rather than at related species from South America.
Pairs at antarctic carancho are formed for one season of nesting. Courting begins in the spring when snow thaws and the grass begins the growth. The male chooses a place for nesting – on the ground among bushes. It scatters the ground away by feet, forming the nest basis, and pulls down in a being formed pole a last year’s grass. During the courtship display male loudly claps by wings and makes some circles over the nesting territory, uttering calls similar to crash. When the female flies to examine the territory of the male, he displays himself to her, walking up and down round the female with the semi-opened wings and the raised crest. From time to time the courting male gives a blade of grass to the female, and then puts it back to the nest. If the pair was formed, partners in common complete the nest. In clutch at this species there are two eggs. Parents bring up posterity in common, but more often they manage to grow up to leaving the nest only one chick during the season. If the clutch or chicks are lost for any reasons, birds don’t nest in the current year, and the pair breaks up.
Young antarctic caranchos differ from adult birds by one-colour gray plumage of more dark shade, than at adult birds, and by the lack of black marks on plumage. Only the corneous cover of beak is distinguished against their plumage background color. The next year young birds gain the color of plumage typical for this species. The sexual maturity at these birds comes at one-year-old age though birds older than two years nest more successfully. Life expectancy of this species makes till thirty years.
Antarctic carancho is a migrating bird. However, it flies to wintering places late enough, with the first snow and even at the appearance of steady snow cover. These birds cross Drake Strait and migrate to the north along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America. Many birds stay to winter on Tierra del Fuego, and separate individuals move to Falkland Islands.

The idea about existence of this species was proposed by Simon, the forum member.
Translated by Alexander Smyslov.

Ostrich rail (Otiocrex struthiopus)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family Running rallids (Dromorallidae)

Habitat: steppes of Central Asia.

Picture by Amplion

In Holocene epoch in steppes and savannas of Old World and Australia different species of bustards, large birds of Craniformes order were widely settled. But human activity like destruction of habitats and unlimited hunting these birds have come to naught survival chances of bustards during geological cataclysms of the end of Holocene.
In Neocene when in the Central Asia extensive steppes have appeared from the east of Fourseas, they were occupied by large running birds similar to ostriches. Probably, if man has not interfered with destiny of bustards in Holocene, it most likely would be descendants of any bustard species. But in connection with bustard extinction their ecological niche was occupied by descendants of other bird: smaller neighbour and distant relative of bustard, the crake (Crex crex). These birds, large flightless ostrich rails migrate by small flocks in steppes of Central Asia from coast of Fourseas up to bush thickets of Mongolia.
Ostrich rail is the average-sized bird: its growth is about one and half meters, and weight is about 30 kgs. Appearance of this bird is typical for steppe flightless birds: at it there are long legs permitting to run quickly, and long neck strongly increasing the field of vision. In connection with specialization to running at this bird on legs only two toes remained: middle and external ones (as at ostriches). It reduces friction against the ground and permits to develop high speed – bird can run within approximately hour having speed up to 40 kms per hour.
Ostrich rail is not able to fly at all though it had kept wings. They are wide and short, and are using for maneuvering during run, and males also use them for courtship demonstrations. On wings of males there are long soft primary feathers shown during courtship rituals. Tail of this bird is very short: it is not seen from under wings.
Colouring of ostrich rail feathering is characteristic for inhabitants of steppes and savannas: yellowish-brown background is banded by thin cross strips; neck is covered with short light yellow feathers. Legs of bird are featherless and light brown.
Ostrich rail has strong wide beak: bird eats all kinds of forage that are possible to be found in steppe – small vertebrates and large insects, and also firm seeds of graminoids.
Usually these birds wander in steppe in small flocks – about 10 – 20 birds at all. In flock of ostrich rails there are both males and females. They do not differ almost from each other in colouring, only males have more bright color of feathering, and females seem “faded” near them. These birds are very cautious: while some birds search for livelihood, others look in sides searching for possible predators. Frightened away birds run the same way as the crake, their far ancestor: having extended head forward and shaking it at each step. Not reducing speed of run they can make very sharp turns opening thus wings.
New habit of life has made males of this species more tolerant to each other outside of nesting season, but during nesting steppe appears shared between them to nesting sites. Each male signs the right to its possession of the certain territory, loudly shouting. The voice of ostrich rail is more similar to long rolling chirring. During shout male extends neck upwards and blows throat which acts as resonator. Borders of sites during nesting are determined by any remarkable reference points: high bushes, separate trees or termitariums. Each male supervises territory approximately three hundred meters in diameter.
This bird is monodin; pair is formed only to one nesting season. The male has occupied territory, actively shows itself, making courtship dance: it opens wings, spins in its place, stamps legs, “bows” and loudly shouts. At this time its voice is most similar to hoarse croak. If on its territory other male gets, skirmish with the most unpredictable consequences is possible: the lawful owner of territory will snatch at the newcomer, striking it impacts by legs and beak. Usually conflict does not reach it and stranger bird escapes. If, however, newcomer is audacious and is not going to surrender, it is impossible to escape fight. Being in heat, males drag each other by feathers, tearing them out, kick and try to tumble down the contender on the ground. When fight comes to an end by flight of one contender, winner some time chases it loudly shouting.
Ostrich cranes arrange nest on the ground. Pair of birds rears posterity in common: male protects borders of territory for a short time replacing hatching female at the nest. At this time parents movable by instinct are able to drive off from nest practically any predator meeting in steppe. Protecting nest birds blow throat, stand on end feathers on neck and loudly hiss. If the enemy approaches too close, impacts by legs and beak are put to use. Due to such protection the survival rate of ostrich rail chicks is rather high.
In clutch there are 4 – 6 large eggs. Shell of eggs is motley: on yellowish background there are randomly scattered brown and black stains. The incubating lasts about four weeks. Chicks are covered with black down; along their backs longitudinal yellow strip passes. Having dried they at once abandon nest and do not come back any more to it. Parents in the beginning feed nestlings from beak, keeping food in mouth and enabling nestlings to peck it. Nestlings quickly study to eat independently and parents provide them more protection than food. To the end of second week of life at young birds feathers start to appear, and they change black chick down for juvenile yellowish-brown feathering. To this time territorial claims of adult birds gradually disappear and families with posterity unite to rather numerous flocks. At one-year-old age young birds get colouring of adults, and being one year old it can take part in nesting.
Life expectancy of ostrich rail does not exceed 15 years.

Ruacapangi (Antipodornis ruacapangi)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: “Awful rails” (Deinorallidae)

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Habitat: New Zealand, woodlands and forests.
Among the order Gruiformes only few species could endure the human activity changing landscape, flora and fauna up to unrecognizability. These ancient by origin birds appeared very sensitive to anthropogenous influence and in human epoch number of practically all species had strongly reduced, and some had died out at all. Representatives of rail family (Rallidae) have especially suffered from people. Before human colonization of planet practically at the each island of Pacific ocean endemic species of rails, moorhens (or gallinules) were found. People had disforested islands, hunted birds, nests and chicks were exterminated by constant people satellites – rats and become wild pigs. As a result from some rail species at all only skins or only descriptions of travellers were remained for science. But in any rule there are exceptions. And among rail birds such happy exception there was New Zealand bird weka (Gallirallus australis). This rather large rail has adapted to life near to the people, and sometimes it even began to harm stealing chickens and ducklings at farms. Mice and rats introduced by people also began to stay at significant place in its menu. This courageous and curious bird had good chance to survive and used it when the mankind has disappeared from the face of Earth.
The descendant of New Zealand rail weka had kept injurious habits and had turned to frighten-looking creature resembling by something tiny variant of fossil bird Phorusracus. The name of this bird – ruacapangi – is taken from folklore of maoris, aborigenes of New Zealand: the huge mythical bird was named so.
Ruacapangi is a bird up to 1.5 m height weighting about 50 kg. In fauna of New Zealand of Neocene epoch this is the largest New Zealand bird. Though Neocene is relatively warm and humid epoch, climate of New Zealand is completely determined by Pacific Ocean. Therefore summer on islands is rather cool and damp, and winter is not frosty but also cool, and snow falls in mountains. Life in such conditions had resulted at theappearance of bird – its feathering is dense and more similar to wool. Only in tail straight wide feathers were kept though this bird does not fly. Tail at male is longer, than at female. Colouring of ruacapangi feathering is soft – feathers are brown with black longitudinal strips; back is darker.
Sides of head, forehead and throat of this bird are featherless and covered with naked skin of flesh-red color. Because this bird is carnivorous, such adaptation helps to keep cleanliness when bird eats prey. Beak is black, slightly bent, thick at the basis.
Wings have disappeared already at ancestors of this species, from them only reduced elements of shoulder grid and rudiment of shoulder bones were kept. But inability to fly is compensated by good running abilities: ruacapangi can accelerate momentum about 60 kms per hour at short distances. On legs of bird short sharp claws providing coupling with ground during run and sharp turns grow.
This bird is the largest predator of New Zealand. It attacks ground vertebrates (basically descendants of species introduced by people), and also gathers carrion at ocean coasts. By hunting habit ruacapangi is more similar to tiger than to wolf: bird reluctantly chases prey preferring to attack it from an ambush, putting short prompt impact.
Usually ruacapangi solitarily or by pairs wander at the territory searching for food. From height of its growth bird looks around watching for carrion or smaller animals. Basically small animals weighting up to 3 - 5 kg become prey of ruacapangi though some birds (parents and grown up fledglings) can attack larger and dangerous animals in common.
Ruacapangi live in pairs keeping for all life. Male is smaller, but higher and more harmonous than female. Cares of hatch are his occupation when female hunts.
This wingless bird nests at the ground. Nest of ruacapangi represents deepening in the ground up to meter in diameter and about 30 cm in depth. Pair of birds in common digs it in ground among bushes, and covers with dry grass and moss. In clutch there are 2 - 3 large rounded eggs (length about 20 cm) with motley shell. The clutch is hatched alternately by male and female. The incubating lasts 35 days. Chicks hatch advanced and covered by black down. They at once abandon nest and start to eat. Parents feed them belching pieces of meat. During feeding the adult bird holds a piece of food in beak, and chicks peck it. During feeding they compete among themselves, pushing away each other from parents, but it does not pass to the direct conflict (nestlings of cranes, for example, fight among themselves to death). Young birds develop rather slowly: at them feathers start to grow only at fortnight age. Nestlings keep with parents till the next spring, all this time training in hunting receptions.
The family breaks up in the beginning of summer, and young birds before maturity live solitarily. Sexual maturity comes at them at 5-years age.

Volcanic lake grebe (Nanopodiceps volcanophila)
Order: Grebes (Podicipediformes)
Family: Grebes (Podicipedidae)

Habitat: Japan, high-mountainous volcanic lake at Hokkaido Island.

Picture by Fanboyphilosopher

In human epoch birds of grebes order were widely settled on Earth and lived at all continents, except for Antarctica. These birds live in fresh-water reservoirs, perfectly swim and dive, and hunt small fish. In human epoch among these birds there was a plenty of local and endemic species, and some of them could inhabit only one small lake. Such species appeared the most vulnerable ones at destruction of the natural environment as a result of economic activity of people, and in human epoch some similar species of grebes had irrevocably died out. But most common and widespread species had escaped, and after human disappearance they continued evolution.
Japan Islands became a favorable place for evolution of this group of birds. In Neocene at the archipelago some kinds of local flightless grebes had evolved at once. The landscape of islands quite favours to this event: it is heterogenous enough, differing in abundance of isolated lakes, and in conditions of warm climate of Neocene and volcanic heating of some lakes their biological efficiency is high enough to support a settled population of gluttonous and fastidious in food birds.
All Japanese lake grebes belong to one genus Nanopodiceps, and are descendants of one species widely settled on islands. The ancestral species is able to fly, but its local descendants had completely left skills of flight. They are birds with narrow head, long beak, wide paws and almost completely absent wings. At all lake grebes of Japan Islands the body is streamlined, and tail is almost absent. Swimming under water, these birds extend head forward, and paddle by paws, working by them alternately, or making simultaneous pushes. Wings of flightless species are advanced in various degrees – from small, but appreciable up to completely reduced ones. The reduction of wings at these birds occured independently from each other.
Japanese lake grebes have bright colored “collars” similar to plumage of great crested grebe’s head, and some species have “horns” of lengthened feathers. It is connected to necessity of identification of relatives – the ancestral species frequently appears on lakes populated with its descendants, and strongly expressed distinctive attributes help to exclude formation of hybrids.
Food of lake grebes includes small fishes, crabs and shrimps. Birds are able to dive and easily chase prey under water. They eat exclusively live prey, swallowing it entirely.
All species nest among coastal vegetation, arranging primitive flat nest. Frequently nest happens half submerged in water, but even in this case the incubation of eggs passes successfully. Usually in clutch may be 3 – 4 eggs – at small species clutch is lesser, at large it is more (up to 6 eggs).
Volcanic lake grebe lives at the north of area of this genus. Its habitat is unusual: it inhabits an only mountain valley, in which the lake about ten square kilometers by the area is stretched. At the bottom of this lake volcanic thermal springs spurt, and temperature of water even in winter is not less +20°С. Volcanic lake grebes nest in thickets of reed bordering this lake. Due to original microclimate water and marsh plants do not stop to grow even in winter, providing birds with shelter, and their prey with food.
Volcanic lake grebe is tiny bird; its weight does not exceed 200 grammes. Plumage on the body of this bird is monotonously grey, darker on neck. Colouring of head of volcanic lake grebe is very bright and appreciable from apart. Feathers on nape and back part of male’s neck form bright “flag” – they are strongly extended and directed back. Females lack of such “flag”, but colouring of plumage of the appropriate parts of their heads is the same, as at males. Forward part of head and top of head at birds of both genders is black and lateral parts of head and “flag” are bright orange with reddish shade. At some males tips of feathers of “flag” are white. The iris of eyes at male has impressive white color; at female it is brown.
Wings at this bird are very small – their length does not exceed 3 – 4 cm.
At Japan Islands other species of lake grebes live:
Common lake grebe (Nanopodiceps volans) is the only species of the genus had not lost ability to fly. Obviously, this species or its direct ancestor became the ancestor of all flightless endemic grebes of Japan Islands. This bird has bright blue paws (it is the unique colouring which is not meeting at other species of genus), brown plumage on the body and white “saddle” – site of plumage on back and under wings, well appreciable during flight of bird. From a nape on back side of neck small “crest” of white feathers with black tips grows. In courtship season males of this species show it to females, trembling by head and neck.
Common lake grebe is settled at all Japan Islands and lives mainly on mountain rivers, avoiding a competition to settled flightless lake species. Flightless species of lake grebes have similar biology and differ from each other in colouring and features of courtship ritual.
Southern lake grebe (Nanopodiceps australis) inhabits the south of Hokkaido Island. It has light colouring – pale grey plumage with brownish shade on back and snow-white stomach. The cop at male is black with dark blue metal shine, and around of eyes there is a ring of black feathers. The female of this species has only black spot on nape, and it shows this mark to the male as a symbol of submission during the courtship ritual. This bird weighs no more than 300 grammes. Wings at this bird are very small; only few reduced primarily feathers are appreciably from outside.
Semi-striped lake grebe (Nanopodiceps striatocollis) inhabits lake at the south of Honshu Island. This species has darkest colouring of plumage – black with separate white sites. From nape along back part of neck up to shoulders on black background narrow longitudinal strips of white color stretch. During courtship display male fluffs feathers on nape and neck, and strips become wider and more appreciable. He displays to the female plumage on neck, swimming around her and having turned a head by nape to her. Wings at this species are reduced stronger, than at other species of genus: they are completely invisible from outside, and only on skeleton the rudiment of humeral bone is visible.
Yellow-headed lake grebe (Nanopodiceps flavicephalus) lives in several mountain lakes and rivers of Shikoku Island (Shikoku-Sanchi mountains). It has grey color of body plumage, and head and top part of male’s neck are bright yellow. At the female yellow color is replaced by yellowish-brown one. On nape and back part of neck of this bird the strip of black feathers passing to black plumage of back stretches. It is the largest species of genus – weight of adult bird reaches 700 – 800 grammes.
This bird nests in reeds, preferring the thickets growing at the distance from coast, when it is impossible to reach to it from the coast. Frequently these birds arrange nests on islets of floating vegetation, and nesting pair specially rakes large heap of plants, pulling them from ground, and strengthens the construction with rods.

The idea about existence of this group of bird species was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Chatham sea grebe (Parapodiceps chathamensis)
Order: Grebes (Podicipediformes)
Family: Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Habitat: Chatham islands.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Due to ability to flight birds had occupied almost all ocean islands, from cold Arctic regions up to equally cold Antarctic Region. During the ice age Chatham Archipelago in Pacific Ocean represented the ecosystem very poor in species variety and economically using poor resources. But in Neocene the situation at the islands has changed: numerous birds and insects had appeared, descendants of rats and mice introduced by people also evolved, and islands have become overgrown with bushes and trees. The largest terrestrial species of local fauna is Chatham barocygnus – flightless descendant of black swan.
At the islands numerous freshwater reservoirs appeared – small lakes and bogs. In them mosquitoes, dragonflies and other insects breed plentifully. Larvae of insects represent one of main food sources for other inhabitant of islands – for Chatham sea grebe. This bird, the descendant of great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), is original analogue of loons (order Gaviiformes) of Northern hemisphere in southern temperate latitudes.
Chatham sea grebe is rather large representative of the order, well flying bird weighting about 400 grammes. It has lengthened body of streamline outlines; legs are shifted to back part of body, therefore bird is not able to walk on land, but only creeps on stomach, pushing by legs. Flexible mobile neck and pointed awl-like beak give out the skilful hunter for water animals in this bird. Chatham sea grebe can dive for a long time and swims under water up to 50 meters in searches of prey.
This species of birds has very characteristic colouring: back, wings, top part of neck and head are grayish-blue; stomach and the bottom part of neck are white. On cheeks of bird there are large white spots. Eyes are yellow and ringed with a thin strip of black feathers. Feather “collar” characteristic for its ancestor has almost completely disappeared: only “whiskers” of grayish feathers, more advanced at male, remained from it. Feather “horns” also have decreased in size and became very short. In courtship season displaying male raises them upwards, swimming around the female. The beak of Chatham sea grebe is colored bright red – birds display it to the partner during the courtship.
This species of birds has found original enough decision of a problem of limitation of resources in freshwater reservoirs of small islands of archipelago. Freshwater reservoirs are used by these birds only for nesting and rearing of posterity, and adult birds search for food in sea. Chatham sea grebe eats various invertebrates and fish fry. In fresh waters of Chatham archipelago there are no fishes, except for the separate species coming from the sea, therefore the young growth of this species finds plentiful food like mosquitos and other insect larvae. Adult birds, replacing each other on the nest, fly to the sea for hunting. In coastal zone, among thickets of brown macroalgae, adult birds hunt shrimps, small crabs and octopuses. Besides high sea waves do not enable birds to build floating nests. The seasonal climate of islands allows birds to nest only once per one year.
The main problem at life in the sea is the necessity of removing of superfluous amount of salt from an organism. At Chatham sea grebethe function of salt removing the modified part of lachrymal gland has undertaken, separated from actually lachrymal gland and opening as a separate channel in eye-socket. From time to time the bird “cries”, splashing brine out as small jets, and at once washes out eyes, dipping head in water. These birds hide from storm among thalli of brown algae which soften impacts of waves in great degree, or in the coastal caves protected from surf by stones.
Chatham sea grebe nests in freshwater lakes and bogs in numerous congestions. As adult birds have almost unlimited source of food, this species forms significant congestions – up to several tens couples of birds in the same small lake. At this species the nest is typical for grebes – it is a floating heap of plants. Sometimes some nests hook together, and birds continue eggs hatching, not paying attention to new neighbours.
In clutch of this species there are up to three eggs with motley shell. Chicks are well advanced and independent. Having dried under mother, they at once start to search for food independently, diving to the depth up to 50 – 60 cm. Chicks have brown down with narrow longitudinal straw-coloured strips and rather short beak. Salt-emitting gland at them is yet underdeveloped, and therefore they are not able to live in sea water. Parents warm and preserve posterity within the first month of life. Only at the age of three weeks at young birds salt-removing gland starts to develop. At this time they undertake very dangerous travel overland to the sea coast. Chatham sea grebes especially willingly nest in lakes from which the small river flows to the sea even if it forms a falls. These birds almost do not settle in lakes far from the sea, or chicks should overcome some hundreds meters of land in total, passing from lake to lake before they will succeed to reach the sea coast. Chicks can move on land, keeping body in almost vertical position. They hardly keep balance, helping to themselves with wings. During this transition parents fly from lake to lake, calling up chicks with loud cries. Not seeing parents, chicks choose a correct direction of movement, being guided on their voices.
Having reached up to the sea, young birds study larger prey hunting, and parents complete their rearing within one month. Young birds begin independent life, not being able to fly at all. They start nesting at one-year-old age.

Antarctic grebe (Cryopodiceps australissimus)
Order: Grebes (Podicipediformes)
Family: Grebes (Podicipedidae)

Habitat: freshwater reservoirs of Antarctica.

Picture by Simon

In Neocene Antarctica pushed aside by South America, had moved aside Australia. Shift was not far, but it has permitted to weaken considerably the cold Antarctic Circumpolar current, which did not let warm waters from equator to the continent. Climate in Antarctica of Neocene epoch is still seasonal with severe winter, but some birds had adapted to all-the-year-round life in this severe place. Antarctic summer in Neocene is favorable enough for life of birds and almost right after snow thawing bird flocks from South America, Australia and New Zealand direct to this continent. Among summer visitors of Antarctica there is one species of grebes, which is the descendant of Tasmanian population of great crested grebe (Podiceps cristata), which has rather easily gone through human epoch due to vast area, having kept in “islets” of the earlier solid area. Possible, casual moving of these birds from Tasmania through subantarctic islands has permitted them to reach Antarctica and to join other summer visitors of this continent.
Antarctic grebe lives in rivers and lakes of Antarctica. The size of this bird is medium for grebes: it weighs about 200 grammes. Larger birds hardly could maintain successfully rather slowly renewing food resources of freshwater reservoirs of cold Antarctica. For Antarctic grebe the streamline body shape is characteristic; legs are shifted far back, and this bird is not able to walk on land. The body feathering is colored black. It does not prevent this bird to hunt, because its basic prey is made of larvae of insects and crustaceans. But in conditions of cool Antarctic summer such colouring helps to be warmed quickly during the rest. Favourite resting places of Antarctic grebes are flat stones, which one edge is inclined to water. The bird creeps on such stone, pushing by legs, and has a rest on it for a long time, having fluffed up feathers and basked in sun. Bright “collar” of cross-striped black-and-white feathers with expressed metal shine contrasts with dim color of plumage. In courtship season this “collar” is stretched as a semicircle – feathers on nape rise upwards, and “moustaches” are turned downwards. Male involves the female, shivering these feathers which brightly shine in sunlight. If the female is ready to accept his court, she arranges some kind of game: swimming out from male, she calls attractively, and male follows her, stirring up feathers of “collar”. If male succeeds to bar the way to the female, it means her consent to nesting.
This bird belongs to flying species and spends in Antarctica only summer when the rivers and lakes are free from ice. These birds fly to Antarctica in second half of spring when the ice on rivers of continent already starts to broken up. The first days after migration to the continent birds have a rest, but, in process of ice thawing, they start courtship games.
Antarctic grebe is strictly zoophagous species of birds. It eats mainly invertebrates, catches shrimps and larvae of dragonflies. Occasionally it can seize a fish, but, as a rule, it prefers to hunt in extensive shallow lakes, stiring ground by beak and frightening invertebrates. This grebe dives to 1 – 2 minutes, but moves under water very quickly and cucceeds to seize several larvae of fish dragonflies – characteristic freshwater insects of Antarctica. Bird almost does not put efforts to emerge: its density is lighter than water, and it is enough for it to stop paddling by paws, and water pushes it out to the surface.
The Antarctic grebe nests on rafts of sedge and other plants which freely float on water surface. It builds rather big rafts with high heap of grass in middle. This is an adaptation for life in cold lakes: even in middle of summer water in Antarctic lakes all the same is cold, and in high nest at the hatching cold water does not fill in clutch. In clutch of this species there are only 2 – 3 large eggs. Chicks hatch after 18 – 19 days of incubation. They at once leave nest and swim with parents. During the brood rearing birds keep in shallow parts of water bodies – due to it chicks have an opportunity to feed on larvae of small insects, midges and mosquitoes. Chicks grow intensively, and within one summer have time to reach the size of adult individuals and to learn flight skills. They should be ready to go to a long journey for wintering when first frosts will come.
For wintering Antarctic grebe migrates to New Zealand, stopping in its way only at subantarctic volcanic islets. At these islets it has a rest and refreshes forces with the invertebrates caught in local freshwater reservoirs. This bird is not adapted to life in sea, because it can not excrete the salts recieved to its organism with sea water. Only birds tired during their flight alight on sea surface, but they do it only for rest. They are afraid to dive during the rest, and try to fly up and to continue their way as soon as possible. In New Zealand these birds prefer to settle in mountain lakes and in upper courses of rivers where climate is more habitual for them.

The idea about existence of present species was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Nocturnal seagull (Nycticreagrus hirundo-nocturna)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Gulls (Laridae)

Habitat: Galapagos Islands, coastal rocky areas.

Picture by Lambert

In Neocene Galapagos islands had remained as same, as they were in human epoch: they are the volcanic archipelago completely isolated from continent. People had introduced to these islands representatives of continental fauna which had stand a number of local species on the edge of extinction. But rigorous conditions of islands – absence of constant fresh water sources, hot climate and the intensive volcanic activity – had resulted to extinction of numerous intruders of human epoch. The stayed species had continued to evolve, and among some really surprising creatures had appeared.
When on islands night falls, day time inhabitants hide in shelters and fall asleep. But the movement above sea coast does not stop. At night on the ocean surface near the coast huge luminous spots appear: shoals of luminous fishes and squids numbering millions of individs emerge from depths for feeding. And in flickering light of shoals of these creatures the bird's shadows sweep over above waves. Bursts are heard from time to time, and one light is separated from luminous shoal, shooting upwards to become dim for ever. The feast of these birds is accompanied by quiet bitter cries. It proceeds till morning, but with the first sun beams birds disappear and as if are dissolved, similarly to night darkness.
The mysterious night hunter is a nocturnal seagull, the sea bird endemic for Galapagos Islands. It is the descendant of one local seagull (Creagrus furcatus), nested at Galapagos isles in human epoch. Its ancestor had also led a nocturnal habit of life, but at the nocturnal seagull the specialization in this sense is deeper. It is river seagull-sized bird distinguished by long narrow wings. Top of body of this bird is grey with small black specks and irregular stripes. This colouring helps this bird to hide: the nocturnal seagull is shy and completely defenceless creature, whose strategy of survival is to be as imperceptable as possible for probable predators. Overtaken unawares, this seagull hides into a deepening on surface of coastal rock, blinks and stretches wings at its surfaces that nothing gave out its presence. Bottom of body of this species is ash-grey. The beak contrasts with the general colouring of feathering: it is black with large white spot near the tip.
Among feelings at this bird sight is especially well advanced. The nocturnal seagull is distinguished with huge eyes making in weight over half of gross weight of head of this bird. The retina is covered by a layer of cells in which guanine is deposed, therefore eyes of this seagull “shine” in darkness, as eyes of cats. Eyes differ in great light sensitivity, therefore in the afternoon the disturbed bird covers them with third eyelid serving as “solar glasses”. This bird is active exclusively at night, and sleeps in day time. It hunts at night luminous fishes and squids swimming out from depths, and catches them by beak from water surface.
Galapagos nocturnal seagulls lodge in colonies on sites of coast where there are caves or heaps of stones: they nest in shelters protected from sunlight. They are rather numerous, but disappear in dark places at dawn, and their number is difficult for counting. Nests of these birds are built of stones, or seagulls choose convenient deepening on ledges of cave walls. Very seldom separate birds arrange nests in forest, in hollows of local trees. In clutch there is only one egg, both parents at night alternately (and in day time till the rest even simultaneously) hatch it. Laying repeats about three times per one year, but the most part of nestlings do not live up to adult condition: about the half of posterity in colony perishes from various reasons including predators. Nocturnal seagulls nest in close groups because it is a little places convenient for their nesting. Nestlings are fed by both parents. Adult birds find out the posterity by the voice among tens of another's nestlings. The white spot on the tip of beak of nocturnal seagull during the nestling feeding has the same function, as similar to it by arrangement red spot at the herring gull: the nestling, pecking in it, gets food. White color is better swept up, than red, in twilight; therefore the spot on the beak of seagull is white. Besides nocturnal seagull can see colors in ultra-violet range so the white spot in addition seems luminous to nestling: it reflects ultra-violet light.
Nocturnal seagulls are not migrating birds, and also do not fly from the coast more, than few kilometers. Such isolation had permitted to evolve to this remarkable species of gulls at Galapagos Islands.

This species had been discovered by Simon, the participant of forum.

“Sea vulture”, griffon skua (Thalassogryps nudiceps)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes), suborder Gulls (Lari)
Family: Skuas (Stercorariidae)

Habitat: North Atlantic, from Iceland up to New Azora, coasts of Old and New World in temperate and subtropical areas.
In human epoch gulls were one of prospering groups of aquatic birds. The pledge of their success in human epoch was rather fast development (as opposed to them the nestling of albatross, for example, developed, staying in nest till about 9 months), and adaptable behaviour, permitting to adapt to new conditions of existence. In human epoch some species of gulls became usual inhabitants of cities and dumps, and also of ports. Ease of adaptation and wide spreading had helped these birds to survive in human epoch having suffered the minimal damage, and in Neocene they have successfully continued the existence.
In Neocene one group of gulls, skuas, had reached significant evolutionary success. Among them the species replaced procelariiform birds, which number had decreased at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, had appeared. And one species had turned to true predator successfully competing to sea eagleraven at the coast of northern seas.
In North Atlantic the usual inhabitant of sea coasts is the griffon skua also named “sea vulture”. It is rather large carnivorous bird: it weighs up to 3 kg at wingspan of about 2 meters. Feathering of this bird is dark brown, and only the tips of wings are white with several black primary feathers. Such contrast marks are used for the bloodless solving of intraspecific conflicts: conflicting birds simply stretch wings and display themselves to the contender. This way they estimate the visual size and force of each other, not entering the combat. At this time both birds utter their unpleasant shrill call.
The name of bird emphasizes both its appearance, and lifestyle. At griffon skua the forward part of head and neck is covered with naked grafite-grey skin without feathers. But feathers on top and sides of head are lengthened, forming the kind of horizontally stretched crest. Raising it, the bird expresses its own emotional condition and displays signals to relatives – it is very important to avoid intraspecific conflicts which frequently happen at these birds.
Griffon skua eats carrion of various kinds. Usually it flies above the sea, similarly to albatross, and picks up by beak dead or weakened fish and herring squids from surface of water. Besides griffon skuas eat dead giant sea birds at coasts, and attack their nestlings in colonies. Groups of birds of this species patrol coast in searches of carrion cast ashore. After storm big flights of griffon skuas gather on carcasses of cachalot sharks and other large sea creatures. Sharp beak hook-like bent tip helps bird to tear even thick skin of shark.
Becoming a seashore predator, griffon skua has lost some skills which its ancestors had. Palamas on paws of this bird are reduced, and griffon skua never gets on water. In case of necessity (for example to pick up prey) it can only “run” some distance on water against wind, fast splashing on water surface and having stretched wings to create carrying power. Griffon skua is not able to dive at all, therefore small seashore birds easily escape from this predator, hiding under water.
This bird nests in pairs, not forming colonies, and flocks gather only on large prey. Flocks of these birds are temporary, their structure is casual and in them well defined hierarchy is not present. While it is a lot of food, birds do not pay attention to relatives and tolerantly behave to their presence. If prey is small, between feeding birds conflicts including display of force flash.
Griffon skua forms pairs only for one nesting season. It nests on the ground, choosing for breeding small islands where there are no terrestrial predators. In clutch of this species there is one egg, and only in favorable years it may be two ones. Nestlings hatch in down, and at them there is already naked forward part of head. First days they are inactive and sit in nest, reacting only on approach of parents. From five-day age they start to walk and actively to elicit food at parents, competing with each other. At lack of food stronger nestling may kill weaker one and eat him.
At monthly age at the nestling growth of feathers on wings and in tail begins, and three-monthly young bird is already fully fledged. Juvenile colouring at griffon skua differs from adult one – at young birds there is white plumage on head, and naked skin is black. At the age of five months young bird becomes completely independent. At one-year-old age the plumage changes to characteristic for adult birds one. At the age of one year young birds become able to nesting.
Griffon skua makes seasonal migrations along ocean coast. In spring this bird flies far to the north and nests. In autumn adult birds and young growth migrate to the south.

The idea about existence of this species was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Narrow-beaked warrior of Boreus (Boreofregata acutirostra)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes), suborder Gulls (Lari)
Family: Skuas (Stercorariidae)

Habitat: coast of Arctic Ocean.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Summer in northern polar latitudes is a continuous polar day. Sun shines all day and night, and it promotes development of plenty of plankton in top layer of oceanic water. Abundance of plankton involves unnumerable schools of fishes and cephalopods, which, in turn, are a food for various carnivores.
During the polar summer above ocean large long-winged birds appear. They promptly sweep above a surface of water, and by dexterous movement snatch fishes and squids from water. These birds are very similar to man-o-war birds (Fregata) of Holocene epoch, but such similarity is only external. These birds are descendants of skuas (Stercorarius), gulls known for predating bents. They make a separate genus of birds – warriors of Boreus (Boreus in ancient Greek mythology is a god of northern wind; this name emphasizes features of area of these birds in comparison with true man-o-war birds, which had dyed out at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene).
The most widespread species of these birds is narrow-beaked warrior of Boreus, the long-winged predatory bird living at the coast of Arctic Ocean in flights numbering up to one hundred of individuals. Feature of this species is long beak compressed from sides and having hooked tip. By such beak bird dexterously seizes prey from surface of water.
All warriors of Boreus are birds having magnificent flight abilities. Wings of narrow-beaked warrior of Boreus are very long; their wingspan makes about 200 cm. The tail of bird is V-like doubled and is a little similar to swallow’s tail. Such tail shape provides an excellent maneuverability to this bird. Despite of large wingspan, narrow-beaked warrior of Boreus weighs not so much: no more than one and a half kilograms.
The plumage of this bird has dark brown colouring, and only under tail and in the bottom part of stomach it has ochre-red color. Primarily feathers are black with metal shine. Colouring of beak contrasts with background of dark plumage as a bright spot – at sexually mature birds it is bright yellow with black spot on the tip. At not sexually mature birds beak has light brown color.
Narrow-beaked warrior of Boreus eats sea animals – fishes, squids and large swimming crustaceans. It never alights on water, because has no swimming membranes and is not able to swim. As against true man-o-war birds, at warriors of Boreus there is an advanced coccygeal gland, due to which the plumage of bird has water-repellent properties. Besides narrow-beaked warrior of Boreus is the masterly air hunter: it also eats small sea and ground birds. Having gathered full speed, this bird hurriedly forces down small birds by impact of beak, at once picks up them right in air, and swallows entirely. Narrow-beaked warrior of Boreus hunts not only in coastal zone of seas, but also above tundra and bushes. However, this bird does not fly in forest and does not fly low above bushes, being afraid to injure wings. It partly rescues small birds from this predator: they wait occurrence of such air hunter, having hidden in bushes. Large species of warriors of Boreus frequently get food using cleptoparasitism – they attack sea birds of other species had caught prey: gannetwhales and eagleravens. Striking to them impacts by beak and wings, warriors of Boreus compel victim to let out prey, and pick it on the spot.
As against true man-o-war birds, warriors of Boreus can walk on the ground, and even fly up from flat surface against a wind; but they never perch on trees.
Warriors of Boreus nest in pairs at some distance from each other. Only right after migration or before back migration they gather in big flocks. During the nesting period birds occupy the certain territories of about one hundred square meters, which borders are strictly protected. The alien bird has been late too long at the territory of pair risks to cause aggression of owners of this territory. In the centre of nested territory the nest is located; usually birds arrange it in shelter – among stones or under bushes. The reason of it is the vunerability of warriors of Boreus to frequent attacks of large predatory birds – sea eagleravens. Approaching of this predator causes instant common alarm, and warriors of Boreus surround predator by large flocks. They attack eagleraven, striking to it impacts by beak and wings, and compel it to leave vicinities of nesting area.
In clutch of these birds it may be two large eggs with spotty brown shell. They are hatched mainly by female, and male feeds her. The hatching lasts till about 43 days. Nestlings of warrior of Boreus hatch covered with down and having opened eyes. They have rather long wings, and sometimes nestlings support on them at walking. They eat fish and other sea animals, and later, from bi-monthly age, start to eat entirely small birds brought by parents. To the autumn young birds get juvenile plumage, and at the second year of life their colouring changes to adult one.
Warriors of Boreus belong to number of migrating birds. In summer narrow-beaked warrior of Boreus is fattened in rich by forage polar waters; for winter it departs to the south. Western populations migrate along the Atlantic coast of Europe, reaching up to Canary Islands; some individuals reach coast of New Azora. Populations from Northern Asia migrate along more difficult route: they fly up to Fourseas, and then make non-stop flight up to coast of Arabia and even up to the north of Zinj Land. East Asian populations migrate via Beringia to the north of Pacific Ocean and fly to the south up to Japan Islands.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

At coasts of Pacific and Arctic oceans in North America the close species lives – pale-faced warrior of Boreus (Boreofregata pallidifrons). It differs from the Euroasian species in almost completely black plumage. Only the forward part of its head has white colouring, and beak is grey with black tip. By habit of life pale-faced warrior of Boreus is similar to narrow-beaked one, and at the boundary of areas of these species between birds of both species relations of antagonism are sharply expressed – birds of both species ravage nests of neighbours, kill their nestlings and attack single adult birds of other species.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

At the Atlantic coast of North America one more species of this genus lives – smaller warrior of Boreus (Boreofregata parva). It is small species – its wingspan does not exceed 120 cm. Also for it grey plumage with brownish shade on covert feathers of wing and black primarily feathers are characteristic. This bird seldom attacks other birds, and prefers to hunt fish and squids far from coast. This species is widely settled in New World: it lives from the south of Greenland (where it is migrating species) up to Florida (where there are settled populations of this species). Separate individuals reach Great Antigua.

Pilot bird (Postcepphus navigator)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes), suborder Auks (Alcae)
Family: Auks (Alcidae)

Habitat: Northern Atlantic.
At the end of human epoch sea ecosystems had suffered the big loss from human economic activity. Overfishing for maintenance with feed of huge human population, hunting, and also pollution and destruction of habitats had resulted in reduction of number of many sea animals. Large vertebrates – cetaceans and pinnipeds had suffered from it first of all. Their populations appeared too small and genetically impoverished in order to be restored after disappearance of mankind. Therefore in Neocene seas of northern and temperate latitudes are ruled by giant flightless birds – gannetwhales and giant loons of several species. But side by side with them birds of other species, smaller and more numerous, live.
When huge gannetwhale dives, at once some small birds with black plumage and white wings direct in depth following it. They keep near to the feathered giant, and move under water, rowing by paws and almost pressing to the body of gannetwhale. For this feature of behaviour they received the name “pilot birds” by analogy to pilot fishes (Naucrates ductor) which accompanied in the same way with sharks in Holocene epoch.
Pilot bird is a descendant of short-billed guillemot (Cepphus grylle), the bird of Atlantic, very characteristic and numerous in the past epoch. It has kept ability to fly, and nests on coastal rocks in numerous noisy colonies. Its close relative in Pacific Ocean is very large and completely flightless bird – ocean hatchetbill (Megacepphus involans), the descendant of Pacific species Cepphus crabro.
Pilot bird has kept similarity to ancestral species, but differs in larger size – it weighs up to 700 grammes. This species has straight strong beak of black color and wide red webby paws, with which help bird quickly swims under water. This bird is too small to dive deep, but it successfully hunts, using the neighbourhood of large sea birds. When gannetwhale dives, the pilot bird keeps in layer of water, directly adjoining to the body of the giant and by that saves more, than half of efforts necessary for swimming. It rows by paws only a little in order not to lag behind large bird. It accompanies with huge sea birds during their hunting to catch small fishes and squids frighten by them – when gannetwhale searches for prey in thickets of brown algae, pilot birds literally hover near it, picking up fishes to which the large bird does not pay attention. Pilot bird also eats the rests of prey of giant, and sometimes steals a part of prey literally “from under the nose” of gannetwhale. But it should be cautious: sometimes gannetwhales seize these birds instead of fishes.
Pilot birds lead social way of life. They live and hunt fish by big flocks, moving for fishing together with gannetwhales in the morning. Colonies of these birds settle down at coast near to congestions of gannetwhales and plesioloons. Pilot birds nest under stones, digging by beaks and paws holes up to two meters deep. The nest is covered with small amount of dry grass and seaweed gathered at the sea coast. The entrance to the hole usually is very narrow, and also is made closely to big stone – this way it is more difficult to predators to reach nesting birds. On islands remoted from continent coast, lack of ground predators, holes of birds are not so deep. The colony totals over hundred of birds, and at the continent pilot birds gather to many thousands colonies.
Nesting pair at these birds is kept during several seasons of nesting in succession. They start nesting early in spring, still before the first gannetwhales will appear at coast. Before the arrival of these birds pilot birds can feed independently, but in this case search of forage takes more forces, and they can not dive as deep, as at joint hunting with large birds.
Before egg laying even partners from already existing pair display a similarity of courtship ritual: male chases female on the ground, accompanying the run for her with loud cries. After that feeding the female on belched fish follows, and next is transfer from beak to beak of symbolical “gift” – piece of seaweed or feather. In clutch it usually may be two eggs hatching alternately by both birds of pair. The incubation of eggs comes to an end, when gannetwhales already appear at coast, and it is much easier to parent birds to catch food for nestlings, accompanying with these huge birds. Nestlings are covered with rich down. They remain in hole within 3 months, and strongly get fat, getting plentiful food brought by parents: leaving a nest, young birds hardly squeeze through an entrance of hole. Parents finish feeding of young birds within one week after their leaving of nest.
Young birds in juvenile plumage have black wings. Only at the second year of life young birds become able to nesting. Then, after mew, they take a colouring characteristic for adult birds.

This species of birds was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Baltic auk (Eualle baltica)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes), suborder Auks (Alcae)
Family: Auks (Alcidae)

Habitat: Wenedian Lake and water bodies located around of it.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

In Holocene epoch little auk (Alle alle), numerous and medium-sized sea bird, had very wide area in Northern hemisphere. For this species incidental migrations far to the south, out of boundaries of its usual area had been characteristic. Due to the small size this species could go through crisis at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, having kept enough number of viable populations within the borders of former area. In early Neocene descendants of little auk had restored number and area characteristic for their ancestor. Due to dissociation populations of little auk descendants differed from each other, and they could occupy different ecological niches in northern seas. Ability to resettlement has permitted to descendants of little auk to expand an area and to form viable populations in new habitats, beyond Arctic and Subarctic regions. One population settled at the coast of Wenedian Lake – large water body of the glacial origin formed at the place of Baltic Sea. During the evolution it had turned to separate species – Baltic auk.
Similarly to its ancestor, it is a small bird up to 150 grammes in weight, well flying and capable to dive. In colouring Baltic auk sharply enough differs from the ancestor which had black-and-white colouring rather usual for auks. The feathering of Baltic auk is colored sandy and straw tone; belly is white-grey, beak and paws are dark brown. In courtship dress the breast at birds of both genders turns snow-white, but right after hatching start white feathers drop out.
Baltic auk has small beak and wide cut of mouth. This bird eats various small animals: lake plankton, larvae of insects and fish fry. This species has inherited from the ancestor such feature of behaviour, as night feeding. Birds catch prey, diving for it in water.
The main nesting places of Baltic auk are located in northern part of Wenedian Lake where there is a plenty of rocks and the islets formed by glaciers. In southern part of lake small colonies of these birds live on the islets far from the coast and overgrown with cane. Birds nest in natural shelters between stones, and in canes at absence of them. As against the ancestor formed the large colonies totaling thousands of birds, Baltic auk nests in small colonies – up to 40 couples of adult birds. Colonies of these birds are not similar to rookeries at the coasts of Arctic region and Atlantic – Baltic auks try to behave silently and secretively, and their colonies are difficult for finding in canes. Adult birds of this species are settled, and only at freezing of lake more then usually happens they make short migrations to edge of ice cover, permanently returning to nesting places in spring.
The nest arranging at Baltic auk is limited only to the choice of ready natural shelter. In clutch of this species there is only one egg; nesting begins in early spring. The nestling hatches well advanced. It is covered with light brown down with longitudinal black strips; at danger it hides among plants and freezes extended vertically, as if a bittern. Parents bring it up while it will fledge completely. Young birds differ from adults in monotonous coloring of feathering. They become adult at the second year of life.
Young birds spend the first winter in the central part of lake, at the edge of ice cover. Here they are well protected from predators and find a lot of food like planktonic crustaceans. The main enemy of these birds is lake monster perch (Gorgoperca territaris), fish reaching three-meter length. Large adult fishes of this species can eat Baltic auk only casually, but younger fishes are more mobile, and purposefully hunt these birds at shoaliness. Also other inhabitants of Wenedian Lake – huge lake crackens (Crackenastacus cataphractus) attack Baltic auks.

This species of birds was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Moustached auk (Postalle glaucus)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes), suborder Auks (Alcae)
Family: Auks (Alcidae)

Habitat: Mishe-Nama Lake, the central part of lake.
Little auk (Alle alle) had been one of numerous species of sea birds of Holocene epoch. In epoch of global “planktonic accident” the majority of species of sea birds, especially large ones, had died out, or their number and area had been reduced. Some species came in decline and were gradually superseded by the neighbours, and others could restore number quickly and expand an area. Little auk belonged to the number of such species. Its descendants were settled in the seas of northern hemisphere, and had appeared even in Wenedian Lake. One more species being the descendant of little auk had settled in North America, in Mishe-Nama Lake.
The North American species, moustached auk, belongs to separate genus. It is a larger species, rather than its ancestor, a pigeon-sized bird. It has kept bicoloured feathering, characteristic for its ancestor, but black color was gradually clarified: the top part of body of moustached auk is grayish-blue, stomach and throat are white. Moustached auk has dense constitution, large head, short neck and thickset trunk. This species is very good flyer; bird has short peaked wings and short fanlike tail. Flight of moustached auk is linear and very fast. Bird swims under water, using a mode of “underwater flight” with the help of wings, and easily passes from one environment to another: having gathered speed in air, birds fold wings and enter into water almost without splashes, and from under water, having gathered speed, jump out in air, and continue flight just as usual birds. Birds walk on the ground, having extended body vertically and basing not only on toes, but also on tarsometatarsus. Legs are webby, and birds are able to swim on water very good.
Beak of moustached auk is blunt and short, coloured black. However, it has remarkably wide mouth cut – the corner of mouth is located behind back edge of an eye. From upper and lower jaws, near edges of corneous cover of beak, thin elastic bristles stick out. They represent the modified feathers lack of vanes, with thin flexible shaft. This adaptation helps birds to get food. Moustached auk feeds on planktonic crustaceans and other organisms living in top layer of water. Diving under water, bird filters water and keeps prey in mouth with the help of bristles. While bird does not feel presence of prey, its mouth is closed. But, having felt the impact against bristles, bird slightly opens mouth and catches prey. It is interesting, that these birds also eat tiny flying insects – mosquitoes, caddis flies and May flies. They gather them in air the same way.
This species of birds avoids coastal zone, and beyond of nesting time almost constantly keeps above water. Flocks of moustached auks keep above congestions of plankton crustaceans and fish fry, have a rest on subjects floating in water, and on floating ice floes in winter. This species appears at the coast of lake very seldom – usually birds lose road to a fog, but right after it dissipates, they leave coast. For winter northern populations migrate to nonfreezing southern part of lake.
Moustached auk is monogamous. Birds of this species nest at the islands in central part of lake, in colonies numbering up to one thousand of individuals. The nest is arranged in hollows and cracks between stones. Birds simply drag therea litter of dry grass and feathers. Female lays two eggs, and parents more often succeed to bring up both nestlings. Hatching lasts till 22 days; both birds take part in it. Nestling stays in nest till about 40 days, being strongly eaten off. Leaving the nest, it weighs approximately 20 % more than any of its parents. The first days the young bird swims on water surface and trains in flight and food getting. Colouring of young bird differs from adult one only in dimmer color. At the age of two years moustached auks become able to breed.

Polar oyster-cracker (Molliaphagus arcticus)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes), suborder Charadrii (Charadrii)
Family: Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)

Habitat: coast of Arctic Ocean, northern Atlantic.
Decrease of variety and efficiency of ecosystems in human epoch, human economic activity and also global ecological crisis at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene rendered significant influence to the fauna of sea coasts. The part of species of sea birds had died out, and the survived species had been compelled to adapt to new conditions. Among survived birds there were oystercatchers (Haematopus) – usual birds of sea coasts in Holocene epoch, widely settled at the Earth. In ice age some populations of these birds had receded from coast of northern seas to the south and had survived, passed to feeding on river invertebrates. In the beginning of Neocene warming river descendants of oystercatchers settled back to habitats of their ancestors. One sea species had widely settled at coast of Arctic Ocean and became the main consumer of bivalve molluscs. According to its diet the whole genus of birds has received the name “oyster-crackers” though some species of these birds live in places, where oysters do not meet at all.
Polar oyster-cracker is rather large representative of plovers: by size it is equal to mallard and weighs up to 700 grammes. Contrast black-and-white colouring of ancestral species has strongly changed. Top of head, back part of neck, wings, back and waist of polar oyster-cracker are speckled with numerous brown, black, white and ochre speckles on yellowish background, forming cross lines on every feather. The bottom part of body, throat and bottom part of head are white. Beak and paws of polar oyster-cracker are bright yellow; at male their color is more sated. Color of beak and legs at each species of oyster-crackers is special – it helps them to distinguish individuals of the same species. Paws at all species are rather long and lack of back toe; other toes are edged by wide leathery “scallops”, as at grebes.
Beak of oyster-crackers is long and strong. Polar oyster-cracker eats mainly bivalve molluscs, searching them in littoral zone. Having found a shell at the coast, it wedges beak in crack between shell parts, and, using it as a can opener, opens shell, cutting adductor muscle, and then quietly eats mollusc. If there are no shells at the coast, oyster-cracker dives for them under water – it is able to swim and to dive as well, as duck. Rowing by paws and having pressed wings to a body, it tries to find shells under water. Having found a mollusc, it catches it by beak or by several strong impacts tears off shell from substratum, and carries to the shore, where opens and eats. Quite often oyster-cracker diversifies its diet with invertebrates gathered at the sea coast – it digs out from sand shrimps, scuds and also worms. The competitor of this bird in polar areas is “sea woodpecker” (Picicorvus albiventris), the bird of corvid family, also able to dive. Sometimes “sea woodpeckers” dive near to polar oyster-cracker, and snatch out from under its beak molluscs torn off by it from substratum. On land these birds also enter conflicts – usually “sea woodpeckers” ravage nests of oyster-crackers and steal forage from their nestlings which behave rather passively during feeding by nature.
Pairs at oyster-crackers form to one nesting season, and birds in common bring up nestlings during the long time. The nest is located on rocks, among pebble or in sand. Actually, the nest is not present as such – birds dig a small pit in sand, where eggs are laid. In clutch there are 2 – 3 eggs.
Polar oyster-crackers fly perfectly, and for winter they migrate in warmer areas – eastern populations winter at Fourseas, and western ones migrate to the Atlantic coast of Europe.
At the territory of Eurasia some close species of this genus live:
River oyster-cracker (Molliaphagus potamophilus) is a pigeon-sized bird that lives at the rivers of Eurasia from the Western Europe up to swamps of Western Siberia. It is colored in olive tone, masking the female hatching eggs in grass. The bottom part of body is colored lighter, rather than top. The top part of body has dark speckled pattern. Beak and legs are orange-yellow.
Pacific oyster-cracker (Molliaphagus larvatus) by size is equal to duck. It lives at Asian coast of Pacific Ocean, at Big Kurils, and separate individuals fly to the coast of Beringia in summer. It has grayish color with specks; across eyes “mask” – wide black horizontal strip – is stretched. Legs and beak are red.
Fourseas oyster-cracker (Molliaphagus cyanipes) is a small species, equal to pigeon in size. It lives at the coast of Fourseas, and by colouring is similar to polar oyster-cracker, but white color in plumage is replaced to yellowish. Obviously, this species is the descendant of polar oyster-cracker wintering at Fourseas. But two these species very precisely differ from each other: at Fourseas oyster-cracker legs and beak have strange blue color.

These species of birds were discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Plain snipe or Nocturnal snipe (Nyctogallinago praticola)
Order: Charadriiforms (Charadriiformes)
Family: Sandpipers (Scolopacidae)

Habitat: plains of North America, migrating to South American pampas.
In human epoch numerous species of shorebirds had suffered due to draining of wetlands and overhunting. Many species had become extinct, local forms in particular. Other species survived due to their life in places non favorable for human activity because of climatic conditions and features of the landscape – mainly in wetlands and polar and subpolar regions. After the disappearance of humankind descendants of survived species began active speciation and developed some new habitats. One of these new species is plain snipe, the completely terrestrial species of snipe from North America.
Living in the plains and grasslands of North America, plain snipe is a descendant of the Wilson’s snipe (Gallinago delicata), but unlike their ancestors these birds are completely terrestrial and nocturnal. Adults are 26-30 cm in length with a wingspan of 45-50 cm. They have long legs to run through the vegetation and a long beak to catch their main prey, insects and spiders. Also these birds eat snails and earthworms.
Feathering coloration at this bird is cryptic: background color is straw-yellow with thin brown cross strips on each feather. Tail and wing feathers have wider cross strips with larger spaces between them. There is an individual variability in coloration from lighter to darker shade of colors. The chest and sides vary from yellowish white to rich tans. The nape of the head is black, with three or four crossbars of deep buff or rufous color.
Eyes of this bird are adapted to the nocturnal life, being bigger and having a more developed tapetum lucidum – that’s why its eyes shine in darkness like at all nocturnal animals. During the daytime, these birds hide in tall grass and bushes. Their eyes give them almost complete circular field of view. The hearing of the plain snipe is good, allowing it to hear movements of insects in the grass.
They comunicate with each other using loud calls. If a predator approaches, they fly emitting loud calls to alert the others of the species.
Their mating season starts in the spring. During the night male tries to attract females doing a serie of calls in the ground, after it he takes off and flies from 50 to 100 yards into the air. He descends, zigzagging and banking while singing a liquid, chirping song. This high spiralling flight produces a melodious twittering sound as air rushes through the male’s outer primary wing feathers. Females are attracted by the male display. After the mating, the female will be the only responsible for making the nest – a shallow and rudimentary one right on the ground with only some dead leaves and twigs as a litter. She lays four eggs and the incubation lasts 20-25 days.
The down-covered young are precocial and leave the nest within a few hours of hatching. The female broods her young and feeds them. When threatened, the fledglings usually take cover and remain motionless, attempting to escape detection by relying on their cryptic coloration. Plain snipe fledglings begin hunting for insects when they have a few days after hatching. They develop quickly and can make short flights after two weeks, can fly fairly well at three weeks, and are independent after about five weeks. Plain snipe eats mostly insects, but can eat some plant materials (small fruits and seeds). In the winter they migrate to the plains of South America, flying at night. They avoid crossing Panama Passage and fly to the east along the coast of Gulf of Mexico. During their migration, they stop at the island of Great Antigua to have a rest, and then fly along the coast of South America, bypassing tropical forests of northern part of the continent.
Sexual maturity comes at the age of 10-11 month; life expectancy does not exceed 8 years.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Marabou vulture (Dolichocathartes velodromus)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Cathartids (Cathartidae)

Habitat: south-west of Northern America, semi-deserts and plains.

Picture by Tim Morris

Many species of carnivorous birds, especially large species of orders Falconiformes (daily birds of prey) and Strigiformes (owls) transferred changes of inhabitancy and the anxiety, connected with human activity badly enough, and their number in Holocene had been sharply reduced. But some “not true” predatory birds at this time, on the contrary, had got significant advantage from the neighborhood of people. One of such species, the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) concerned to typically synanthropic species. In Holocene this species was settled enough and numerous, that its populations could survive in conditions of anthropogenous pressure and at the subsequent change of inhabitancy in ice age.
The descendant of the turkey vulture widely distributed in Northern America, became a creature of rather frightening appearance. This Neocenic representative of cathartids is flightless, but instead of wings it has got strong legs, becoming tireless walker and sprinter. The marabou vulture by constitution is similar to herons: at bird there are long legs and neck, and the general growth reaches 170 cm. This species is even more similar to “typical” stork birds by long skull on which tip corneous cover of beak forms similarity of hook. Wings of marabou vulture are still rather advanced, but the bird cannot fly any more. However wings are not so useless to this bird: they serve mainly for courtship displays (inherited from the turkey vulture), and with their help the bird can make sharp turns at fast run.
The marabou vulture similarly to its Holocene “doubles” from Old World, eats carrion. Outside of nesting season this bird frequently follows herds of herbivores mammals - donkeyhorses, desert deermaras, or peccasons, hoping to prey the weakened animal, or catching small creatures crushed by these herbivores. Desert birds can follow hatches of huge ostrich turkey, or “attach” to huge bear porcupines, eating animals casually found out by it. At absence of large catch marabou vultures catch small animal (rodents, reptiles, insects), and even eat fruits from low trees. During mass fruit ripening this bird becomes practically the vegetarian. Thanking to “firm” stomach marabou vulture can eat even prickly fruits of prickly pear cactus. This bird finds food with the help of sense of smell and sight. Sense of smell at marabou vulture is keen: nostrils are through and very wide. Above nostrils the high corneous crest similar to crest of Oviraptor dinosaur is formed. This formation serves for cooling: under corneous cover a circuit of blood vessels passes, radiating surplus of heat. At the same time they strongly advance olfactory epithelium of bird.
On head of males and females there is naked skin colored differently (such feature is exception among cathartids). At females skin on head and neck is meat – red. Male is smaller, than female, and its head is dimmer – it is brown. The skin becomes especially bright in courtship season: at males it becomes reddish-violet, at females head is scarlet with orange shade and yellow longitudinal strip from level of eyes up to horn cover of beak. The feathering of birds of both sexes is black, only on wings black color is replaced by dark grey.
This species lives (and follows herds of herbivores) in small groups. In courtship season (at the end of drought season) small groups of birds gather to congestions numbering up to fifty birds, and begin noisy courtship displays. At this time females show bright skin of head and neck, loudly crying, and males perform near them the original dances including wing flapping, jumps, “waltz” near the chosen female and bows of partners to each other. Breeding couples at this species are formed only to one nesting season.
For the period of nesting group breaks up, and each pair of birds brings up posterity independently. The nest of marabou vulture is a simple small hole in the ground, without any litter. In clutch there are 2 eggs hatched mainly by the male. Nestlings hatch covered with down and with opened eyes, but remain in nest for a long time. Approximately at four-monthly age young birds study to run, and leave nest for ever. At this time they strongly differ externally from adults: at them there are light grey feathering and black skin on head. Within winter young birds keep with parents, training to search for food. In spring when preparations for courtship displays begin, the not sexual matured young growth forms one-age congestions – “gangs”: it is easier to birds to live this way. Approximately at the fourth year of life young birds start to take part in courtships.
Life expectancy of marabou vulture reaches 50 years.

Hanging heron (Breviardea pendula)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Herons (Ardeidae)

Habitat: Equatorial Africa, gallery forests in Congo basin.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Congo basin is the African analogue of Amazonia in variety of lifeforms. On marshy ground forests grow, which are flooded till some weeks a year. The large efficiency of biotops permits to exist to specialized species of animals which had developed original life strategies as a result of evolution.
On branches of trees hanging down above water, the small bird perches. It has long beak and strong mobile neck. It is a special species of herons living only in flooded forests of Equatorial Africa. This bird traps prey, having seized in branches touching water surface. When prey is shown in sight of this heron, the bird seizes it, not letting out a branch from toes. Having bent legs in joints, bird pulls out prey from water. Such feature of behaviour has determined the name of bird – hanging heron.

It is rather small species of herons – it is pigeon-sized one. Proportions of body at hanging heron are not characteristic for shape of heron – at this bird legs and neck are shorter, rather than at other herons. Toes at this bird seem disproportionally long. They are very tenacious: due to them hanging heron is able to swarm up branches of trees dexterously. Beak at this bird is long and straight.
The feathering of hanging heron has camouflage colouring: it has soft brown color with black cross strips. Stomach has rusty color, area under tail is white. Head of hanging heron is dark brown; around of eyes there are rings of naked bluish skin. On top of the head of bird the cop of several long narrow feathers of white color grows. Beak and legs at this bird have yellowish color.
Male and female at hanging heron do not differ in color of plumage, but female weighs approximately 20% heavier, rather than male. Pairs at these birds formed to one nesting season, and break up, as young birds become independent. In courtship season at the male similarity of egrets – long feathers with fluffy barbs – grow on back. Male displays these feathers to the female, “bowing” and stretching these feathers like a fan.
Hanging heron does not form numerous colonies that is typical for other species of herons. The single nest of these birds is rather large – its diameter reaches two meters. Birds can re-build for themselves the abandoned nest of storks or birds of prey, or construct an own nest. In the basis of nest long firm branches lay, on which adult birds put a heap of rods. The bottom of nest is covered with grass and dry water plants.
In clutch of hanging heron there are up to three eggs. Nestlings hatch blind, but covered with rich grey down. In some days they start to see and become more active. At week age nestlings of hanging heron already well swarm up branches, and wait for parents bringing food out of nest. They completely fledge at monthly age, and at the age of six weeks try to hunt independently. The three-monthly young bird already tries to fly. Young birds nest at two-year-old age.
Hanging heron prefers to nest on the same tree, from which branches it hunts fish. Besides of fish it willingly eats snails and freshwater crabs. Having seized prey, it swarms to nest on branches though if necessary it is able to fly well. Dust and dung thrown out from nest involves fishes under nest of hanging heron, and this circumstance helps bird to hunt.

Black-headed angler heron (Lophioardeola melanocephala)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Herons (Ardeidae)

Habitat: Meganesia, the south of Indonesia.
In human epoch a lot of species of animals had adapted to inhabiting near to people. In tropical areas there are herons among synanthropic species; they feed at fields and pastures, near cattle herds. After human disappearance herons managed to keep sufficient variety, and in Neocene they keep strongly their position among feathery inhabitants of freshwater reservoirs. In South America one species of herons turned to running predator, but it looks an exception in this group of birds. Only in temperate and subtropical zone of Northern hemisphere herons are partly displaced by crails (Rallogeranus spp.) – crane-like descendants of small rails. But in forest reservoirs, and even among mangrove thickets Neocene herons prosper and evolve.
In Meganesia there are two reservoirs, which had been a part of sea once: more ancient by origin and almost fresh-water Carpentaria Lake and younger brackish Arafura Lake. In extended zone of mangrove forests separating Arafura Lake from ocean, the special variety of herons lives – it is small (equal to pigeon in size) black-headed angler heron. It is the most widespread representative of the genus of herons, developed during the evolution the interesting adaptation for fishing.
In human epoch some herons fished, throwing in water any small objects – branches and leaves – which involved fishes. Black-headed angler heron hunts in similar mode, but it does not have necessity to search for suitable bait – this bird always has it. One feather in cop of ancestor of this bird had almost completely lost vane and had turned to fine “fishing tackle”. It became very long (its length is about 25 cm), and the part of vane has remained only on its tip as small black-and-white “tag”. The basis of this feather differs in mobility – under skin some muscular fibres similar to mimic muscles of primates last to it – they are attached by other end to skull of bird. Shaft of this feather is flexible, thin and elastic. Heron is able to move it with the help of muscles, and bird uses this skill during hunting. “Fishing tackle” to the moment of mew is strongly tattered because of the often use – sometimes fishes manage to seize it. During the mew bird does not suffer from famine – it catches prey in mode usual for herons.
The bird lowers the tip of “fishing tackle” with bait in water, and starts to move it, imitating movement of small fishes or shrimps near to surface of water. Thus bird perches on roots or on tree trunk, having bent to water. From time to time angler heron catches by beak fishes involved with its bait.
Angler heron keeps characteristic features of anatomy of this group of birds. It has long legs with lengthened tenacious toes, mobile long neck and pointed beak with tiny denticles on edges, helping to keep slippery prey. All angler herons fly well and frequently make flights between islands of Indonesia. Wings of these birds are rounded and wide. Colouring of this bird is remarkable: the feathering on various areas of body has completely various colors, and this heron seems tailored of two halves of different birds. Head and neck of black-headed angler heron are completely black (hence its name) with bluish metal shine; even corneous cover of beak is black. On this background eyes with shining yellow iris are brightly emphasized. The body of bird is straw-coloured with black longitudinal strokes on feathers. Primarily feathers have wide black cross strips.
Angler herons do not form separate colonies and prefer to nest in colonies of other species. At small islands of Indonesia and in mangrove thickets of Arafura Lake these birds nest in pairs in places protected from ground predators. Angler herons eat small fishes, crustaceans and water beetles.
These birds are monodins. The pair forms for one breeding season, but till this time birds have time to feed up in succession two hatches of 2 – 3 nestlings. For courtship display at the male the courtship dress develops – long straw-coloured egrets on waist. Legs at black-headed angler heron out of courtship season are orange, but at displaying male they turn bright red. These birds prefer to occupy and to repair old nests of other birds, rather than to build their own nest. Involving the female, male searches for such nest, and starts the display. It calls the female with cries similar to crow croak. When the female perches on its nest or near it, male starts to display courtship dance. It widely opens wings, showing striped colouring of primarily feathers, and fluffs egrets. In such pose male bows forward and wings appear stretched in vertical plane. Male continues courtship dance, holding in beak any twig and bowing to the female. If the female accepts his court, she takes from him this twig and attaches it to the nest.
Angler herons live in Meganesia, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. This genus includes some species differing from each other in size and colouring.
Giant angler heron (Lophioardeola gigantea) lives in Indonesia – at Jakarta Coast and near islands. This bird avoids settling in mangrove thickets, because it hunts only in fresh water. It lives at riverbanks and lake coasts and eats fish and amphibians. It is the largest species of the genus – this bird weighs about one kilogram, and its wingspan is 120 cm. Its plumage is greyish-white, and head is covered with thin cross ripples and looks darker, than other plumage. “Bait” on head of this bird is bicoloured – white with black tip.
Green angler heron (Lophioardeola chloropluma) is common at islands of Indonesia and lives mainly in mangrove thickets. It is small bird weighing no more than 200 grams at growth of about 30 cm. Its plumage has dark green color with brownish shade on shoulders and back; head and neck are grey with longitudinal green strips. Legs of this heron are rather short and tenacious, therefore it easily swarms up roots and branches of mangrove trees and makes the way even through the richest thickets. Green angler heron differs in boldness and curiosity while it stays among mangrove thickets, but it is very timid, when it is compelled to cross open area. Nevertheless, this species of herons frequently makes flights between islands and consequently does not form any local forms along the whole area.
Brush angler heron (Lophioardeola penicillifera) has “bait” as loose vane with long barbs forming brush of black color. It lives separately from an area of other representatives of genus – at the south of Hindustan and Sri Lanka. This bird has dim plumage – it is monotonous gray-blue with darker primarily feathers. It is larger a little, than pigeon, and weighs about 400 grams. Brush angler heron lives only near freshwater reservoirs – lakes and swamps.
Copper-winged angler heron (Lophioardeola cuprea) lives in Southeast Asia and at Jakarta Coast. It is small species: height of adult bird is about 30 cm. This heron has reddish-brown plumage, and covert feathers of wings have faint metal shine. “Bait” feather is colored white. Around of beak and eyes of this bird there is featherless grey skin. Legs at male and female differ by color – at female they are pale yellow, and orange at male. The present species of birds lives at swamps and eats frogs, small fish and crabs. Copper-winged angler heron does not avoid sea water and frequently settles in mangrove thickets.

The idea about existence of these species of birds was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Social hammer cop (Scops socialis)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Hammer cops (Scopidae)

Habitat: Africa, Madagascar, swamps and river banks.
The majority of stork birds had gone through the mass extinction had taken place at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. Exemption of ecological niches because of extinction of various carnivores, and also because of extermination of some species by people had permitted to representatives of order to evolve to new species. But the part of stork birds had remained to live in the same place, as earlier – near to water, in marshes and bush. Nevertheless, they also had continued to evolve.
One of usual marsh birds in tropics of Old World in Neocene epoch is the social hammer cop, the descendant of ordinary hammer cop (Scops umbretta). This bird not so strongly differs from an ancestor in size and anatomy, but the habit of life of this species is principally other.
The colonial hammer cop is rather small bird: it is like small hen in size, but seems larger because of long legs and large head. The feathering of this bird is colored imperceptible brown color, on back and stomach it is a little bit lighter. Legs are naked, yellow, with tenacious toes and sharp claws; wings are short and rounded. This bird reluctantly flies, but quickly runs on the ground and is able to climb on trees dexterously, not using wings.
On the head of bird there is a characteristic crest, visually “equilibrating” sharp chisel-looking beak. The colonial hammer cop is carnivorous, similarly to the ancestor: it eats fish, frogs and shrimps, trapping them from tree roots, or standing in water.
Main difference of this bird from the ancestor is the way of nesting. Colonial hammer cops place their nests looking like huge spheres of branches and twigs, on undersized branchy trees or bushes; the entrance is directed upward. In places, where rivers floods happen oftenly, birds arrange nests only on trees, at height about 3 – 5 meters above the ground. Inside the common nest there are some nesting chambers in which some birds live at once: pair of adult birds and their posterity of the current year. When the parental pair starts to nest, young birds leave their dwelling, and start to build their own shelters. Sometimes they even attach their nest to parental one. Thus birds form true colonies which inhabitants are connected by relationship. In colony it can be totaled up to 50 and more nests, located near to each other in rather small territory – about 1000 square meters. The old colony of these birds forms practically integral construction.
The colony of these hammer cops may be found in rich thickets by strong noise. Voice of these birds is loud, hoarse and unpleasant, similar to crow’s croak. Usually birds do not worry that anybody will notice them: they choose a place for nesting in remote places protected by bogs or river channels. But if birds will notice a predator, they frighten it off by all colony, loudly crying and striking to it impacts by beaks. In the afternoon when the most part of birds departs to feeding, some “sentinel” birds stay in colony.
In nest of the social hammer cop it may be only two – three large (goose egg-sized) white-shelled eggs. Nestlings hatch covered with down, but blind. At the age of four days at them eyes open and they start to move in nest chambers. At fortnight age when at nestlings feathers on wings start to grow, they move out from nest, and wait for parents on its top.
The social hammer cop is widely spreaded in Africa and Madagascar, forming some subspecies, distinguished from each other by size and colouring. In Madagascar and Zinj Land eastern or Madagascar subspecies S. s. madagascarensis lives. It is the smallest subspecies: adult birds are only large pigeon-sized. It differs in lighter colouring of stomach; its beak and legs are light yellow. Its nests are rather small – about one meter in diameter, but colonies of this subspecies are more numerous, and total up to 80 – 100 nests. Continental African subspecies S. s. socialis meets along Sahara Nile and other rivers; it is larger (the description mentioned above concerns to it). These both subspecies live near freshwater reservoirs, coming only in freshened enough sites of mangrove thickets.
The separate sea species, the Arabian social hammer cop (S. arabicus), differs in sand color feathering. By size it does not surpass the African continental subspecies of social hammer cop. This bird lives in mangrove thickets along the coast of western part of Indian ocean. The area of this species includes the Arabian coast and the north of Zinj Land. At the coast of northern part of Tanganyica passage the area of Arabian social hammer cop borders on areas of both subspecies of the African species, but the competition between them never takes place, because this species lodges at external edge of mangrove thickets, and searches for food (fish, shrimps, molluscs) at the sea coast. Nests of this species are constructed stronger: they are twisted in branches of mangrove trees, and can maintain a gale.

This species of birds had been discovered by Simon, the participant of forum.

Giant African stork (Megaciconia africana)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Storks (Ciconiidae)

Habitat: Western and Central Africa, Zinj Land, the north of Madagascar; river valleys.

Picture by Amplion

At the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, during global ecological and climatic catastrophe, the global fauna began to change radically – borders of climatic zones changed, new groups of plants and animals appeared and old ones disappeared. During such changes at the boundary of epoch cranes, being among largest flying birds of Holocene, had become extinct. Typically their ecological niche got to descendants of their far relatives – rails, buttonquails and other gruiform birds. But it had taken place not everywhere. In Africa (and also at the south of Asia) the ecological niche of cranes was occupied by giant storks, representatives of new genus of stork birds.
At first sight giant African stork looks very big bird. It reaches 2 meters in height, and its wingspan is about three meters and even more. But legs make almost half of growth of this feathery giant, and this large bird weighs only 11 – 13 kgs. It is able to fly, but flies very reluctantly, preferring to hide in thickets of marsh plants along the banks of Sahara Nile and other rivers.
Giant storks are direct descendants of Holocene storks, namely European white stork Ciconia ciconia. Though primary, in Holocene, this bird lived mainly in Europe, anthropogenous pressure and changed climate had forced it to move to Africa and India, having left the European bogs to other birds. Nevertheless, many features of their descendant’s appearance remained former. In colouring of these storks sexual dimorphism is expressed. Male of giant African stork is white bird with bright red beak, black legs and wings. Females are much dimmer; they are monotonously grey. Nestlings and immature birds have camouflage brownish colouring with longitudinal strokes making them undistinguished in nests and among thickets. In case of danger nestlings and young birds freeze, relying on masking.
Food of giant African stork includes various aquatic invertebrates, fishes and crayfishes. Occasionally birds peck out seeds of wild graminoids at various degrees of ripening. Sometimes giant African storks ravage clutches of African crocoturtle.
Because these birds became rather large and heavy, they had to alter to behaviour of ancestors and to begin nest building on the ground, like various flamingos of Holocene and Neocene. Giant African stork builds its mound-like nests of river clay, stalks of papyrus and other river plants, and also of large branches of various trees growing near rivers. Mainly males are engaged in search of building material for nest, and delivery of building material for nest became even a part of courtship ritual. Nests are constructing in places difficultly accessible to ground animals. But occasionally their nests appear plundered by omnivorous boaropotamus. Sometimes egg-eating snakes ravage nests of these storks: egg drillsnake sucks out eggs of these birds entirely.
In full clutch of this species there are 2 – 3 eggs; female incubates them mainly. She protects posterity aggressively, and at this time turns to dangerous adversary. The beak of giant stork corresponds to its size; it resembles a spear by shape, and force in neck of giant storks is great enough in order to wound hard, or to kill with one beak blow even such large predators as deadlynetta and young crocoturtles, which may try to diversify the menu with young stork nestling. Only mighty boaropotamuses, lords of rivers and swamps of Central Africa, can force parents to abandon their posterity. But it happens seldom; much larger number of storks perishes from predatory animals and turtles, when they leave nests and start to study to survive independently.
Nests of giant storks left after hatching of posterity are frequently used again by other birds, including giant storks of other breeding pairs. If the nest is high enough, small birds stick their nests to lateral faces of stork nests, or make their own nest at the top of the stork’s one after when storks have finished nesting. While birds stay at the nest, their tiny neighbours do not venture to settle beside: young storks and nestlings would like to practise hunting for tiny birdies.
In Asia, at Hindustan Peninsula the close relative of giant African stork lives: giant Indian stork (Megaciconia bharatus). It is smaller bird – its growth is about 150 sm, and wingspan reaches 2.5 meters at weight of only 5 – 6 kgs. Males of this species, as against the African relative, have not black, but red legs. Besides on its head around of beak the original mask of black feathers is advanced. By the biology it differs from the African relative not so strong; the only amendment is the size of bird. It flies more actively, and frequently arranges nests on trees at riverbanks. Occasionally these storks can migrate and nest on islands of Indian Ocean, reaching even up to Mauritius.

These species of birds were discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Crowned ibis (Magniplegadis coronatus)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Ibises (Threskiornithidae)

Habitat: South-Eastern Europe, Fourseas; coastal reeds.
In human epoch glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) had been one of the most widespread ibises in the world, living both in Old and New World. This species of birds had suffered in epoch of biological crisis – its range had been broken to some separate areas. But some populations of glossy ibis kept the sufficient number to survive in degraded habitats, and after the extinction of humankind they formed new separate species.
One descendant of the glossy ibis, the crowned ibis, is a large bird 1.7 m long with an upright standing height of 1.2 m and a wingspan of 2.3 m. This bird has brownish curved bill, brown body, grayish green wings, dark facial skin bordered from above and below with blue-gray, and reddish-brown legs. During the breeding season the adults acquire reddish brown body feathers, their wings became shiny bottle-green and their facial skin turns cobalt blue. Their main characteristic is their crown of stiff brownish-red feathers that became vivid red during the mating season.
These birds eat fishes, insects, amphibians, small birds, mammals and reptiles. Sometimes they beat the prey against rock or ground to kill it.
It is a monogamous species. Crowned ibis males choose a site to perform a display. They begin vocalization (these birds are silent during the most of the year) until a female arrive to its chosen site. With the female coming closer male begins head-shaking, exposing its “crown” and stick-shaking (grasping any twig and shaking it briefly). If the female choses the male, she follows its movements, copying them. After that, they continue with allopreening. During the next breeding season the pair reinforces their bond by performing the same displays together.
They arrange their nests at the tops of trees near water, in mixed colonies of aquatic birds. Female lays 3 eggs, which are incubated by both male and female for between 31 and 33 days. Juveniles fledge in about 40 days, but keep dull grey color until they reach sexual maturity, being two years old. They stay with their parents during the migration, passing to independent life when they return to their summer locations. Their lifespan is of 35 years.
Living in marshes of the northern part of Fourseas, Crimea Island and Three-Rivers-Land, they migrate to Hindustan in autumn. During their migration, crowned ibises form familiar flocks of the adult pair and their young. The flock flies in characteristic V-like formation.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Red-necked ibis (Neoplegadis rubrocollis)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Ibises (Threskiornithidae)

Habitat: wetlands of Southern and South-Eastern Asia, Far East.
In human epoch glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) was among the most widespread birds of the world. In historical time this bird crossed Atlantic ocean and colonized New World, having increased its natural range. Due to the great range glossy ibis survived in human epoch, but its range had been fragmented, and it favored to further evolution of new forms from the common ancestor. A descendant of the glossy ibis, the red-necked ibis, represents the genus Neoplegadis (“New sickle”). This bird is a mid-sized ibis, with 55 cm of length and 85 cm of wingspan. It has brownish bill curved down, red legs, grey body and greyish green wings (becoming shiny bottle-green when nesting). Its main characteristic is brownish-red neck turning shiny red during the breeding season.
These birds prey on insects such as aquatic beetles, dragonflies, damselflies, grasshoppers, crickets, flies and caddisflies. Leeches, molluscs, crustaceans and small vertebrates are also part of their diet.
Red-necked ibis is a monogamous species; male chooses a site and begins uttering loud calls to attract the female. When the female had chosen the male, the pair shows it by performing allopreening. In the next breeding season the pair will do an allopreening and vocalize together to reinforce their bond.
Their nest is usually a platform of twigs and vegetation in large trees. Red-necked ibis usually makes its nests in mixed colonies. The female lays 3-4 eggs, which are incubated by both male and female for between 20 and 22 days. The young fledge being about 25 days old, but stay with the parents for three months. Juveniles reach sexual maturity at the age of one year; at this age their necks acquire the brownish red color. Their lifespan is about 18 years.
These birds live in marshes at the margins of lakes and rivers, but can also be found at lagoons, flood-plains, wet meadows and swamps from Hindustan to the Far East. They do short migrations during the dry season.
Another member of the genus Neoplegadis is red-headed ibis (Neoplegadis rubrocephalus). This species lives in marshes from the Jakarta Coast to northern Meganesia. Its main characteristic is brownish red head that turns shiny red during the breeding season. This species has 52 cm of length and wingspan of 79 cm. These birds are non-migrating.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Grey ibis (Griseoplegadis americanus)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Ibises (Threskiornithidae)

Habitat: marshes, lakes and rivers of the northern part of South America, Great Antigua and southern North America.
In human era the glossy ibis was the most widespread ibis species, with individuals on almost all continents except Antarctica. The individuals in Asia gave origin to two new genera: the Neoplegadis and the Magniplegadis. In the Americas the genus Griseoplegadis evolved, with the grey ibis being this only representative.
The grey ibis has 49 cm of length and 75 cm of wingspan. It has brownish bill curved down, red legs and shades of green in the wings (become shiny bottle-green when nesting). Its main characteristic is the grey plumage, which covers the whole body.
These birds prey on insects, leeches, snails, earthworms and small vertebrates are also part of the diet. This species lives mainly in marshes at the margins of lakes and rivers, tending to avoid coastal areas.
The grey ibis is a monogamous species; the male chooses a site and starts to make a loud call to attract the female. When the female chose the male, the pair will start to do an allopreening. The pair will never distance themselves, they will search for food together and during flights they will stay together, even in the great flocks that this species form.
Their nest is usually a platform of twigs and vegetation in large trees near water. The grey ibis usually make their nests in mixed colonies. The female lay 3-5 eggs, which are incubated by both male and female birds for between 17 and 22 days. The young fledge in about 24 days, staying with the parents for 2 month, the young reach sexual maturity with 10 months. Their lifespan is of 17 years.

This bird species was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil

Pink ibis (Eudocimus roseus)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Ibises (Threskiornithidae)

Habitat: tropical areas of North America, islands of Central America.
The Ice Age, which occurred in the beginning of Neocene, forced some species to migrate to warmer locations. One of these species was the American white ibis (Eudocimus albus). This ibis expanded its area to more southern locations, and so its new territory overlapped completely the territory of the scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber). It resulted in hybridization, and after several generations a new species appeared – pink ibis.
Pink ibis lives in mangroves and other coastal regions from Southern North America to Great Antigua and the tropical coast of South America. Pink ibis have 50 cm in length and 87 cm of wingspan; bird looks larger because of long neck and legs. It has pale pink plumage and bright orange bill and legs. Its facial skin is pink and turns vivid red during the breeding season. Adults have dark pink wingtips that are usually only visible in flight.
Pink ibis prefers to feed on crayfish and other crustaceans, using its thin bill to probe for food in soft mud or under plants. The pink color is related to its diet; this species performs the metabolism and selective incorporation of carotenoids that is accumulated in its feathers – ability inherited from its scarlet ibis ancestor.
Pink ibis is monogamous and breeds in numerous colonies, usually side by side with other waterbird species. To attract a female, the male performs a variety of mating rituals such as preening, shaking, bill popping, head rubbing, and high flights, after united the pair is often seen doing an allopreening. The female chooses the site in the branches of mangrove tree well above the water and builds the nest, and male assists by bringing nest material; the nest is a loose platform of sticks. If they can, they nest on islands far from land-dwelling predators.
The female lays 5 eggs, which are incubated by both male and female birds for between 20 and 23 days. The young fledge in about 26 days, staying with the parents for 4 month. Juvenile birds have grey plumage turning pink when they reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 years. Their lifespan is about 22 years.

This bird species was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil

Heather Azorean partridge (Azoturnix ericae)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: New Azora, mountain woods.

Picture by Tony Johnes

In human epoch Azores were a place of wintering of numerous species of European birds. Therefore in epoch of congelation they became original “refuge” for the rests of European ornithofauna. During the ice age Europe had represented extremely inhospitable place. On the north it was held down by ice, and in the south significant territories had turned to salt desert when Mediterranean Sea had dried up. Rather acceptable to life conditions were kept on narrow strip between glaciers and desert. Because of it some of migrating birds had simply ceased to come back to Europe to summer, and had formed settled forms on Azores. Among them there were quails (Coturnix) - unique true birds of passage among gallinaceous birds. They have started to master new to them habitats, and in Neocene epoch on the island New Azora some species of ground birds - their lineal descendants –had already appeared. They differ from the ancestors enough to be classified as the separate genus of Azorean partridges. All of them are united with the common features of appearance: dense rounded trunk, moderately long and strong beak, rather short wings and very short tail. Legs at all birds of this genus are strong, with well advanced toes. Azorean partridges spend a lot of time on the ground, and prefer to run away from enemies. They fly up only in case of emergency.
The most typical and usual species of this genus is heather Azorean partridge inhabiting thickets of heather and other bushes, covering slopes of mountains of New Azora. It is a bird approximately of size of small domestic hen: its growth is about 20 cm and weight is about 400 grams. Feathering of this bird is cross-striped, yellowish brown with black strips. On wings strips are denser and wider, that’s why wings seem darker. Legs of this bird are colored bright orange. At males in courtship season legs get an appreciable reddish shade.
All species of Azorean partridges have distinctive features of feathering - bright and contrast spot on throat and head. Heather Azorean partridge has white throat bordered by black feathers. This ornament is used for courtship display occurring in spring.
Heather Azorean partridge is omnivorous: it equally willingly pecks seeds of grasses, soft leaves and insects. Similarly to many gallinaceous birds, heather Azorean partridges willingly rummage in ground, supplementing their diet with insects and roots of grasses. Birds of this species outside of nesting season keep in small flocks, constantly supporting contact to neighbours with the help of sound signals. Voice of this bird is long, rolling, but monotonous warble. More often heather Azorean partridges “sing” during the dawn, and the voice of flight of these birds can be heard almost at half-kilometer distance.
In courtship season heather Azorean partridges gather on lekking ground – places on edges of bush thickets. The courtship display begins early in the morning when there is a rich fog above bush thickets, and the sun had risen only a little. Males gather on lekking ground the first. They keep at some distance from each other, from time to time rising on legs almost vertically. At this moment they puff up throats, and black feathers bordering white spot, are spread wide in sides. If it becomes too much males on lekking ground, strongest males drive off competitors and continue demonstrations. Gradually their movements synchronize, and heads of males start to be shown from a grass almost simultaneously. Females observe of courtship displays of males from bushes, and appear on lekking ground when courtship displays reach apogee. Males start to chase females coming nearer to them, continuing demonstrations in the moving. After several minutes of chase the female strikes an attitude of submission, short pairing takes place, and the male loses interest to it, continuing demonstrations.
The nest of these birds is arranged on the ground. In clutch there is up to ten eggs with brown spotty shell. Only the female hatches them within approximately 18 days. Chickens hatch with opened eyes, covered with rich striped down. For the second day of life feathers on wings start growing at them, and the ten-day chicken is covered with monochromic juvenile feathering. The next year young birds are able to take part in courtship displays and to give posterity.
On New Azora other species of Azorean partridges live also. These birds occupy different habitats, and between them there is no competition.

Picture by Lambert

Regal Azorean partridge (Azoturnix regius) inhabits warm lowland woods of New Azora. It is the largest species of genus - the adult bird weighs up to 2 kg (the male up to 2,5 kg). The basic food of these birds includes fruits of trees falling on the ground. Also regal Azorean partridges eat seeds and grassy plants. They willingly feed with rhizomes of ferns, digging them out by strong paws.
It is the most brightly colored species of genus. At adult birds feathering on head and the top part of body is dark red. At edges of feathers there is the black border giving to colouring of bird “scaly” pattern. The bottom part of body at females is brown with short light strokes (along the middle part of ever feather the yellowish strip passes); at males a stomach is black. Also on throat of the male black feathers with strong green metal shine grow. Primary feathers of males have white tips. This bird is monodin; pair rears posterity in common. The male mainly drives off contenders and preserves hatch against small ground predators, and female is occupied with incubating of eggs and care of chickens.
In the morning birds of this species begin loud “muster”. The voice of this bird reminds eagle squawk repeating by series of 4 - 5 “syllables”.
Rock Azorean partridge (Azoturnix rupestris) is the smallest species of this genus. By the size this bird is like a grey partridge (Perdix perdix). Similarly to regal Azorean partridge it also has “scaly” pattern on body, but this bird is colored much more dimly: back is grey with narrow black borders on feathers, stomach and area under tail are white. The throat is silvery-white, bordered by strip of black feathers. It is high-mountainous species does not forming big congestions. Usually birds keep one by one, and in courtship period only occasionally it is possible to see more than ten birds simultaneously. Rock Azorean partridges eat mainly seeds of grasses, juicy bases of leaves and roots.
Moss Azorean partridge (Azoturnix bryophilus) lives in moss bogs and on border of bush thickets in mountains, but along bogs in flood-lands of rivers this species settles down to mountain valleys. This is medium-sized bird: it weighs about 1 kg. Colouring of this bird is typically cryptic: back is brown with light yellow longitudinal strips; sides are lighter. On throat there is an area of red feathers with strong metal shine. Voice of this bird is terse lingering cry. This species keeps in flocks numbering 5 - 6 birds.
Moss Azorean partridge is very cautious bird, and in case of necessity it is able to mask skillfully in grass and bush, nestling against the ground. As against other species of genus, it prefers to eat insects and other invertebrates, and digs them out from the ground not by paws, but by strong sharp beak.

Flag-tailed grass pheasanet (Herbogallus vexillifer)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: savannas of Northern Africa, Gibraltar isthmus, Western Europe.

Picture by FanboyPhilosopher

In various places of Neocenic Earth there are species of animals descending from feral domestic species. Usually they are mammal though occasionally there are descendants of domestic birds among them. The reason of unsuccess of domestic birds in struggle for existence is that the most part of domestic breeds of birds had too strongly changed in comparison with wild ancestor. Their dependence in relation to human had increased: many breeds of hens bred industrially, had lost ability to hatch eggs. Also some other domestic birds had lost the parental instinct. But in areas where intensive poultry farming had not developed, there had been populations of domestic birds able to independent existence and reproduction. In human epoch populations of wild species of gallinaceous birds had strongly reduced and even had disappeared as a result of hunting and destruction of habitats. But after human disappearance his former pets which could adapt to wild life, began to take a place in formed ecosystems of Neocene. In tropical areas there were domestic hens among them.
Living in savannas of Africa grass pheasanets are descendants of feral domestic hens (Gallus domestica). They form the special genus of gallinaceous birds which had adapted for life in plain district overgrown with grasses. Their appearance is rather remarkable: the constitution of these birds is graceful; at them there are long legs and neck. Growth of birds of this genus varies from 30 cm up to half meter. Adult birds weigh from 0.6 up to 2 kg, males are larger than females. Head of grass pheasanets is naked and at large species neck is also naked. This is the effective adaptation for emission of excessive heat: in heat weather blood vessels dilate, and surplus of heat is emitting from the organism.
Colouring of feathering of males at all species is bright and multi-coloured, with metal shine; females are colored more similar to each other, to not striking brownish shades with more – less expressed cross strips. Such colouring permits birds to mask in grass during the posterity hatching. Bright colouring raises probability of death of male in teeth or claws of predators, but it is not resulted in reproduction of species: all grass pheasanets are polydins similarly to their ancestors, domestic chicken.
Wings of grass pheasanets are short and rounded: birds are able to fly, but do it reluctantly. The frightened away bird prefers to run away, dexterously moving among grass and sharply changing direction of run. In case of necessety grass pheasanet can fly up, loudly clapping by wings. Such sound is an alarm signal for majority of herbivorous inhabitants of savanna.
Males of grass pheasanets are as pugnacious, as domestic cocks. At them on legs sharp straight corneous heels develop, with which birds fight in courtship season and strikes smaller predators like snakes or lizards. Females are more tolerant to each other, but also may arrange noisy fights. But, despite of aggression, grass pheasanets support contact with each other. Loud voice serves to them for this purpose. Males of these birds from time to time utter the cry similar to resonant call heard from apart. And for maintenance of visual contact the magnificent tail, or, exactly, feathers of uropygium, serves to them. The tail of grass pheasanets is insignificant – no longer than half of length of body. But the central pair of uropygium feathers at these birds exceeds four times in length growth of adult bird. Shafts of these feathers are strong, and the basis of tail is very movable. Due to it the bird can lift feathers of uropygium vertically.
The vane of long uropygium feathers is expanded at the tip to original “flags” (approximately for the one fifth of length of the feather) and brightly painted. Colouring is supplemented with metal shine. At various species colouring of “flags” is different due to what males of different species do not clash in vain. Showing aggression to the congener, the bird trembles by tail because of what “flags” shake, and solar beams sparkle on them, making their owner more appreciable to the opponent. At females “flags” are less expressed, and colouring of tips of feathers is not such bright. Till the season of egg hatching females cast these feathers at all.
Flag-tailed grass pheasanet is the typical representative of this genus. It reaches height about 40 cm at weight of the male about 1.25 kg. Females of this species are smaller than males. Head and neck at this species are naked; on the crown there is a small crest-like outgrowth. Ear lobes are large and colored bluish. In courtship period at males they get bright blue color.
The male is colored brightly: it has black stomach, straw-coloured feathering on body and wings. Tail of the male is black with small white speckles. “Flags” of covert feathers of tail reach the length of one and half meters. Vanes of “flags” are colored black with large white spots merging to rough cross strips.
Displaying male gathers a harem of approximately ten females. It looks after them, drives off contenders and from time to time arranges “show” for them. In displaying time he lifts the tail up highly, having bent it forward, and lifts opened wings, showing white sides. “Flags” are shaken before a head of displaying male. He trembles by all body, and then “dances” around of the chosen female, “drumming” fast by legs on the ground.
After courtship games the female retires and rears posterity independently. For nest arrangement the female chooses dense bush or old burrow under tree roots. In clutch of this species there are about ten small eggs with brown shell. The incubating lasts about 20 days. Chicks hatch well advanced and independent. They have longitudinal-striped colouring, and can hide from predators in grass. They become sexual mature at the age of 10 months.
Other species of grass pheasanets live in Africa and Southwest Europe:
Dwarf, or flame-tailed grass pheasanet (Herbogallus flammeocaudis) is the smallest species of the family. Its growth is about 30 cm, and weight of the male is only 600 grams. This bird inhabits grassy plains of Northern Africa and keeps in places where grass and bushes are thined out by large herbivores. Male and female of this species are colored similarly in general: they are brown with cross black strips. But at the male wings are straw-coloured with shining feathers on bends. At males the skin on head is naked, colored bright pink; at females head is feathered. In its tail there are two long feathers forming “flags”. Shafts of these feathers are covered with thin long barbs as at the peacock, but only on one side. “Flags” are colored bright orange with strong metal shine, shaded from below by black color.
Fan-tailed grass pheasanet (Herbogallus flabellicaudis) is the largest species of the genus: growth of adult male reaches half meter, and the length of its tail “flags” exceeds one and half meter. This bird lives in high grass and among bushes in Southwest Europe and Northern Africa. At birds of both genders head and neck are naked; male differs from female in the large white ear lobes hanging down like ear-rings. It also has light yellow feathering on back and wings, and rusty red stomach. “Flags” on tail of the male are black with white tips - such colouring is better visible on the background of drying up grass. Female of this species is also a little lighter, than at close species.
This species of grass pheasanets differs from other ones by structure of tail: except for two “flags” at it there are some more pairs of elongated feathers, also having small expansion of vane on tips. During courtship games the male spreads wings and inclines body forward. Also he opens tail like a fan, and spoiled long feathers quiver at each his movement. Displaying male turns around on the spot, involving the female, “cooing” for a long time and nodding head. Ear lobes of the male are poured by blood, strongly increasing in sizes, and touch the ground at his bows.

Utburd, fan owl (Gravistrix islandicus)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigidae)

Habitat: Iceland, various landscapes: mountain woods, bushes, grasslands.
Till the ice age Iceland appeared completely buried under glacial cover. As the result, all terrestrial flora and fauna were destroyed, except for tiny “oases” near muzzles of active volcanoes. During the thawing of glacier whole soil layer was washed off to the ocean, and in early Neocene the vegetative cover of island was presented by poor grassy plants, mosses and lichens. The ground fauna of islands was also destroyed, except for some invertebrate species. Iceland never had the connection to continents, therefore in Neocene fauna of this island is presented only by descendants of flying animals: insects, birds and bats. Due to it Iceland can be named as “Atlantic New Zealand”. Birds became main herbivores and predators of this island.
Main predator of the island is large running species of owls – fan owl, or utburd, the descendant of one small European species of owls. Life in isolation and out of competition had transformed it to amazing and frightening bird similar to flightless owls of Mexican plateau.
Utburd weighs about 50 kg, and is not able to fly at such significant weight. Wings at bird are advanced rather well, but the bird uses them for other purposes. Wings help bird to support balance during the run, and at males serve for courtship display. The feathering of fan owl changes colouring depending on season: among birds such feature was characteristic earlier only for white partridge. Since spring up to late autumn the feathering of utburd has color standard for owls: grey top of body with longitudinal strokes on feathers, and brown bottom with white spots on tips of all feathers. Secondary feathers at males of utburd are colored bright – they are red-brown with black tips bordered by white strip. In courtship season male opens wings like fans (hence the name) and shows them to female, having bent head down to the ground.
Winter feathering of utburd is almost completely white; only separate feathers on stomach are black with white tips. Due to such colouring bird has an opportunity to hunt on snow successfully.
Face disk of bird is wide; feathers on forehead are extended and bent back; they are especially advanced at females. Feathers on face disk of bird are white with black border, especially wide at the female. The crest is used by female during the courtship: raising crest, owl can “increase” the visual size of head.
Fan owl is able to run quickly. Legs at bird are strong and high, with rather short toes. In winter on legs “stockings” of feathers develop, assisting to not fail in snow. Chasing catch, this bird easily accelerates momentum up to 50 kms per hour. Common flying owls attack prey by claws, but because of specialization to running fan owl has changed the hunting habits. This bird attacks prey by beak, which is rather large at this bird.
Utburd is ecological analogue of wolf in ecosystems of Iceland. It hunts various ground birds flying to the island in summer (hence the name: in Scandinavian mythology utburd is murderer phantom looking like huge owl). In winter this bird hunts even tiny catch and often migrates to ocean coast and gathers carrion. At coast of Iceland various sea birds – ducks and auks – constantly live. Also at the coast of Iceland feathered giants, gannetwhales have a rest and nest. Utburd occasionally attacks these birds, choosing weak and ill individuals which keep at the edge of colony. In summer this predator searches in colonies of gannetwhales for dead nestlings, preferring midnight hours when the sun stands low above horizon. When there some of these birds gather, they become more courageous, and even attack young and old gannetwhales having a rest at the coast. In winter among these birds cases of cannibalism are typical.
In summer fan owl usually hunts from ambush, and does not chase prey for a long time. But in winter fan owls search for food by various ways, including digging out snow in searches of spending the night birds. In hunting the owl uses keen hearing which allows it to hear even breath of bird hidden in snow. But sight of these birds is also very good.
Fan owls are territorial birds forming constant families. Pair is kept till all life; birds hunt and rear posterity in common. At this species the sexual dimorphism is well expressed: male is almost twice lighter in weight than female. In connection with this feature it became cautious. In behaviour of the male there is a set of poses showing peace intentions and extinguishing aggression of the female. Courtship dance of the male is complex and fantastical, similar to waltz; it includes various movements with wings opened like fans. Male turns round before the female, frequently “bowing” and stirring wings. At this time the female shows the superiority, extending up and opening crest on head like a fan. It constantly turns to male sideways or back, forcing it to interrupt demonstration and to run in front of her. At the culmination moment the female joins “bows” of the male, lies down on the ground and presses crest to head. At this moment the pairing takes place, and after it courtship ritual is finished this day. Demonstrations repeat till some days in succession, and are finished, when the female ceases to show interest to courtship. The courtship season begins right after snow thawing when owls finally change winter feathering to summer one.
Fan owl nests on the ground in shelters. The nest represents small hole in the ground among bushes. In mountain areas these birds nest in rocky niches, if there is an opportunity to climb in them from the ground. The litter in nest is very poor, and sometimes is simply absent. In clutch there are only two eggs which are laid by the female with an interval of 2 – 3 days. It begins hatching from the first eggs (it is the common feature of owls), and nestlings hatch not simultaneously. Nestlings of utburd are blind and helpless, covered with rich down. They develop slowly enough: eyes open at the second week of life, and feathers start to grow at monthly age. In same time young birds start to rise on legs and try to walk. Bi-monthly nestlings leave nest and hide in forest, and parents feed them with food brought in craw. The young growth lives in common with adult birds within the first winter, but to the beginning of new courtship season adult birds banish young ones from the territory. The most part of young birds perishes in first months of independent life, more often in skirmishes with adult individuals.
Sexual maturity comes at the age of 3 years, and life expectancy may exceed 40 years.

The name to this species of birds was given by Simon, the participant of forum.

Forest scops owl (Neoscops sylvestris)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigidae)

Habitat: North America, forests of temperate climatic zone.
Being a separate group of birds, owls existed on the Earth long before occurrence of human ancestors. They had successfully gone through anthropogenous pressure, and also through the subsequent climatic changes. Only local endemic and the largest species of these birds had disappeared. At the territory of North America the ecological niche of eagle owl was occupied by even larger valkyrie owl, and in northern areas of continent the place of polar owl its direct descendants had partly inherited, sharing it with descendants of marsh or short-eared owl (Asio flammeus). To the south, in the area of temperate climate with the expressed seasonal prevalence, descendants of Western screech owl (Otus (Megascops) kennicottii) live. One of such descendants, forest scops owl (Neoscops silvestris) is one of the most widespread owls in North America of Neocene epoch.
In comparison with its ancestor forest scops owl seems the true giant – its growth is up to 50 centimeters at wingspan of up to one and a half meters. When this owl opens the wings and fluffs feathers in threatening pose, accompanying its display with shrill call, few predators will risk attacking an adult owl of this species. Nevertheless, the size is mostly illusory also impression of large bird is made due to friable and loosely feathering. As well as its close relatives, forest scops owl has rather long legs and neck. Beak is also lengthened enough in comparison with other bones of skull, and in its shape it resembles the isosceles triangle inverted by sharp top downwards. Cut of mouth is very wide; such jaw structure helps forest scops owl to swallow entirely its basic food – small and medium-sized ground rodents and other animals; sometimes it eats nestlings of other ground birds or attacks large animals like young deer. As well as at other owls, at forest scops owl cases of cannibalism among nestlings, and occasionally among adult individuals are often.
Forest scops owl leads mainly ground habit of life, and even nests on the ground – in holes, in wood hollows and ravines, in bush thickets. Birds having no their own nests, and also males (only females hatch eggs) usually spend the day on the old stubs, tumbled down trees, or on thick branches near to the ground as these owls fly rather badly and reluctantly. At this time they usually close eyes, extend body vertically, lift the feather horns upwards, and in such position resemble any continuation of trunk or tree branch due to dark grey-brown plumage with indistinct marble pattern imitating a structure of tree bark. Many small forest songbirds, certainly, can distinguish a hidden predator in this simple camouflage, but as forest scops owl hunts them less often, than other owls do, they usually ignore it, especially if the owl really sleeps, but not watches for prey.
But at night forest scops owl actively searches for prey, running in forest on strong legs, and exchange shrill calls with its breeding partner. Almost exclusively nocturnal habit of life helps this owl to avoid meeting with large ground predators like berl or coyote descendants preferring to hunt in day time, and thus weakens a competition between them. This species has very good night sight and large bright yellowish-green eyes similar to cat eyes.
Despite of large wings, forest scops owl flies reluctantly. It is a settled species; it does not migrate to the south when there comes winter, and continues hunting also in snowy season. At this time on its paws “snowshoes” of toe bordering feathers grow, which permit forest scops owl to walk, almost not failing through snow. In winter forest scops owl changes a diet and becomes not so fastidious in food, as in summer. Hunting on snow, it is capable to attack even gallinaceous birds frequently spending night on the ground in snowdrifts.
The courtship season of forest scops owl begins in February – March. At this time males start to display, uttering shrill calls from sunset up to sunrise. At this time they are malnourished and grow thin. It happens, if snowy weather returns, the part of especially thin males loses an opportunity to hunt and perishes. By the end of April when snow starts rough thawing, forest scops owls arrange nests and lay 2 – 4 eggs. To the beginning of summer owlets hatch. The down dress of young birds is brown with irregular marble pattern. Owlets have the ability similar to catalepsy and “virtual death” of other animals. If the potential enemy appears near, they freeze on the spot, trying to escape with the help of masking. If they are found out, nestlings fall on the ground, make some convulsive movements and freeze, simulating death. At this time their bodies turn soft and weakened, and eyes are only slightly opened. “Dying” nestlings of forest scops owl let out a portion of unpleasantly smelling dung. When danger passed, they perch again to the former place, waiting for parents with food.
Parents feed them till two months. For this time young birds gain weight and develop, becoming similar to their parents. When young birds leave nest, the family breaks up and adult birds also leave each other.
One-year-old birds are already capable to breeding. Life expectancies of forest scops owl is 12 – 15 years.
Besides the forest scops owl, in North America related species of owls live:
Marsh scops owl (Neoscops palustris) – the smallest species of this genus, no larger 35 – 40 centimeters in height. It is also the most brightly colored owl of genus: it has bright rusty-brown background colouring with black strips that helps it to hide in canes and other marsh vegetation. Despite of life in damp habitats, this owl does not like to come into water and prefers to hunt at the coast, eating large reptiles and amphibians, and also invertebrates. Sometimes it ravages clutches of other marsh birds. It has stronger wings, and for winter this owl migrates to the south along river valleys to sea coast where spends cold season.
Water scops owl (Neoscops aquatica) resembles marsh scops owl in size, but has monotonous reddish-brown plumage without marks. As against the relatives, this owl nests on trees and prefers to look out for prey from height. In this habit it resembles some predatory fishing birds lived in human epoch. Besides it hunts in day time, instead of at night as forest scops owl behaves, and uses sight for search of food actively. The basic food of this owl includes river fishes, crayfishes and amphibians. In order to catch such specific prey this owl has hooked claws, and on the bottom side of toes the set of corneous acute spikes develops – it is the typical feature of fish-eating birds. Legs of this owl are rather longer, than at related species. This owl inhabits swampy forests of temperate climatic zone at the east of the continent. For winter when the rivers freeze, it migrates for wintering to the sea coast and in lower reaches of rivers similarly to marsh scops owl. These owls frequently wander at the coast of ocean, eating fish and invertebrates cast ashore by storm.

These species of birds were discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Valkyrie owl (Valkiriostrix robusta)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Griffon owls (Griffonostrigidae)

Habitat: Eastern Asia, Beringia, west of North America.
Mass extinction of the end of Holocene has sharply negatively had an effect at number of large species of predatory birds: their basic catch either had died out, or its area was reduced. As a result large predatory birds - eagles, condors and vultures - have simply died out: their rarefied populations were so reduced, that the further reproduction of these species appeared impossible. But after stabilization of conditions in Neocene many other species of predatory birds have occupied become empty ecological niches had appeared. Species earlier eating small mammals have especially succeeded: when the set of ecological niches of large species has become empty, upsurge of number of small mammals began. And when separate descendants of small animals became large, some of their natural predators have turned to giants too. Owls had been especially lucky: these birds in some areas of Earth had turned to rather frightening predators. One of such predators inhabits woods and mountains of temperate zone of northern hemisphere – it is large valkyrie owl which yields to South-American condor in size respect.
The valkyrie owl is the real giant among representatives of the group. Though larger praire groundowl (Deinostrix sphinga) lives in deserts of south of Northern America, the valkyrie owl differs from it by its ability to fly. At weight up to 16 kg it has wingspan over 4 meters. It considerably improves its hunting opportunities in comparison with running relative from desert though limits weight of bird and as consequence size of possible catch. But in hunting the main component of success is not as many size of predator, as its hunting tactics. The valkyrie owl successfully hunts large ground mammals – harelopes and even obda cubs. Birds living near of sea coasts frequently attack colonies of sea birds and eat bodies of sea animals cast ashore after storm.
Valkyrie owl keeps features of characteristic “owl” appearance: on its head there is an obverse disk formed by feathers though because of large beak its head is similar a little to heads of predatory birds. Skull of this owl is rather wide: binocular vision important for hunting is kept. Eyes at the valkyrie owl are very large, this bird has excellent color vision: it can distinguish mouse among grass at the distance over 100 meters. Under feathers big chink-shaped ear apertures are latent: at the valkyrie owl there is keen hearing. Near ear apertures characteristic for many owls feather “ears” have turned to two “tresses”, sticking up back and to sides. At the male these “tresses” are longer, than at the female, and at feathers forming them there are white tips: it is a unique distinction in colouring between male and female.
Legs of the valkyrie owl are rather longer, rather than at other owls: it is connected with its habit of life: birds of this species spend a lot of time on the ground – prey of birds is frequently so large that the opportunity to take it away to the tree (as other owls usually do) is excluded. On toes of this bird claws of really monstrous size – up to 15 cm long – grow. This if main weapon of valkyrie owls: attacking owl kills chased prey by them. With the help of claws bird also divides catch: tears off big pieces of meat from carcass and brings them to mouth. It swallows meat with skin and wool belching them later as castings – it is a characteristic feature of owls. This bird can swallow entirely relatively “small” catch weighting up to 2 kgs: mouth of this owl is very wide (though it is almost imperceptible outside), jaw bones are rather flexible and bottom jaw has elastic ligament.
Colouring of these birds is soft: dark-brown top of body with black spots and cross strips on wings, and grey bottom with black tips of feathers on stomach. The obverse disk of these owls is formed by yellowish-brown feathers and bordered by black ones, therefore “face” of valkyrie owl is reminiscent somewhat of mask.
The habit of life of valkyrie owls considerably raises their chances of successful hunting: these birds live in close breeding pairs keeping to all life. Pair of birds supervises territory about 100 square kilometers not supposing occurrence of competitors on it. In family relations at this species strict matriarchy reigns: male weighs a little bit less than female and incurs significant part of “female” family duties. It hatches eggs more than half of all term of incubating and feeds nestlings up to their nest lefting with catch brought by female.
Pair of birds nests in the beginning of spring in rocky niches and other places inaccessible to ground predators, each year in the same nidus which is strictly protected and constantly renewed. In clutch there are only 2 large white eggs, but usually only one young bird survives up to nest lefting. The incubating of eggs lasts about 40 days. Nestlings hatch from eggs blind, but covered by white dense down. Between nestlings since the first days of life the rigid competition for forage takes place, and weaker one has chance to survive only at abundance of forage. Usually parents feed only nestling shouting more loudly, therefore nestling has weakened for famine, most likely, will not be fed: parents submitting to parental instinct will give all prey to loudly wailing offspring. Having received long-awaited piece of meat, nestling calms down to any time. If at this time someone of parents has brought food it can get to the second nestling. But such cases are the big rarity. More often it happens so that at lack of forage stronger nestling eats weaker one.
Approximately at bi-monthly age survived nestling becomes completely fledged, but about one month it spends in nest: primary feathers grow late. Nestling actively trains muscles and studies to eat independently, tearing apart catch brought by parents. The three-monthly nestling abandons nest and about one month keeps near to parents. At this time lessons most important for it pass: it masters receptions of large prey hunting. Young bird must study very quickly: that day will come soon, when during prey sharing instead of share of catch it will take some sound impacts by beak. It also will be a signal, that the childhood is over and adult life began in which there is a place to famine and severe struggle for a survival, to failures from hunting and to illnesses. But, if the young bird will manage to survive and occupy good territory, at the age of four years it can create own family and hatch posterity. Life expectancy of birds of this species can be over 50 years.
Outs of nesting season valkyrie owls keep together and hunt in pairs. Except for rather small catch (large rodents and cubs of animals) they can kill even large animals. Hunting for large animals (for example, harelope) these owls use the special tactics demanding coordination and mutual understanding. Having tracked down herd of herbivores, pair owls divides. Female flies far too the forest and hides, and male starts to frighten and chase animals. Usually among animals there are such ones starting up panic flight, and all attention of chasing bird is focused at one of them. Male drives prey in direction of expecting female, which strikes crushing blow to preying animal sideways. Killing prey, owl by one paw seizes shoulder of prey, and by another one top part of its neck. Long claws of bird put deep wounds, and frequently simply pierce spinal cord of prey, at once killing it. If the first impact appeared unsuccessful, and the victim shows resistance, strong beak of owl is using.
Catch is eaten simultaneously by both birds from pair. Male cares to the female signs of attention, tearing off from slices of meat carcass and handing them to it from beak into beak. Thus he extinguishes aggression of the female. Males behaving too “independently” sometimes exist, but in such pairs frequently there are conflicts, which easily can finish by death of one bird (usually male as weaker one).
Amicable pair of birds spends together almost all time. In nesting season these birds, usually silent, arrange “duet” singing: male begins to “sing”, female continues, and male finishes shout. Voice of this owl is bass lingering hoot.

Hawk potoo (Teratopotoo venator)
Order: Nightjars (Caprimulgiformes)
Family: Potoos (Nyctibiidae)

Habitat: South America, rainforests.

Picture by Amplion

In Neocene some nightjars passed to predatory habit of life and feeding on vertebrates. Huge nightjar merlette (Merlette aviphaga) is found in steppes of Europe – it is the largest (eagle-sized) species of the order for all time of its existence. The second-largest species of nightjars lives in rainforests of South America – it is hawk potoo, huge predatory nightjar. Wingspan of this bird is about two meters, and weight is up to three kgs.
This bird leads passive way of life – it does not chase prey, but attacks it by sharp throw when it will move closer to predator. In rest this bird skilfully masks, perching on bark vertically. At hawk potoo there are short trunk and rather large flattened head. The beak of this bird is short and hook-like, and mouth cut is very wide – it stretches far for the level of back edge of eye. The bird has partly binocular sight – its eyes are shifted forward, and their fields of vision substantially overlap each other. The iris of eye is colored camouflage pattern – it is brown with black nerves. Therefore bird can observe of environmental conditions, not giving out itself.
Plumage of hawk potoo skilfully imitates coloring of bark – it has greyish-brown color with black longitudinal strokes and randomly scattered black spots. Feathers of bird are soft; therefore flight of this predator is silent like at owl. Wide wings have rounded tips. Bird is not able to fly long, but is able to make fast and unexpected throws and to change direction of flight. Tail of hawk potoo is wide and fanlike; with its help bird makes sharp turns in air.
All nightjars have short paws and badly move on flat ground. Hawk potoo is not exception here. It does not seize prey by paws as birds of prey of Holocene, but catches it by widely open mouth. Its tenacious paws serve basically to perch on bark in ambush, or to creep clumsily on tree trunk. This bird is not able to move downwards the tree trunk, and can climb only upwards or sideways. Usually hawk potoo chooses for an ambush the place near thickets of epiphytic plants where it is less appreciable. The hidden bird densely nestles against tree bark and slightly opens wings to not give out its location by shadow. As against the majority of nightjars, hawk potoo is diurnal bird.
Hawk potoo almost does not catch insects – it attacks only largest beetles and moths. The basis of diet of this bird is made of vertebrates. When any careless bird or bat flies too close, hawk potoo pushes from trunk, silently takes wing, and seizes it right in air. It kills prey by pointed tip of beak and comes back to ambush. Here bird swallows prey entirely. Also hawk potoo seizes from tree trunk various climbing reptiles and frogs, flying right above them. This bird is able to swallow entirely pigeon-sized prey.
This bird is solitary species. Nesting at hawk potoo proceeds once a year, and only at this time birds meet in pairs. The pair is formed at the territory of the female, and female dominates in family. It is larger and more aggressive, rather than male, therefore in courtship season the male should be very cautious. If he will hasten with court, female can attack him and put to him serious wounds. Male shows to the female intention to create a pair, uttering continuous bitter trill. In the beginning he cautiously comes nearer to the female and “sings”, in order that female has got accustomed to his presence. If the female answers him by short trills, male moves nearer to her behind and sideways, keeping as it is possible further from her beak. At this time female keeps eye on male, ready to fly up and to attack him from air in any second. If the female is ready to pairing, she admits male to herself and allows him to clean her plumage. One more element in court of these birds is feeding of female on fresh prey. Male holds prey in beak, and the female eats it, tearing pieces off from it.
The nest of these birds is arranged in small pit on thick inclined branch. The only egg with spotty grey shell is hatched alternately by both parents, cautiously replacing each other on nest. The hatching lasts 45 days. The nestling is covered with rich down of grey color. It seizes bark by well advanced claws, and spends the most part of time in immovability, trying to not draw attention of predators. Parents feed it on small birds and frogs, and it swallows food entirely. Development of nestling lasts till about three months.

Saline land nightjar (Halocaprimulgus halophilus)
Order: Nightjars (Caprimulgiformes).
Family: True nightjars (Caprimulgidae).

Habitat: “oases” in salt swamps of Mediterranean.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

In Neocene Africa had continued movement in the direction of Europe, and because of it strait of Gibraltar had closed for ever. The ice age which had coincided in time with this event, differed in dryness of climate - the huge quantity of water appeared frozen in glacial caps. By virtue of these circumstances Mediterranean Sea began to dry up catastrophically quickly, and soon it had completely disappeared, having left after itself an extensive fruitless hollow where the ground was covered with layer of salt. In Neocene the climate became much more favorable, and these changes had touched even salt desert of Mediterranean. At the place of former desert the circuit of lakes and swamps with water of very high salinity many times over exceeding oceanic one had appeared. Heat and absence of potable water are circumstances because of which only few animals can survive here. Salt lakes block access to “oases” – heights among desert where in ground there is no salt, and plants can grow there. In such places only those ones, which are able to overcome salt desert, can live. And one of such species is the saline land nightjar.
This pigeon-sized bird is similar by constitution to the ordinary nightjar. The feathering of saline land nightjar is color white with slight greenish shade. Such colouring helps bird to mask among salt plain – bird simply nestles up to the ground, and becomes imperceptible on the background of saline soil and dried films of microscopic algae. On feathers tiny brown speckles are scattered.
Eyes of bird are black and less by size than at common nightjar – this species hunts in the afternoon when above salt swamps flies, which larvae live in salt water, hover. Paws of this nightjar are small, with “brushes” of rigid feathers which raise a bird above sharp crystals of salt and preserve legs of bird against cuts. At this nightjar there are long narrow wings similar to wings of swift. The male differs from the female by two “pendants” – the lengthened middle feathers in tail.
Nostrils of bird are expanded and extended in tubules, assisting to remove from the organism surplus of salt (as at birds of order Procellariiformes). Various birds differ in various strategies in the decision of one problem – disposals of salt surplus being received with food. At saline land nightjar such large salt gland, as at its neighbour, the crested flamingo, is not present. The saline land nightjar drinks seldom, receiving a necessary moisture from the had eaten insects. Besides this bird presumes to drink from fresh springs in mountains, to which it quite often flies to slake. Near streams the bird behaves cautiously: it is too noticeable because of white feathering on the background of dark ground and vegetation of “oasis”.
This bird eats blood-sucking flies hovering about the flamingo, robberflies, and also winged males of water turtlebeetles. For this reason the nightjar accompanies with flights of wingless flamingoes, or single Antheos tortoises near which the “laid table” – set of large two-winged flies – is ready for it. Thus, the saline land nightjar replaces in “oases” many species of birds: fly-catchers, swifts and swallows which could not appear in swamps of Mediterranean because of various reasons.
Saline land nightjar nests on the ground, in thickets of berry salttrees and other bushes, at any time of year. Only in winter time when from the north cool winds blow, and in short season of rains the bird does not nest. Male involves female to the place of nesting, uttering long chirring warble. It displays mainly in the morning and in the evening when it is enough light, but it is cool. The laying is hatched by the male and the female serially, till approximately 20 days. Nestling hatches covered with rich down of white color: it is necessary for protection from overheat. It stays in nest about six weeks. The bird sitting in nest closes nestlings by wings from scorching sunlight. Parents bring up posterity with insects, and even bring to nestlings fresh water in stomach.
One of the biggest dangers to inhabitants of Mediterranean “oases” is summer storm. At this time wind lifts salty dust in air, and carries it, as if a blizzard. During storms these birds hide in bushes, but hatching birds do not abandon nests, and sometimes can even perish, filled up with salt dust. At saline soils sometimes it is possible to find mummies of such birds stifled in salt dust.

This species of birds was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Spitting swift (Viscapus viscosus)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Swifts (Apodidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Southern and South-Eastern Asia.

Picture by Lambert

Swifts are remarkable among birds in considerable development of salivary glands. Their secretion are used by these birds for various purposes – some birds “pack” caught insects into saliva, forming a capsule convenient for feeding of nestling, and others in addition use saliva as glue, building a nest. The swift Collocalia salangana in human epoch built nests exclusively of saliva.
Swifts are specialized to life in flight, and can even sleep on wing. The source of their food – small flying insects – during the whole human epoch differed in stability, therefore even in epoch of global ecological crisis the significant amount of species of swifts had survived, and in Neocene these birds still furrow the sky in large flocks, living from temperate latitudes of both hemispheres up to equator. During the evolution at them original vital strategy had developed.
Being dexterous flyers, swifts are completely helpless on the ground, and even are not able to fly up independently from plain surface. Their nestlings also are very vulnerable. But the species of swifts which has developed the original adaptation for protection – spitting swift – has settled in tropics of Asia. This bird uses special sticky and quickly congealing saliva for self-defense. Adults spit predator with it, flying above it, and nestlings spit to nest ravager similarly to nestlings of fulmar. Defending from the enemy, nestlings aim to its eyes, and adult birds splash to climbing predator’s muzzle, and to wings of birds of prey. Saliva rich in proteins secreting in one pair of hypertrophied salivary glands, stiffens till few seconds as viscous gum-like strings on air. It guaranteedly stops a predator.
Appearance of spitting swift is quite standard for these birds – it has small size (body length is about 10 cm at wingspan up to 25 cm), short tenacious paws and large head with short beak and wide mouth. Two hypertrophied salivary glands stretch under skin of this bird up to a breast, and opens in mouth as two short tubes under tongue. Glands have expansion as a sac, in which liquid contents accumulate. Without contact to air it represents transparent liquid, a little more viscous, rather than water. At oxidation its transformation to gum-like mass proceeds. By contraction of ring muscles surrounding these sacs, bird spits liquid as two jets to the distance of up to one meter.
These birds nest on trees, preferring the extensive hollows rotten out to several meters down. In such hollows birds nest in colonies numbering up to two hundreds of birds. Sometimes suitable hollow appears occupied – more often by bats. But these swifts, when they prevail in number, can banish bats to other place, splashing them with saliva.
The nest of spitting swift represents small “pocket” stuck of feathers and fluffy seeds with the help of “fight” saliva. In clutch there is only one egg, but during one year birds can repeat nesting up to four times. The main enemies of nestlings of these birds are snakes and bats, but due to collective defense birds in many cases succeed to repel an attack.
Young birds start nesting at the age of 10 months.

This species of birds was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Chinese swamp basket-mouth (Corbistoma paludiphila)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Basket-mouths (Calathostomornitidae)

Habitat: China, swamp and lake areas.
In Neocene productive ecosystems giving the wide spectrum of forages to species inhabiting them had received the wide distribution. It had caused occurrence in Neocene of various groups of animals strictly specialized relatively to food. Among birds the separate family of swifts strongly improved the way of prey catching evolved. They differ in interesting shape of feathers surrounding mouth. Elastic feathers with reduced vanes and small number of barbs expand trapping surface, forming similarity of net for tiny flying insects. Trap feathers are mobile: while the bird does not eat, they lie down on head and throat of bird, not preventing flight. But during hunting they are widely opened, literally filtering tiny flying insects from air. These birds are named basket-mouths, and their scientific name means “bird with basket-like mouth”. Obviously, they had evolved in tropical areas of Eastern Asia as they have kept attachment to them.
Swamps of China are hundreds square kilometers of inaccessible terrain, the circuit of shallow reservoirs, rivers and small sites of forests. The abundance of moisture and set of shelters promotes prosperity of small two-winged insects – midges and mosquitoes. Their larvae find food and shelter in water vegetation, and adult individuals furiously attack mammals and birds inhabiting these areas. But clouds of midges and mosquitoes involve birds specialized in feeding on them. Through flights of insects small black birds sweep, and in sun beams ruby-red spots on throats of some of them sparkle. These are tireless fighters of blood-sucking insects, Chinese swamp basket-mouths. These fine long-winged birds form large flocks, and nest in colonies. They are close relatives of Himalayan wiskered lustrer, but only a little bit more smaller: their length of body is about 8 cm. Chinese swamp basket-mouth is similar to it externally, but in its anatomy there is no specialization to extreme mountain conditions. Its feathering does not reflect ultra-violet light, and haw does not protect eye from it. Colouring of Chinese swamp basket-mouth is coal-black. At males throat is covered with shining ruby-red feathers sparkling in sunlight, at females throat is lack of metal shine. This color spot is a distinctive attribute by which birds distinguish congeners from close species.
Beak of Chinese swamp basket-mouth is very short, but mouth cut is big. Jaws of this bird can be opened at the large corner. This bird is specialized to catching of small insects, due to what it avoids competition to larger birds catching larger flying insects. Basket-mouths, as against Himalayan wiskered lustrer, have one primitive feature – top feathers surrounding the mouth have small parts of normal vane on tips.
Basket-mouths eat insects – forage which availability varies due to seasons. Therefore they are birds of passage, even living in subtropical latitudes. Chinese swamp basket-mouth migrates only a little – its flights make only several hundreds kilometers. Close species living to the north from it, make considerably longer flights.
Approximately from middle of spring, when mosquitoes start to swarm above swamps of China, courtship rituals of Chinese swamp basket-mouths begin. These birds as if compete in skill of flight, promptly flying by whole flocks and synchronously turning in air. Flocks of basket-mouths first gather to dense sphere, then stretch to long wide veil, or scatter to separate birds, and then gather again, as if the invisible conductor operates them from the side. Courtship flight takes place in the morning and in the evening before the sunset. At this time males show the special impressively looking form of courtship flight: bird in prompt flight is turned around of longitudinal axis, and its throat “flashes”, sparkling in sun beams.
A significant part of adult life of birds passes in flight – they eat, drink, pair, and even can sleep in flight. During the sleep at bird one cerebral hemisphere falls asleep for some seconds. Then it wakes up, and bird is awake for some time; and then the second hemisphere falls asleep. But sleep in flight is most probably compelled circumstance: it is expressed during the migration. Out of migration basket-mouths gather to spending the night in shelters inaccessible to ground predators – more often in rotted through tree trunks. There birds cling by claws to wall and sleep similarly to other birds. During the dream the body temperature of these tiny birds lowers considerably – this feature allows to save the energy.
Nesting of Chinese swamp basket-mouth occurs in colonies. For this purpose birds choose trunks of high trees. The nest of this bird represents small cup of down and flying seeds of plants, pasted to bark of tree by viscous saliva of birds. The female pastes sole egg to internal part of nest and hatches it, having seized by short paws to lateral parts of nest. Development at these birds occurs very quickly. Nestling hatches at 12-th day of incubating; it is naked and blind, but as soon as it leaves egg shell, it seizes nest by claws at once. It is fed by both parents. Approximately from the third – fourth day of life nestling starts to grow roughly. From now it eats per day approximately as much food, as much it weighs itself. At the same time it starts to fledge. Trapping feathers start to grow the first. They appear on edges of mouth at still naked nestling, and stay in curtailed condition for a long time. Approximately to the end of second week of life the nestling becomes almost completely fledged, and only at this time its trapping feathers are unwrapped. At the third week of life nestling is completely advanced. Approximately at monthly age it leaves nest, and begins independent life. The young bird differs from parents in absence of red spot on breast, which appears only at the approaching of sexual maturity.
Life expectancy of Chinese swamp basket-mouths is short – no more than three years. But for one nesting season birds have time to hatch one by one four nestlings, and one more generation appears in wintering places. Young birds also develop quickly: they reach maturity at three-monthly age, and the first generation of young growth has time to make an own hatch before flying away to wintering places.
Chinese swamp basket-mouths are the smallest birds in family. Except for them, in Asia there are some more species of basket-mouths:
Siberian basket-mouth (Corbistoma migratoria) is larger bird (length of body is up to 15 cm). Its feathering is colored not as contrastly, as at Chinese swamp basket-mouth. This bird has almost uniform grey colouring, and throat at males is red without metal shine. Throat of female is white. This species is the bird of passage. It spends summer in Siberia, where in warm season masses of two-winged flies appear, providing plentiful forage to these birds. In summer it is possible to meet Siberian basket-mouths in huge territory – from east spurs of Ural up to Kamchatka. During the migration Siberian basket-mouth overcomes mountain ridges of Central Asia. In summer it is possible to see it often above herds of large mammals of Siberia – obda and shurga. In late summer, shortly before first light frosts, the amount of flying insects is reduced, and it serves as a signal for the beginning of winter migration. Literally for one – two days all birds of this species gather in flights, and fly out to the south, to South-Eastern Asia. In tropics Siberian basket-mouths keep in mountain areas overgrown with forest. This bird nests on rocks overgrown with epiphytic plants. In wintering places Siberian basket-mouth hatches one generation of nestlings, and at the beginning of summer in Siberia it migrates to the north again. At this species in clutch there is up to three eggs; development of nestlings takes about two months.
Far East (Japanese) basket-mouth (Corbistoma nipponica) differs from congeners in brighter colouring. Feathering of this bird is black with dark blue metal shine from above; stomach, sides and the bottom part of wings are white. At males of this species on breast there is bright red spot. During courtship flight the flock of males synchronously hangs in air till some seconds highly above forest canopy. Males show to females feathering on breast, and then simultaneously rush down and make an arch right above tree crones.
This species of basket-mouths spends warm season in woods of Far East, Japan and Big Kurils. In hottest years single individuals of Far East basket-mouth meet even at Kamchatka. Usually birds have time to hatch two generations of nestlings for one year - one hatch in summer at the north, and another one in winter at the south in wintering places. In its clutch there are two eggs; in very favorable and rich in food years it may be three ones. This bird hibernates in South-Eastern Asia – at Sunda Island and Jakarta Coast peninsula.
Nocturnal basket-mouth (Macrocorbistoma nocturna) lives in Indochina and at the Jakarta Coast. It differs in secretive habit of life and large size – the length of this bird reaches 30 cm at wingspan from above 60 cm. Feathering of this bird is light grey with cross strokes and dabs. This species is active in twilight and at night, and has keen night sight. Eyes of this bird “shine” in darkness like eyes of predators. Nocturnal basket-mouth lives in tropical forests and eats large insects – moths, beetles and winged individuals of ants and termites. For catching of such prey trapping feathers had changed – they became elastic and similar to trap feathers of Himalayan wiskered lustrer. Only on tips of two top feathers small parts of vane is kept. Barbs of these feathers are thin, but very strong – even the beetle clashed in bird, will be knocked by them and will get in mouth of winged hunter.
Nocturnal basket-mouths form very small congestions – no more than two tens birds. They spend day in tree-trunk hollows, perching vertically and having caught by short paws for wall of hollow. Seasonal prevalence in nesting is not expressed at them. The same nest may be renewed and used serially by different breeding pairs of the same colony.

Bacororo, left-sided crookbill hummingbird (Asymmetrochilus bakororo)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Habitat: humid tropical forests of Amazonia.

Picture by Fanboyphilosopher

Specialization during the evolution has two sides. On the one hand, it helps to closely related species to avoid a competition. But, on the other hand, the specialized species may die out much more probable at the changes of inhabitancy. Deep specialization limits adaptive abilities of species and consequently very much specialized species meet in rather stable conditions.
In tropical areas of South America during the evolution two “twin” species of hummingbirds had evolved; they are adapted to feeding on nectar of asymmetrocalyx – plant of Gesneriaceae family having asymmetrical flowers. Hummingbirds of genus Asymmetrochilus and plants of genus Asymmetrocalyx represent a surprising example of coevolution, resulted in formation of strictest interdependence of plant and bird. Species of hummingbirds are named after twin brothers from fairy tales of Indians of bororo tribe.
Bacororo is the typical representative of hummingbirds family. It is tiny bird (its length does not exceed 6 centimeters, not including beak) having intensive metabolism; at night bacororo runs into the catalepsy accompanying with body temperature decreasing. Bacororo is exclusively nectarivorous species of birds, and because of features of beak structure it is simply not capable to eat any other food. Its beak is rather long – at adult bird its length is comparable to body length (not including tail). The beak shape at bacororo is very original: it is strongly bent to the left. The bird feeds on flowers of right-sided asymmetrocalyx (Asymmetrocalyx dexter), having a bend to the right, and the beak of bird precisely conforms to flower by form. Besides this this species of hummingbird takes from flowers of asymmetrocalyx small insects and spiders making the important source of proteins especially necessary for nestlings.
Colouring of bacororo is very bright – the top part of body of bird and its tail are golden with greenish shade and expressed metal shine. On head, shoulders and the top part of back feathers are patterned with thin ripples. The throat of bacororo has red color and is bordered by thin black strip. Secondary feathers are brown, and primaries have grey color with expressed metal shine. When the bird gets in sunlight beam, shining wing tips outline a trajectory of their movement on each side of bird’s body. Tail of bacororo is short and fanlike. Bird does not have cops and other ornaments of feathers.
Strict food specialization of bacororo means, that food resources are the factor limiting settling of this species of hummingbirds. Limitation of food resources during the evolution has resulted in occurrence of aggressive territorial behaviour. Bacororo does not suffer presence of congeners in the territory, and makes exception only for females during the posterity rearing. This bird aggressively expels relatives from the territory. Being near to fodder plants, bacororo aggressively attacks even butterflies and large bees, accepting them for competitors. Each bird preciously remembers places of growth of fodder plant and every day visits them by fixed route. Bacororo is very good flyer, able to manoeuvre in thicket of lianas and branches, to hang on the spot and even to fly a tail forward.
The nesting pair at bacororo forms only for the nesting period. The nesting cycle in tropical climate repeats up to three times a year. Male involves the female to its territory, making courtship flight around the large and well blossoming fodder plant. Thus it hangs in air above a plant for a long time, especially in sunlight beams. Courtship ritual of these birds is very simple: male only allows the female to feed on plant, and does not drive her away. The pair of birds builds nest of spider web and thin plant fibers, skilfully weaving it under leaf of fan palms. Thus leaf segments bound by fibers are used as a basis on which the conic nest is suspended.
In clutch there is up to five eggs, but usually two or three nestlings survive to the flight from the nest. At young birds colouring of body is lack of metal shine and beak is straight. Due to such beak young birds can feed on some species of plants and survive successfully in critical period of search of their own territory. Shortly before the coming of sexual maturity, at the age of four months, the beak gets the shape characteristic for representatives of the present species. Life expectancy of bacororo seldom exceeds three years.
In cooler foothills and on heights, in area of cloud forests, the close species lives - itubory, or right-sided crookbill hummingbird (Asymmetrochilus itubory). It differs from bacororo by beak bent to the right. Also itubory is итубори is larger a little (its length is up to 8 cm); it is connected with cooler mountain climate, in which this bird lives. Being the close relative of the previous species, itubory differs from it by features of colouring. In back and head colouring of this bird there is more black color, and metal shine on the top part of trunk is lack – these features are connected to necessity to be warmed up faster after night cold. The throat of itubory has very intense metal shine, due to which bird can warn relatives of its presence from apart.
This species nests only twice per year, and in clutch there are no more than three eggs. A fodder plant at itubory is left-sided asymmetrocalyx (Asymmetrocalyx sinister), the epiphyte from cloud forests of South America.

The idea about existence of these species of birds was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Wasp-mimic hummingbird (Vespimimornis flammeocarbunculoides)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Amazonia.

Pictures by Amplion

The mimicry is one of the most effective ways of protection against predators. In any case of this phenomenon around well protected model species the complex of species imitating it is forming. They may be equally well protected, or similarity to the protected species is their only protection.
In South American selva there is the species of insects inspiring fear to the majority of smaller forest inhabitants – corsair hornet (Toxivespula flammeocarbunculus), the large species of social wasps armed with strong poison. Colouring of these insects, black with red spots on thorax and tip of abdomen, is very well familiar to all animals living in the neighbourhood. These wasps are imitated successfully by black waspmoth (Hymenursula vespiptera) from bears family (Arctiidae). Alongside with it the external similarity to these wasps protects another inhabitant of Amazonian forests – one of small species of hummingbirds.
Wasp-mimic humming-bird is a tiny bird, whose length does not exceed 6 centimeters. This bird resembles wasp in colouring, and also in body shape. The plumage of this hummingbird is black, but on its back there is reddish-orange spot. Short rounded tail also has orange colouring, imitating a coloring of tip of abdomen of that wasp. The first primarily feathers have grayish color with silvery shine. When wasp-mimic hummingbird flies, buzzing by wings, it creates complete illusion of flying wasp. This similarity saves this bird from enemies – large birds, snakes and small predatory mammals. Nevertheless, corsair hornets correctly define a deceit, and frequently attack wasp-mimic hummingbirds, perceiving them as a kind of prey.
Similarity to wasp is additionally amplified by two special modified feathers, growing above eyes. They have thick shafts, and vane is advanced only along the terminal one third part of feather; these feathers imitate short antennae of insect. In their structure some sexual dimorphismis expressed – male has a little bit longer “antennae”.
Beak of wasp-mimic hummingbird is long and thin, little bit bent downwards. Nectar makes up to 70 % of its diet; other part of diet is made of tiny insects. This bird is not specialized to feeding on the certain species of plants, as some species living in the same place. Therefore wasp-mimic hummingbird is widely distributed in tropical areas of South America.
This species of birds lives in forest canopy and feeds in flowers of epiphytic plants and trees for which the formation of flowers on trunk (cauliflory) is typical. Wasp-mimic hummingbird does not avoid a neighbourhood of congeners, and frequently up to ten birds may feed simultaneously in the same small site of tree crone.
This bird nests in couples keeping during one nesting season. The couple of birds in common builds small and deep cup-like nest of spiderweb, plant fibres and lichens. In clutch there is up to five eggs with white shell, which are incubated mainly by the female. Within one year wasp-mimic hummingbirds can rear up to three hatches.

The idea about existence of this species was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Tayin (Tayin migratorius)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Habitat: the south of Chilean region and Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego; wood areas. Wintering in Andes foothills.

Picture by FanboyPhilosopher

Hummingbirds are typical representatives of New World ornithofauna. In human epoch they were settled from Alaska up to Tierra del Fuego. In moderate and cold areas these birds were migrating ones, but in areas of tropical climate they lived constantly and expressed the greatest specific variety and specialization. A certain number of species of these birds had died out because of habitat destruction, but some of less specialized species, mostly from the number of ones not connected to forest habitats, had successfully gone through epoch of human domination and climatic changes of the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. In early Neocene inside this group of birds active speciation began, and new species of hummingbird began restoring of their lost positions. One species of hummingbirds, tayin, is the most southern species of these birds – it lives in the southernmost part of South America. The name of bird descends from the local name of one species of hummingbird lived in Tierra del Fuego in human epoch and became a hero of folk tales of natives.
Hummingbirds are creatures, for which specialization to feeding on nectar is characteristic. And in areas of seasonal climate such food source is accessible only during the short part of year. Therefore tayin, living in such conditions, is a migrating species. It appears in nesting places among the last of migrants, and flies out among the first ones. It is bird up to 10 sm in length (not including beak).
This species of birds feeds in flowers Dendrofuchsia, or fuchsia tree. Some species of hummingbirds of Neocene epoch demonstrate an extreme degree of specialization to feeding on the certain species of plants. As against them, tayin has very low specialization to any certain kind of food. It allows it to exist in conditions of seasonal climate and to eat various kinds of food during the seasonal migrations. Tayin has long straight beak which length makes approximately one third of the general length of body (including tail). With such type of beak it can feed equally successfully in opened flowers of grassy plants and in tubular flowers with straight corolla which fuchsia tree produces. At the end of summer, when flowering of plants finishes gradually, tayin passes to feeding on insects, seizing them by beak, as if by tweezers. Tayin prefers to eat tiny and soft-bodied insects – plant lice and larvae of butterflies. At the end of summer when berries of fuchsia tree ripen, this bird willingly pecks overripe fruits.
At night, especially in spring and in the beginning of an autumn, tayin runs into condition of deep catalepsy – body temperature decreases and physiological processes are slowed down in great degree. It permits this bird to save energy. In the summer, in conditions of long day, catalepsy is superficial, and the bird quickly returns to normal life. In order to be warmed faster after long night, tayin has velvet black colouring. In the morning bird fluffs feathers and quickly gets warm in beams of rising sun. On feathers of head feathers have purple metal shine, and on wings shine is greenish. In middle part of bird’s tail two lengthened feathers colored white grow. Wings of tayin are peaked; flapping them, bird utters silent hum.
Tayin is a solitary species of birds. Only for nesting period couples are formed, but they break up right after nestlings leave nest. Courtship displays begin right after the spring migration of birds. Males occupy territories on which dendrofuchsia grows, and protect them from contenders. Courting the female, male makes figured flight around of her, inviting on the territory. The nest is plait of plant fibres and spider web. Birds arrange it somewhere in remote place – usually on very thin branch where the predator can not get. In clutch there are two or three eggs hatched only by the female. Nestlings are brought up by both parents. Within one year tayin has time to rear two hatches in the north of an area, and only one in the south. Young birds have time to leave nest before the dendrofuchsia deflowering and feed on it for any time.
Tayin flies away for wintering shortly before the first frosts. This species makes distant flights along the belt of mountain forests in Andes, keeping in areas of moderately warm climate, and does not fly high in mountains where the wood vegetation vanishes.

Tiny straw kingfisher (Micralcyone scirpophyla)
Order: Coraciiformes (Coraciiformes)
Family: River kingfishes (Alcedinidae)

Habitat: lower reaches of Three-Rivers-Land rivers, Fourseas reed beds, the Kara Kum beach and Ust’-yurt island.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Reed thickets represent the fine place for reproduction of various fishes and other water inhabitants. Here they find food and set of shelters. And also large predators are absent here. But all the same they can't feel in safety – one of the smallest birds of reed beds, tiny straw kingfisher hunts them.
This is a tiny bird, the descendant of common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), is smaller in size rather than sparrow. It has short wings and tail, but large head and pointed beak. Tiny straw kingfisher is perfectly adapted for life in reeds. Its main color is light yellow, and wings, tail and top of head which sparkled an azure at its ancestor, have got brownish color with gray longitudinal strips. Having such coloring this bird is invisible to predators occasionally visiting these places. Beak is black, but paws and eyelids of males are bright red (at females they have dim orange color).
In behavior pattern this species is very similar to the ancestor, but it nests not in holes dug out in steep river bank, but in cavities of trunks of papyrian reed mace. Because this kingfisher is not able to peck a hollow in strong trunks of reed mace, it depends very much on activity of another bird, tiny cane woodpecker. It happens that a couple of kingfishers ready to nesting expels small woodpeckers from their hollow and destroys their clutch, or waits while birds will peck a hollow to occupy it immediately. If the number of woodpeckers is enough, kingfishers peacefully adjoin to them, occupying their nests made the last year. Kingfishers often arrange nest in the broken trunks of huge reed mace. In the absence of a suitable hollow of a bird can dig out a hole in sandy steep (the birds from Ust'-yurt island do it mainly).
Tiny straw kingfisher eats small fishes and invertebrates, tracking down them from a reed trunk, or hanging in air, as if the hummingbird. During this moment its wings make up to 20 waves in a second, but the bird is tired quickly and can’t track down fish for a long time, flying in such way. But «hummingbird flight» is an important point of courtship ritual of these birds.
The pair is formed for one nesting season. In clutch there are 4 – 5 eggs, the laying repeats twice within summer and if the first clutch was lost at an early stage of incubation, birds have time to make the third clutch and to grow up nestlings. The rearing up of nestlings takes about 5 weeks, and till the last week of this period parents finish feeding of the youngs which have already left a nest.

This species of birds was discovered by Simon, the forum member.
Translated by Alexander Smyslov.

Eagle kea (Aquilopsitta horrida)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: Nestors (Nestoridae)

Habitat: New Zealand, woods and mountains.

Picture by Carlos Pizcueta

Mass extinction of large ground predators caused by reduction of number of their prey and direct human hunt has affected at the evolution of many groups of vertebrates. Among various unspecialized omnivores species appeared, more or less successfully mastered “speciality” of predator in different ecosystems of Earth. In New Zealand, on islands of continental origin, one representative of parrots occupied the ecological niche of large feathered predator.
It is the descendant of primitive local parrot kea (Nestor), known in human time by predating bents. The Neocaenic feathered predator by validity has name “eagle kea”: it has strongly changed in comparison with ancestor.
Eagle kea is rather large flying bird: its weight is up to 7 kg at wingspan about 3 meters. For it soft colouring typical for ancestor is characteristic: green wings with cross strips, brown head and darkly-green stomach. Tail of this bird is wide and fan-shaped.
Paws of this carnivorous bird have kept structure typical for parrots - two toes are directed forward, and two ones – back. The grip tenacity inherent in these birds was kept, though now paws of eagle kea frequently grip not branches or fern root, but body of catch. The eagle kea spends more time on the ground, rather than its ancestors, therefore its paws are much longer, than at other parrots.
Beak is black, maxilla is approximately twice longer than lower jaw. With the help of long and peaked maxilla the eagle kea cuts catch slicing from carcass pieces of meat. The bottom jaw is massive; with its help bird can crush bones of catch and gnaw cartilages. Around of beak there is strip of naked grey-colored skin protecting feathering from pollution by blood and meat juice.
Eagle kea feeds with most different live catch: it kills mammals and birds weighting up to 20 - 25 kg. Bird does not refuse even “gratuitous entertainment”: it can feed with carrion and gathers rests of catch of large local predatory birds ruacapangi. Sometimes pair of eagle keas imperceptibly accompanies hunting birds ruacapangi, hoping to profit by rests of their catch. Eagle keas usually hunt in pair, only during nesting when one of birds is busy with clutch hatching other bird hunts alone.
This large parrot nests in rock caves and in other places inaccessible to ground animals. In clutch there are two large white eggs. Nestlings hatch helpless, naked and blind. Parents entirely devote themselves to care of posterity: heat nestlings serially, feed them belching semi-digested meat. When nestlings grow up, adult birds start to accustom them to feeding by fresh meat, dragging to the nest big pieces of catch. The posterity develops slowly: young birds fly out from nest approximately half-year old, and after that about one year they live with parents. Thus, birds nest alternate years. But the survival rate of posterity at them is rather high in comparison with other parrots nesting more often and having more nestlings in hatch.
The young birds flied off from nest study hunting receptions at parents. Thus, these receptions are inherited such way from generation to generation. Tactics of hunting happens rather various. Parrots are clever birds inclined to training. The intelligence was one of the components which have permitted these birds to take the important place in ecosystem of New Zealand. Each family develops and keeps receptions of hunting, training posterity to successful tactics of food getting.
At the flat district birds hunt young growth of local herbivores. If it is the cub of any gregarious animal (for example, taurovis), birds wait, while it will separate from group, and then, having chosen the moment, try to drive it off farther. They frighten chasing animal, using their size and loud shouts. If the prey aspires to return to herd, birds attack it and put wounds, compelling it to run to needed side. Parrots prey small and single animals, having hidden in bush or on the tree, and then attack them from ambush like hawk. At the mountain slope eagle keas use limitation of moving abilities of chasing animals. They try or to frighten chosen prey that it stumbles and falls down or actively attack together also to push by impact animal from slope. Similarly to wolves, eagle keas frighten away local hoofed mammals, orovises grazing in mountains to determine, as far as animals in herd are healthy. If any animal escaping from them runs downhill (it is easier to run so), birds drive it until it will stumble against something or will put to itself casual wounds.
Eagle keas living near the sea, visit after storm coasts and eat there dead sea animals cast ashore.
As against to predatory birds of order Falconiformes prevailed in Holocene, eagle keas are rather sociable birds tolerantly concerning to neighbours. During feeding birds keep priority: birds preyed catch eat it first, and only after them other neighbours flied to the feast, eat up rests. The priority is strictly observed: one of birds, owners of catch, drives off other ones while another bird eats, then they vary roles. Such tactics of survival adjoining to altruism, allows each bird to gorge much more often than if these parrots were intolerant of neighbours. Hunting of each separately taken bird or pairs happens successful only approximately in one case from five or six ones. But due to catch of neighbours even the crippled and weakened bird has an opportunity to eat normally.
Attachment of birds to each other is so great, that, happens, pair does not break up, even if one of birds receives serious traumas during hunting and can not have normal life. The bird making pair with it, incurs duties on feeding of the partner, and frequently all other hatch.

Beekeeper parrot (Melipsitta melivora)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: Parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: tropical woods of the Central Africa.
This rather large (daw-sized) parrot with short tail is the descendant of small parrots – African love-birds (Agapornis). This bird has bright colouring: at it there are green body, tail and wings, coffee-brown head and bright red “bridle” – thin strip bordering beak and directed from corner of beak up to an eye. Beak, as at the majority of Neocaenic parrots, is powerful and crushing; at the male it is black, at the female brown. Above the bird’s beak crest of friable feathers with rigid core and thin barbs, not forming dense vane as on other feathers, sticks up. This crest opens not upwards, as, for example, at cockatoo, but to sides across the head. Feathers on body are very dense and rather rigid. It is connected to features of feeding of parrots of this species: contents of bee nests, honey and larvae, makes up to half of diet at these birds. Ravaging bee nest birds open crest and press it to eyes, protecting them from bee stings.
Parrots of this species also eat nectar of large tropical fabaceous trees (family Fabaceae), occasionally being their pollinators. For feeding by liquid food the long tongue covered with fibers of epithelium serves to them - with its help it is possible to get nectar from flowers and to lick honey in cells of combs. As against Holocene birds Indicatoridae, beekeeper parrots can not digest wax. The diet is supplemented with larvae of bees and various other insects.
In connection with such specific diet parrots of this species meet in small groups: only up to 4 - 6 birds, and sometimes at pairs at all. Birds communicate among themselves, shouting to one another by hoarse voices.
Parrots nest 2 times per year, dating nesting to the flowering time of fodder trees. Pair of birds is formed not at once: the first years nesting “alliance” can break up after nesting, but pairs of adult birds usually keep fidelity to each other. Such birds form new pair only after death of partner. This species makes nests in tree-trunk hollows; in clutch there are 3 - 4 white eggs. Both birds from pair hatch, feeding up the partner sitting on eggs. Nestlings hatch after 16 days; they are naked and blind, as well as at all parrots. Development of nestlings proceeds about 3 months, parents feed them with insects and nectar. Becoming independent nestlings climb out of hollow and about one month keep together with parents, training to get food.
Beekeeper parrots perfectly know territory on which they live, and remember location of all bee nests existing there. They fly their possession, taking away the share of honey in each nest, but not ravaging insect colony completely. Having found bee colony somewhere in wide tree-trunk hollow or under branch, birds cautiously approach to it, and then simultaneously attack, trying to break out by beak pieces of combs with honey and larvae. It occurs very quickly – all attack lasts about half-minute. After the attack parrots carry off the share of catch in beak and eat it somewhere on branch of tree. Having pressed piece of combs to branch by leg, parrot carefully licks honey, then takes and eats larvae of bees. After its meal on branch only empty combs stay. Usually parrots eat preyed honey at the same branch as usually, and in due course the true “warehouse” of empty combs is formed there involving various moths whose larvae eat wax.
If it is not enough bee nests, parrots search for nectar in large flowers of tropical trees, preferring superficial flowers of red and orange color. Some trees of tropical forest are adapted to pollination almost exclusively by beekeeper parrots.

Phantom parakeet (Nocturnopsitta phantomica)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: Parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: tropical woods of New Zealand.
During evolution, mastering new habitats or avoiding a competition to other species, live creatures can change radically former habit of life. It had taken place so in forests of New Zealand where the descendant of one local species of parakeets, avoiding the competition to introduced species, had turned to nocturnal creature. Dim feathering and propensity to life in darkness create the sensation of that it is the native of the beyond. Therefore this parakeet has the name “phantom parakeet”. The basic opportunity of occurrence of parakeet having nocturnal habit of life had been shown by dwelt in New Zealand kakapo, or nocturnal parrot (Strigops). But it had disappeared in human epoch, and the nocturnal habit of life at phantom parakeet was developed independently of this bird.
At the sunset, when day time inhabitants of New Zealand fall asleep, this parakeet leaves to feeding. Small flocks of phantom parrots fly in wood. They search fruits of various trees, peck small animals, crush bark of trees in searches of larvae of insects.
Phantom parakeet concerns to number of medium-sized birds: body length is about 20 cm, tail is about 30 cm long, and wingspan is up to 40 cm. It has characteristic for all parrots tenacious paws and strong hooked beak. Because birds have twilight and nocturnal habit of life, their feathering has dim colouring: it is grey with glaucescent shade. Only on tips of wings primary feathers are colored black. Paws and beak of bird are colored black too.
Phantom parakeet has large sensitive eyes. It almost does not distinguish color, but visual acuity of this bird is amazing: phantom parakeet is able to distinguish in starlight the ant creeping on bark. In eye retina of phantom parakeet there is small number of cones, but the plenty of densely located rods provides to bird fine night sight. This parakeet freely flies in wood even at night – it sees well all obstacles arising at its way. The pupil of eye is round; it can react to change of light exposure quickly. For protection of eyes against bright daylight bird uses blinking membrane, therefore phantom parakeets disturbed in day time are not so helpless at bright sunlight.
For feeding in night wood bird has the special adaptation: phantom parakeet can distinguish ultra-violet beams. This parakeet finds fruits of plants by wax coating reflecting ultra-violet beams. Therefore at night phantom parakeet finds fruits as successfully as other birds do it in day time. But phantom parakeet eats not only fruits. It is omnivorous, and willingly eats snails, insects and small vertebrates. For their catching phantom parakeet has one more adaptation – it has very good hearing which is not worse than owl’s one. Aural apertures of this parrot are chink-like and rather big. They are covered with lengthened feathers from above. In full darkness phantom parakeet can catch nocturnal animals (invertebrates, amphibians, small mammals), listening to sounds uttering by them.
Despite of well advanced hearing, phantom parakeet prefers to search for food with the help of sight. Therefore it is most active in twilight and in dawn when it is enough light. But in moonlight nights this bird can feed all night without break.
Phantom parakeet is secretive forest bird. Usually these birds lodge in pairs, and seldom form big flocks. But even if these parrots gather in flock, inside it they keep in pairs, separately from other birds. Pair at this parakee is formed to all life. Birds of one pair spend a lot of time together, showing signs of attention to each other: they feed up each other with belched food, clear feathering and call together for a long time at the sunset, communicating with neighbours. Voice of these birds is loud and unpleasant as at the majority of parrots, but in daily (to say more exact – “nightly”) life they communicate with the help of silent whistles and clicks.
Birds of this species spend day in tree-trunk hollows and others shlters, flying off to feed at night. Sometimes these parakeets keep in common with bats in cavities of trunks of old trees. Spending day time, parakeets sleep, having seized by claws in vertical walls of tree-trunk hollow away from entrance. To keep easier on a wall of tree-trunk hollow, shafts of tail feathers form spikes on tips, and some barbs are rigid and bristle-like. Setting the tail against wall of tree-trunk hollow, parakeet may be sure that it will not fall down sleeping. Sometimes in one old hollow tree some pairs of adult birds may spend day time. In districts where there are caves, this parakeet lodges in them, forming constant congestions of some tens of birds. Phantom parakeets get on with other animals not so well – they catch gekkoes and small bats.
In nesting behavior phantom parakeet diligently continues traditions of representatives of the order – it arranges nest in tree-trunk hollow. In caves this bird nests in crack between stones, or even in deepening at stone eaves. Nest of this parakeet actually represents natural shelter without any litter. Female lays 2 – 3 eggs, and both birds hatch the clutch. In woody districts of New Zealand this parakeet has time to make up to 3 clutches per one year, and in cooler mountain areas only 2 layings. Nestlings hatch at 25-th day of incubating. They are naked and blind; parents bring them up during 6 – 7 weeks. Approximately at the second week of life nestlings start to fledge, and at 6-week age they already try to fly and train wings. Young birds leave nest and do not come back to it any more. Parents feed them about one week, and then young phantom parakeets start to search for food independently. Life expectancy at this species reaches 15 – 18 years.

Madagascar giant false macaw (Pseudarara titan)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: Madagascar, eastern and northern parts of island covered with rainforest.

Picture by Sauron from FurNation

Transition from Holocene to Neocene was marked by ice age, and, as the consequence, the reduction of number and species variability of tropical forest inhabitants. Among “victims” of this phenomenon there were many species of typically forest birds, including parrots. Practically all large parrots had died out to the end of Holocene. Their destiny was predetermined by people to considerable degree: people caught these birds for the keeping in captivity and destroyed their habitats. As the result in early Neocene tropical woods restored after mankind were occupied by few small species of parrots escaped after climatic changes. Among these birds descendants of one species of lovebirds (Agapornis) had reached the certain success, evolved to magnificent birds, the true gem of tropical forest. These birds inhabit eastern part of Madagascar Island overgrown with tropical rainforest. By bright and gaudy colouring, and also by social way of life these birds resemble Amazon macaw parrots (birds of genera Ara, Anodorhynchus) which had not lived up to Neocene, having fallen victims of chasing from the part of people and the reduction of rainforests area in glacial epoch. For some similarity to American macaw parrots the genus of these birds is named false macaws.
False macaws live mainly in tropical woods at the east of Madagascar, and some ones inhabit also mountain woods. Appearance of these birds has kept the basic features of parrots: at them there are powerful hooked beak, large head, wide wings of rounded outlines and tenacious paws typical for parrots by structure. Tail of false macaws is straight and rather short, as against the long pointed tail of their Amazon prototype. Sizes of birds of false macaw genus vary strongly – from medium-sized birds about 40 cm long up to the giant 100 cm long at wingspan more, than one and half meters. These birds eat mainly dry fruits (nuts, seeds), and from time to time eat leaves and unripe juicy fruits. Due to specialization to feeding by firm nuts these birds avoid competition to lemurs and other inhabitants of Madagascar woods.
Giant false macaw belongs to largest parrots of the Neocenic world, being also the largest species of the genus. This bird is colored very brightly: large beak is bright red, sharply visible on the background of white feathering of head. Around of eyes there are rings of naked blue skin; at the male they are a little bit wider, than at the female. The body of bird is color green. Wings are dark green; on back there is white spot, appreciable during the bird’s flight.
Madagascar giant false macaw is flocking social species of birds. Out of nesting season flocks of several tens birds of this species constantly migrate in forest. This species belongs to strict monodins: pair of birds is formed to all life, and breaks up only at the death of one of partners. Sometimes adult birds lost the ability to breed form pairs only for communication to each other. In flight pairs of birds keep together, constantly supporting contact with the help of sounds and movements. Mutual clearing of feathering and feeding each other strengthen connections between nesting partners.
In nesting season flock breaks up to separate pairs nesting at significant distance from each other. Due to good memory pairs of birds find out each other after nesting, and structure of flight stays approximately identical each year. Nesting of these large birds occurs in tree-trunk hollows which are converted by the special way. From their ancestors, lovebirds, this bird has inherited building abilities which were transformed at the process of evolution. In large tree-trunk hollow pair of birds constructs spherical or bow-like nest, throwing and plaiting leaves and twigs. On elastic litter female lays up to three white shelled eggs. During the hatching and feeding of nestlings the dung of birds fails between twigs to the bottom part of nest, where it is eaten by various symbiotic insects settling in nests of birds – beetles and cockroaches. For nesting the pair returns each year to favourite tree-trunk hollow, and carefully clears it of the rests of last year's nest.
Naked and blind nestlings hatch after 4 weeks of incubating and develop rather slowly. Both birds of pair care of them. In first weeks of life of nestlings the male does not feed them directly: it transfers food to the female which feeds nestlings. Approximately at bi-monthly age young birds of this species fledge completely. The juvenile feathering differs from the adult one – head of young bird is green, and eyelids are light. Also at young birds there is brown beak. Young growth leaves nest approximately at three-monthly age. Parents and nestlings had left nests gather to flocks where young birds study to adjust social connections and prepare for independent life, adopting experience of adults. Before approaching of maturity flocks of young birds do not break up.
Life expectancy of giant false macaw is very great: over 60 years.
At Madagascar other species of false macaw genus live:
Two-colored false macaw (Pseudarara bicolor) is much smaller, rather than the previous species. It is flocking crow-sized bird; however it seems larger because of long tail making about half of length of bird. The colouring of this bird which have determined the name, has strongly pronounced dismembering type – in it two colors are combined, sharply bordered from each other. The top part of body – sides, wings and tail – has green feathering with blue metal shine. Head, breast and the top part of back are colored milky-white with bluish shade. The beak of this parrot is colored grey, and featherless skin around of eyes and in the basis of beak has yellow color. This parrot nests in groups, forming colonies on large trees. It plaits large nests of twigs and long leaves of tropical plants. Each year nests are renewed and completed, gradually forming unified construction. For construction nests birds dexterously tear to strips rigid palm leaves. The collective nest of two-color false macaws occupies some tens cubic metres in tree crone, and weighs over one ton. In such constructions various species of birds, small snakes and mammals frequently settle.
Celestial false macaw (Pseudarara caelestis) has received the name because of unusual colouring – this bird is almost completely colored blue color with metal shine on wings. Only few parts of body of bird have other color: “cap” on head of bird is colored dark grey, legs are black, and beak and skin around of eyes have “ivory” yellowish-white color. Celestial false macaw is rather small species of the genus – its length is about 40 cm. At this bird there are short wide tail and rather massive constitution. Celestial false macaw eats nuts and other firm fruits, and migrates in forest in searches of food by small flocks which number no more of ten of birds (actually flock includes two or three breeding pairs and their posterity). Flocks at this species are kept for the nesting period – birds nest nearby from each other, and in common protect nest of any of pairs. They arrange nests in hollows of old trees, and if necessary can make hollow in soft wood, using firm beak. Usually these parrots nest in sites of broken forest stand, or near the rivers where trees with such wood grow.
Dawn false macaw (Pseudarara eos) has rare enough pink colouring of the most part of body. Only primary feathers and part of back of this bird have white colouring, and the bottom part of stomach is ochre-red. This parrot up to half meter long with short rounded tail gathers to flocks numbering of some tens of birds. In rich in food sites of forest these birds form flocks of several hundreds birds, representing magnificent show in flight. This parrot has rather weak beak, and eats soft food – fruits and flowers. It also willingly eats invertebrates – insects and snails. Dawn false macaws nest in big flocks and build of twigs and stalks of grassy plants collective nests around of the top part of tree trunks.

The idea about the opportunity of existence of these birds was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Black and white lovebird (Agapornis chiaroscuro)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: savannas of southwestern Africa.
After the mass extinction at the edge of Holocene and Neocene, when many species of large mammals, reptiles and birds died out, the empty niches appeared occupied by the descendants of their smaller neighbours. It happened so on Madagascar, where the genus of parrots called lovebirds gave rise to false macaws belonging to the number of largest parrots of Neocene. But it did not happen so everywhere: in mainland Africa, where the enough number of large species of birds survived, lovebirds remained rather small birds, and black and white lovebirds are among them.
Black and white lovebirds are medium-sized birds: about 30 cm long, of which 6 cm wide and blunted tail takes. Actually, this is the very large representative of its genus had already existed in Holocene epoch.
The females of this species are somewhat larger than males are, and it is the only feature of sexual dimorphism.
The basic coloration of the body is speckled, of greenish-gray color. Due to this color bird can hide from its’ possible predators. But head is colored much more noticeably: the forehead is black, and the cheeks and the throat are white (hence the name of the bird). Also, the tail of this species is covered with cross stripes of black and white. The beak of the bird is also colored black, and its eyelids are white.
These birds inhabit the savannas with parts of forest and scrub vegetation in the southwest Africa, sometimes even not far from the seacoast. The nesting period begins at the end of dry season and at the beginning of rain season, when males and females start to call each other by the loud grumbling cries. Breeding pair keeps together for many years, but during the nesting period birds behave as if the pair is forming for the first time. After several weeks in rough nest made of branches and bast fiber females lay from 2 to 8 eggs and incubate them for about three weeks.
The nestlings covered with down of greenish color hatch from eggs. 3 months after hatching the chicks are covered with feathers, and by 5 months of age they leave their nest, but they remain with their parents prior to the beginning of the next year. Out of breeding season the family groups gather in flocks and migrate between islets of forest vegetation in savanna. At the next year young birds take part in nesting for the first time.
Black and white lovebirds feed on berries, seeds and graminoids. It is not interested in food of animal origin and becomes itself prey for various predatory birds and snakes.
Its maximum lifespan is 9 or 10 years.

This species of birds is discovered by Bhut, the forum member.
Translated by Bhut.

Roseate parakeet (Europsittacula rosea)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: Central and Southern Europe, forests.
During the Holocene, people introduced many species to other continents. The members of the genus Europsittacula, which type species is roseate parakeet, are descendants of feral parakeets of genus Psitacula introduced to Europe. In fact, this genus is a result of the inter-specific hybridization between rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri) and alexandrine parakeet (Psittacula eupatria). Roseate parakeet lives in temperate forests of Europe, migrating to southern latitudes during the winter. This species is noisy with different calls for various situations.
The roseate parakeet is sexually dimorphic. The males show bright pink feathers in their head and chest, while the female have pale pink feathers with shades of green in these regions. Young parakeets are similar to the female, but the tail is short. In both sexes the feathers of the back and wings are green, with a red patch in the shoulders. The upper side of the tail passes from green at the top to blue further down, and is yellow at the tip. Roseate parakeet measures on average 45 cm in length, including the tail feathers, a large portion of its total length. Its wingspan is of 50 cm. Bird has a powerful red beak, which is used to open nuts and cones.
These birds eat buds, fruits, green parts of plants, nuts, berries, nectar, flowers and seeds. Roseate parakeet is capable to open cones using its bill to extract the pine seeds from inside and is capable to break nuts easily.
During the autumn these birds prepare to migration from Europe to tropical forests and savannas of Africa. During this time, they form large flocks numbering hundreds of individuals and these groups fly over the Gibraltar Isthmus to reach tropical Africa. 
Roseate parakeet forms small flocks when outside of migration. During the nesting season they form monogamous pairs. The courtship includes bill rubbing and mutual feeding. They usually nest in ready tree hollows, but sometimes use tree holes excavated by themselves. The pair defends their hole fiercely and, if they found a hole occupied by bat, rodent or any other bird, parakeets expel them violently from the place. In these holes, the female lays 6 white eggs that are incubated solely by her; the male is responsible to bring food for her and will protect aggressively the nest from potential predators. The incubation lasts for 26 days; chicks hatch blind, naked and completely helpless. Only after 10 days, they begin to open their eyes and their feather quills break through. Both parents participate in feeding the brood. Juveniles depend on their parents for 8 to 11 weeks after hatching, and only become independent after 12 to 14 weeks. They are sexually mature in the age of around 2 years and have a lifespan ranging from 25 to 30 years.
Another species in the genus Europsittacula is red-sided parakeet (Europsittacula rubroptera). Living in the forests of south-eastern Europe, this species is larger than the previous one, reaching the length of 55 cm and wingspan of 55-60 cm. Red-winged parakeet is sexually dimorphic: males show bright violet feathers in their head and chest, while females have pale violet feathers with shades of green in this area. In both sexes feathers of the back and tail are green, and the shoulder feathers, primaries and secondaries are bright red. This species is a migratory bird wintering in forests of Persian Ridge, and in the northern part of Zinj Land – it must cross the seaway between this microcontinent and Asian mainland. In late spring birds return to their nesting area. Some flocks of this species even cross Fourseas and nest in forests of Three Rivers Land, but their nesting there is irregular.

This bird species was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Boreal parrot (Neoaratinga flammea)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: temperate latitudes of North America, deciduous forests.
Aratinga erythrogenys, the original species, is a 30 cm. long macaw relative, native both for the Tumbes region of Peru and Southern Ecuador, is a lean-looking long-tailed bird, with plumage green-yellowish and splotches of crimson red on face and front of the wings, plus a circle of white naked skin around the eyes, and black beak. It lived in flocks from 10 – 1000 individuals, traveling between foodsources (usually leguminous trees and fruiting trees) when the fruits or seeds are mature, and also rarely eating insects such katydids, on a very ample territory. They are very noisy, and the chicks are reared on tree hollows, preferently on palms, the 2 – 4 young are all-green plumaged and leaves the nest on 50 days; is a very adaptable species, living on dryforests, rainforest edges, andean forests, farmlands and even urban landscapes; was also traded as a pet, forming urban colonies on San Francisco and areas on Florida.
Once humans are extinct, the colonizing birds are forced to adapt to fully wild landscapes, and diverged on many species.
The first is the boreal parrot (Neoaratinga flammea), 70 cm long, with thick plumage dark green, all underbody red-orange, without eye rounding patch, and a compact, squarish grey beak and chunky bodyshape. This species prefer to live on pairs or family groups, on the southern conifer belt and chestnut-oak forest, and eats mainly pinecones and other conifers seeds, and also chestnuts and hazels, and is unusual among North American parrots from this latitudes in being sedentary, enduring the winter instead to migrating. Unlike the rest of Aratinga-descendents, this species only have one chick per clutch born on spring and leaving the nest on 4 months.
It uses its thick beak to enlarge existen treeholes on parroty fashion, and line up the interior with its feathers and large mammals hair.
The group of the southern residents:
Redwing parakeet (Aratinga populator) is the least derived of all, even clasiffied on the same genus of their ancestor, is smaller than it, on the 22 cm threshold, having a yellowish-green plumage, with the primaries scarlet colored and a large white patch around eyes, forms huge flocks of many thousands, on an area ranging from Florida to the Mississipi delta zone, has abandoned the tree-nesting habit and digs nests on soft substrate cliffs and riversides, cribbing the chosen site with the thousands of individual nests, eats a lot of tree and shrub seeds, but also eats leaves and sprouts, showing a folivorous trend, and frequently defoliating entire trees. Usually their flocks are mixed with pigeons and other parrots, seeking protection from predators like the parrot-specialist wolf-falcon (Cynofalco gregarius) which follows the immense flocks.
Blue wedgetail parrot (Deltura cyanaea) has a shortened tail forming an almost perfect equilaterous triangle, and a plumage cobalt blue on males, with greenish-blue females, the white ocular patch is a narrow horizontal streak. This bird 26 cm long having long legs giving a stilted appearance, lives on the southern part of North America from Florida, overlapping with the anterior species, to the Sonora-Texas desert band. This species prefers mixed habitat, with trees to nest and open terrain, lives in groups of 20 – 60 birds, walking on ground on search of seeds, insects and small vertebrates. It is a very quiet species, except when a danger alerts the group, the alarm call is a loud screeching sound, and the group flies to the cover of trees.
Whiteheaded parrot (Deltura leucocephala) is a pale olive green 15 cm long bird, with the short, triangular tail and stilt legs of the genus, and a greyish-white head, with the oval eye patch. It lives on dry and desertic landscapes, with a range from Sonora-Utah-California to the north of Mexico, having at least two geographic races. This species is rather solitary, living on pairs or on small temporary flocks, is mainly a nectarivore and frugivore on cacti, and also stalks lizards and beetles from the highю It uses the strong beak to dig nests on cacti.
Bluetail (Lacrimopsitta longicauda) is the more common and widespread species, with 40 cm of long, lives on variated forest landscapes, on small groups of 40 or less. It is dark olive green, with many orange-yellow horizontal bars on the breast, teardrop-shaped white eyepatch, with the narrow edge leaning to the ear, and sky-blue tail-feathers. It lives on many of the central North America, and occasionally sighted on the boreal parrot territory. It has a mixed diet, with diverse fruits and seeds, including also a lot of insects and deadwood grubs.
The migratory species:

Picture by Carlos Pizcueta (Electreel)

Beach screecher (Lacrimopsitta vocifer), also called “long-tailed kea”, although isn’t specially close to this NZ parrot, is a 38 cm long bird, has a recurved scythe beak, robust but not specially long legs. Its plumage is green-brownish, with orange throat and teardrop-shaped eyepatch. It has unusually long and pointed wings. , and is a strong flyer, they lives on groups of 20-25, and have a intense leaning for carnivory, they are known for attack many waterbird colonies for the eggs and chicks, and also can mob and kill, then eat isolated gulls, ducks and other parrots. Also they eat carrion and sea invertebrates. The distinct subpopulations live on a huge territory, with northern grounds in area of coniferous forests, usually open lands near lakes or the sea, and wintering on the coastal Gulf of Mexico and California. They are distinguished from one another mainly on territory and diet, varying from molluscivores seldomly stealing seabird eggs to exclusive waterfowl predators. The breeding season is on the northern territories, they are the only species of the group to nest on ground burrows, usually on islets or other zones protected.
Fighting parakeet (Alloaratinga pugnax) is an open land and riverside forest species, of 18 cm of long. Body is shiny green, breast tan-colored with pink head and square-shaped white eyepatch. It eats variated shrub and herb seeds, migrating between the Rockies latitude to the breeding grounds on the gulf of Mexico. When sedentary it lives in groups of more or less 40, but on migratory season forms multitudinary flocks which can darken the sky. The name is because the species usually brawls and fights with other similarly-sized parrots on roost sites or when coming to drink.
All species have plain greenish-colored young, adquiring the specific color markings when achieve sexual maturity. Usually they live on flocks and break on pairings on breeding season. The original species is extinct on North America on the Neocene.

These species of birds were discovered by Edgar Segovia, the Philosophica-Dixonia group member.

Blue-headed digger parrot (Ampliforpus azureoceps)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: South America, Amazon basin, riverbanks in tropical rainforests.
In human epoch inhabitants of tropical rainforests had suffered seriously of deforestation and climatic changes. Some of them had become extinct due to loss of habitats, and others had to compete to species of other habitats, suffering also of epizooties. From among parrots inhabited South America in human epoch, genus Forpus (parrotlets) successfully survived in epoch of antropogenous crisis due to smaller size, adaptability and developing of antropogenous landscapes. Descendants of these birds take a prominent place in tropical ornithofauna of South America in Neocene, forming a new genus Ampliforpus. Representatives of this genus differ from their ancestors in larger size – hence the name: “amplis” in Latin means “large”. Because of their nesting habits these birds are named as “digging parrots”.
The typical representative of this genus is blue-headed digging parrot, large bird (24 cm long) living in forests of Amazon basin and making nests in steep slopes of riverbanks. It has a typical appearance inherited from its ancestor: short fan-like tail, wide rounded wings, robust short-legged body and rather large head. Its beak is wide and robust, adapted to cracking hard seeds and nuts of tropical trees, and also for digging.
Birds of this genus have expressed sexual dimorphism in coloration. Background color of plumage is green (like at its ancestors) with prominent yellow mark on back at males. Male also has sky-blue coloration of head feathers gradually changing to background green color on breast and hindneck. Female has green color of feathering, and only its head has a lighter shade. Juvenile males do not differ from female in coloration, and only after the first molt get a typical male coloration. Beak and paws have dark grey color; in some local populations beak is almost black.
Human activity in far past had influenced to the directions of evolution of birds nesting in tree-trunk hollows. Due to competition with the Africanized bees for holes in the trees, birds had to find new ways of building their nests. These parrots adapted to build their nests in burrows dug by them, with their legs and powerful beaks, in steep slopes of riverbanks. Blue-headed digging parrot is a monogamus bird; the couple finds a suitable place to dig their nest and takes turns in digging. When it is finished, the female covers the bottom of the nest with leaves and lays four eggs of white color. Their incubation lasts for 18 days. The incubation of eggs is performed by females, while the male is responsible for guarding the nest and feeding the female and nestlings once they are hatched. Juveniles fledge being about five weeks old and siblings keep in close contact with one another for a few weeks post fledging. The nest will continue to be used by the nesting couple for the rest of their lives. If the nest is destroyed by natural reasons, birds easily make new hole for nesting. Out of nesting time birds keep in flocks numbering up to 20-30 adult birds and sexually immature subadults. Birds communicate with each other using loud hoarse calls. Their calls represent a characteristic alarm sound when they find owl, hawk or any land-dwelling predator.
These parrots eat seeds, nuts, leaves, berries and cactus stalks. Due the ingestion of clay these parrots can eat a greater variety of seeds and leaves, which would be toxic to other birds and the construction of nests in places with clay abundant facilitates the obtaining of this substance and allows the hatchlings consuming it when they are very young. Juveniles become sexually mature at the age of 2 years. Lifespan is about 35-40 years.
In tropical forests at the foot of Andes another species lives – yellow-headed digger parrot (Ampliforpus xanthocephalus). It is smaller a little – adult bird is 20 cm long. Typical feature of this species is yellow color of male head; female has only yellow forehead and lores. Background coloration of feathering is also green; beak is black. Males use the contrast of beack and head feathering coloration for attracting females and warning stranger males about their claims on nesting territory. It makes nests in steep slopes made of clay. This species nests in small colonies of 3-4 nesting couples only, and these birds protect their nesting area cooperatively.
Plain areas of South America are occupied by blue digger parrot (Ampliforpus caesius). These large (23 cm long) birds have the singular characteristic of building their nests in hollowed-out termite mounds in pampas. This species feeds on seeds and friuts, and also adds a considerable amount of grass seeds to its diet. It has pointed wings and flies fast, migrating in pampas out of breeding season. The background coloration is light-blue with distinct greenish shade on back at females. Beaks and legs are grey. These birds are least social in genus – only two or three breeding couples nest together and form flocks.
The fourth species in genus – green-headed digger parrot (Ampliforpus robustus) – is a parrot having very distinct color differing from other species of genus – it has yellow body (greenish shade at females) and green head with almost white beak. It is a southernmost and largest species in genus – 26 cm long. These birds live in southeastern South America and make nests in steep slopes made of clay. They search for food in newly formed Atlantic Forest and in Araucaria moist forests. Flocks of this species number up to 20-30 breeding pairs.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Point-crested dwarf cockatoo (Spinocacatua mimicus)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: Cockatoos (Cacatoidae)

Habitat: South-Eastern Asia; Jakarta Coast and nearby islands.
In a nature two variants of a mimicry are probable: in one case the unprotected species imitates well protected one (Bates’s mimicry), and in other case well protected from enemies species develop common features of appearance (Mueller’s mimicry); in this case the predator, learned to avoid representatives of one species, does not attack on similarly colored and protected representatives of other species that brings mutual benefit to these protected species. Such phenomenon was known at insects of Holocene epoch, and in Neocene even rather unrelated species of birds, developing the similar adaptation, had appeared.
Well protected species of Asian spike-headed starlings, the porcupine bird from South-Eastern Asia, drives enemies off by stings of long needles growing on head (these are strongly changed feathers). At such “talent” at once two “admirers” had appeared. One of them is completely defenceless false spike-headed bird from flycatcher family, protected due to significant similarity to the porcupine bird. But other imitator, living near the prickly feathered creature, is quite able to protect itself independently. It is small parrot, which imitates the porcupine bird and lives approximately in the same places, as prickly bird. The mobile crest of pointed cross-striped feathers shows relations of this bird: it is the descendant of one cockatoo species widely settled in Australia and South-Eastern Asia in the past. It is named point-crested dwarf cockatoo.
Feathers making crest of this parrot, imitate needles of the porcupine bird, though, certainly, they can not put any wounds to the predator. They are colored light brown with cross black strips. Bases of feathers of crest are bright red; this feature becomes especially appreciable when the bird raises crest up. Crown and nape of this parrot are also colored red, and sides of its head are white.
By the colouring of body the point-crested dwarf cockatoo in general imitates the porcupine bird, differing in some features. On neck of bird there is the black “collar” forming on chest wedge-shaped “tie”. At males this “tie” is larger, than at females. Back of bird is light brown with cross ripple; tail is black with white tips of feathers, stomach is grayish white. Except for the size of “tie”, males do not differ from females in colouring.
Certainly, similarity of this parrot with long-needled spike-headed starling is not completed: it is spoilt a little by thick hooked beak of black color characteristic for parrots and short paws on which two toes are directed forward and two toes – back.
It is not enough only the colouring for successful protection and the bird skilfully imitates behaviour of long-needled spike-headed starling. Ability to imitation is characteristic for parrots, and the point-crested dwarf cockatoo uses it for defense against a predator: it imitates movements of the porcupine bird, shaking head in sides like it. This behaviour is accompanied by imitation of aggressive cry of long-needled spike-headed starling that strengthens external similarity of parrot to this bird. As against completely defenceless false spike-headed bird, this parrot is not so harmless, and in case of necessary it can bite an aggressor strongly.
Spike-headed starlings do not form strong families, but this parrot shows an opposite example: it keeps in amicable pairs formed to all life. Partners feed and have a rest together, frequently feeding up each other by belched food from beak to beak. These birds do not form flights, but support contact to neighbour pairs, in the evening and in dawn exchanging with them by loud shouts.
The center of territory at these birds is the rendered habitable tree-trunk hollow in which nesting pair hatches nestlings from year to year. Till one year pair of point-crested dwarfish cockatoos rears two hatches of 2 – 3 nestlings. The posterity develops slowly: only at bi-monthly age nestlings leave nest. The first feathering of young birds resembles adult feathering, but head at them is not such bright as at adults – red color is replaced by brown one. The first year of life at young birds red sites in feathering are not present, and they behave very cautiously, preferring to disappear from predators. They study to simulate aggression of the porcupine bird, observing for these birds or for adult parrots of the species.
First time young birds nest approximately at three-year age. Life expectancy at this species reaches 20 – 25 years.

Golden-crawed collar pigeon (Collaricolumba chrysocervix)
Order: Doves (Columbiformes)
Family: Doves (Columbidae)

Habitat: Japan Islands, woods in foothills.
Japan Islands are surprising from the point of view of fauna and flora – here there is one of points of contact of nature of cold north and hot south. Northern species move to tropics along mountain ridges. And animals and plants of tropical origin settle to the north due to warm ocean currents warming islands in winter.
Japan Islands represent the extended mountain circuit rising from oceanic bottom. They serve as though as a barrier for a way of damp winds from Pacific Ocean, therefore life conditions at the islands are very favorable for forest growth. Especially dense woods grow on east slopes of mountains turned to ocean. Wood habitats always were very favorable for various birds.
Pigeons belong to the number of characteristic wood birds of Old World. A lot of species of pigeons had suffered from human activity and became a rarity (and some ones had vanished completely), but some pigeons appeared one of the most successful birds of human epoch due to ability to coexist people. Some species of these birds settled in anthropogenous landscape and widely settled at the Earth. After human extinction the part of populations of these species had become extinct, but some ones had successfully adapted to independent existence. Till the process of evolution among descendants of former people satellites the original species evolved, distinguished by interesting features of anatomy. Usually various kinds of “ornament” are the result of the action of sexual selection and have high specific specificity, strongly differing even at related species.
One of results of sexual selection is shown by collar pigeons – forest birds of medium and large size living at Japan Islands. At first sight birds of various species of this genus are very similar to each other – their back and wings are colored light brown and have slight cross ripple; and stomach is dark. At all collar pigeons there are rounded wings and rather long tail (approximately half of general length of a bird): it indicates that they are adapted to maneuverable flight among branches.
These birds have very prominent feature of the feathering which has determined their name. Collar pigeons have the lengthened feathers like a mane on the top part of neck. On sides and front part of neck feathers are small. But they have strong metal shine, which color differs at various species. When the bird is quiet, the lengthened covering feathers hide shining feathers of neck, as if the cloak. But in courtship display time collar pigeons are difficult for not noticing.
Courtship display at all species of collar pigeons represents a spectacular show. Displaying bird perches on branch vertically, turns feathers of mane in sides, puffs craw and coos loudly. Feathers of mane stick up in sides like fans, creating an impression of magnificent collar of medieval Spanish fashion. At displaying bird feathering of craw reflecting sunlight becomes well appreciable. To present itself to females to the best advantage, males gather at well lighted tops of trees, and display the feathering to females flying above them. For courtship display males gather to flocks of some tens birds. When they start display ritual simultaneously, their voices are similar to roar of drums or mutter of crowd.
The female chooses the nesting partner to itself for some years, and sometimes for whole further life. Generated pairs take part in joint display, but females do not leave displaying males, and keep near to them. Collective display, strangely enough, strengthens family ties. After it partners much more willingly start nesting – obviously, at this time at them the contents of hormones in blood raises.
As well as all species of pigeons, collar pigeons do not differ in nest-building talents. Their nest represents the friable heap of twigs heaped up in forked branches. The inner part of nest is covered with locks of moss and epiphytic plants. On poor litter the female lays two eggs, and both partners alternately hatch them till 20 – 21 days. Nestlings come into the world covered with thin down, helpless and blind. Parents feed them with “bird milk” – curdled secretions of craw walls. Nestlings grow quickly, and already at the age of 30 days leave nest. Young birds differ from adults in shorter mane and dim feathers on craw. They get colouring of adult birds approximately at five-monthly age when they cast feathers first time. At the age of approximately 11 months young birds take part in courtship display and can nest first time. At large species terms of nestlings development are approximately two weeks longer, than at smaller ones.
Golden-crawed collar pigeon is colored rather impressively: feathers on its neck have golden yellow shine, and this feature determined its specific name. Other feathering is colored very modestly: head is black with white “eyebrows”; top part of body is brown with dark scaly pattern. Tips of long tail feathers are colored white. Feathers under the tail of the bird are also white.
At golder-crawed collar pigeon there is rather strict feeding specialization, which allows it to avoid the competition to closely related species. This bird eats fruits of plants of ginseng family (Araliaceae), including ones inedible for other birds and poisonous for mammals.
At Japan Islands other species of collar pigeons differing in food predilections live:
Black collar pigeon (Collaricolumba nigra) differs from other pigeons of this genus by very dark colouring – body of this bird is black with hardly appreciable brownish shade on wings. On this background snow-white “glasses” and feathers of breast – white with bluish metal shine – are brightly marked out. This bird avoids a competition to other species of collar pigeons, because it is specialized to feeding on fruits of trees of Sapindaceae family. Such fruits frequently are poisonous for forest mammals and birds, but these pigeons eat them even unripe or beginning to rot, when they are especially poisonous. At this time even meat of pigeons had a meal such fruits, can become inedible. This bird lives in small flocks in forests at the south of Japan Islands where the typical rainforest grows.
Tiny collar pigeon (Collaricolumba pumilis) is the smallest species of genus: by size it is equal to smallest turtledoves of Holocene epoch. At these birds feathers on breast are red with metal shine. It eats seeds of various plants, preferring seeds of plants of carrots family, which often are poisonous for other birds and mammals, and lives in flocks of some tens birds. These fine pigeons can be met in thickets of huge carrot grass, the fennel tree. It was settled far to the north in places of fennel tree growth, and nests in coastal woods of Japan Islands and Big Kurils. In summer separate flocks of these pigeons reach the south of Kamchatka.
Macaw-like collar pigeon (Collaricolumba araroides) is the largest species of genus: up to one meter long including long tail. It lives in western half of Japan Islands, and even reaches Asian coast, where it had formed settled population. Its colouring is brighter, rather than at other collar pigeons: bluish-grey top of body with very thin cross ripple and yellow stomach (by size and colouring this pigeon is a little similar to one species of macaw parrots from South America). Feathers forming collar on neck of bird have the expressed metal shine, and the forward part of neck and top of breast of bird are covered with black feathers with strong green metal shine. This species eats seeds and small fruits, swallowing them entirely. In connection with such food beak of bird is rather long and thin. Bird does not crush seeds like parrots, but at first ferments them in craw (secretions of special glands in walls of craw promote this process), and then frays in muscular stomach with the help of pebbles. Sometimes pigeon searches and swallows small beetles, having firm armour, for same purpose.

Hawaiian mountain dove (Paracolumba montana)
Order: Doves (Columbiformes)
Family: Doves (Columbidae)

Habitat: mountains of Hawaiian islands.
During the human epoch and also soon after its ending Hawaiian islands had undergone the great number of changes, too strong for vunerable island ecosystem. Anthropogenic pressure and climatic changes had left the traces in local ecosystem, having almost completely destroyed native fauna and flora. Representatives of new families and species replaced the extinct kinds. In many cases birds were new migrants: usually they arrived to archipelago or storms brought them from Polynesia, North America or Southeast Asia. Hawaiian mountain dove is one of new birds of Hawaiian fauna, but it is the descendant of rock pigeon (Columba livia) introduced to these islands in human epoch.
It is rather small bird: 20-25 cm long, wingspan about 40 cm and weighting about 200-250 grams. It nests high enough on slopes of Hawaiian mountains, in zone of Alpine meadows, on the ground between stones. Alpine zones of Hawaii are rather poor in vegetation, especially in places of recent volcanic eruptions, and the predators dangerous to these doves are almost absent here. More often this species nests in niches and between stones on abrupt mountain slopes, where four-legged predators can not make the way.
Appearance of Hawaiian mountain dove has kept all recognizeable features of pigeons. This bird has greenish-grey plumage, and at males well-visible black-and-white mask is formed on face, indicating its maturity. Beak of these birds is deep and has wide mouth cut, allowing swallowing large fruits entirely. The voice resembles usual pigeon cooing, but sounds louder and less melodiously, rather than at the ancestor of this species.
As Hawaiian islands are located in tropics, this pigeon has no expressed nesting season and can nest all year round. This species is monogamous, and couple nests during some years in succession. Courtship ritual represents “dance” of the male with swollen craw around the female. At this time male opens tail like fan and opens wings. The culmination of dance is the trembling of the whole body of the male standing on extended legs.
The nest is primitive and represents heap of grass thrown on the bottom of shelter and trampled down. Usually the couple of birds nests in the same place every year, each time simply throwing a new layer atop of old grass. Both parents hatch eggs in turns. In clutch there are 4-6 eggs with brown shell, ornamented with pale specks for camouflage. Incubation lasts 16 days; nestlings hatch naked and blind, eyes open at 5-th day of life, and they fledge completely and leave nest at 35-37-th day of life. Within approximately one week adult birds finish feeding of young ones. Birds can nest twice a year.
The food includes seeds and fruits found in forests growing down the mountain slopes. At the time of bringing up of posterity the diet includes insects also. Doves fly to feeding places in flocks numbering up to 200-300 birds. This dove falls prey to various birds of prey and large bats, especially young ones. At the nestlings staying in nest death rate is lesser because of nesting places remote for the majority of predators, but they are attacked by some bats.
Life expectancy is about 7-10 years.

This species of birds is discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Hopi (Zenaida hopi)
Order: Doves (Columbiformes)
Family: Doves (Columbidae)

Habitat: deciduous forests of North America.

Picture by Sergey Ivanov

Despite of mass extinction at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene which reasons were at first human influence, and then climatic changes, various pigeons and doves had quite successfully overpassed this boundary and had given rise to various, sometimes rather exotic new species. The majority of “atypical” pigeons and allies lives in tropics, and in areas of more severe climate species of quite recognizeable appearance live. One of these species is hopi, pigeon from North America.
Hopi is a descendant of small mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) of Holocene epoch, but it reaches 50 cm in length and seems even larger bird. Actually the significant part of length falls on its motley tail which frequently distracts attention of predator from the bird and gives hopi a chance to escape at an attack, having lost only few feathers. Feathering colouring on body is soft, monotonous pearly-grey and a little lighter on belly. But tail at this species is long, peaked and resembling pheasant’s one a little bit. Tail feathers are colored with alternating cross strips of light red and dark grey, almost black color.
Similarly to the ancestor, hopi eats various kinds of food as of animal, and of vegetable origin. At the end of summer and in autumn these pigeons willingly peck berries and even fly down on the ground to be fed. And in spring they eat mostly insects as preparation for courtship season demands more energy, and the female also must lay normal eggs. As a rule, these are flocking birds forming close flocks of 3 – 4 breeding couples. Thus it is easier to them to escape from predatory birds, mammals and snakes which are the main enemies of these birds. Flocks of birds break up only for the nesting period.
Habitat of hopi is a zone of deciduous forests at the west of North America, in Rocky Mountains foothills. These birds do not bear too bad cold and fierce heat and because of it prefer to live in a zone of temperate climate. In winter these birds migrate to the south along the ridges of Rocky Mountains. Thus they rise in mountain forests, avoiding the heat weather in foothills.
The displaying period at hopi takes place at the end of winter or in the beginning of spring as soon as birds return from wintering. For display males of this species gather on branches of trees where leaves are not completely developed yet, or on dry dead trees, and display themselves in front of females. Displaying males lingeringly coo and show the tails, lifting them upwards, and lowering heads down. At this time the craw is strongly inflated, and cooing becomes especially loud. Young birds or the birds that have lost a parthner gather at the display trees. The settled pairs are kept during several years, and in spring male displays elements of courtship behaviour only to its female.
To the beginning of summer females already finish hatching of clutch numbering 2 – 3 eggs, nestlings have time to grow the down order, and from it the first feathers start to grow. As well as other pigeon birds, hopi pigeons are bad nest builders and, as a rule, they prefer to nest in abandoned nests of other birds, rather than to build their own one. The couple of adult birds has time to bring up two hatches for a season. Young growth of last hatch keeps with their parents up to the wintering migration. The next year young birds become capable to nesting. Life expectancy of hopi is up to 8 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Blue-tailed peafowl pigeon (Pavoenas cyanocauda)
Order: Pigeons (Columbiformes)
Family: Pigeons (Columbidae)

Habitat: rainforests of Amazon basin.
Pigeons represent very common and widespread group of birds. In human epoch some species of them got a great advantage from human activity, having widely settled in human-changed habitats. In human epoch numerous large, endemic and local forms of these birds had become extinct due to overhunting and destruction of habitats, but some adaptable species became common faunal representatives of urban and agricultural landscapes. In South America some pigeons of genus Patagioenas appeared among synanthropes and widely settled in modified landscapes throughout the continent. In post human era descendants of these birds appeared among the common inhabitants of tropical forests restored in humid areas of the continent.
In rainforests of South America new genus of pigeons evolved – large birds adapted to feeding on leaves, buds and flowers of tropical trees. They usually walk on large tree branches and lianas on strong legs. These birds are able to fly, but do it reluctantly due to large size and partly reduced keel bone. These features appeared due to the anatomy of digestive path of these birds – they have large crop of two chambers and long intestines. It is a result of adaptation to feeding on plant matter rich in cellulose. Since they have a tail capable of being opened like those of peacocks of human era, their genus is named Pavoenas, the peafowl pigeons. Their typical representative is blue-tailed peafowl pigeon, the true gem of rainforest canopy.
Birds of this genus have clearly expressed sexual dimorphism. The females of this species have short tail and are brownish green with blurred cross-striped pattern on neck and back. Males are bright green with pink metallic shine on neck, yellow feathers in their wings, and iridescent blue feathers in tail. Males are about 84 cm long, including tail, and weight about 3 kg. Females are smaller, about 70 cm long and weighting about 2.7 kg. It is the largest species in its genus and inhabits the Amazon basin.
They are arboreal, but often search for fallen fruits, insects and small pebbles on the ground. These birds can get water from bromeliads and find everything they need in tree crowns. All peafowl pigeons are solitary birds, and only breeding couples keep together. Male attract females with courtship dance with tail opened. It chooses sunny places for the dance, where its tail sparkles and is visible from far away. Dancing male inflates its crop and fluffs neck feathers. With its wings opened it trembles with its whole body and is cooing loudly. Each performance lasts for some minutes, and is longer when female appears nearby. Attracting the female, male “bows”, raises widely opened tail and trembles in sunlight.
After the mating female makes nest by itself in tree branches. Nest is simple and is made of twigs and dry branches with litter of dry foliage and stalks of grassy plants. Female lays only one or two eggs with opaque green shell and hatches them for 32-33 days. Female makes three or four clutches in two years. Male takes care to the incubating female, feeding her with regurgitated semi-digested leaf pulp. Each male takes care to two or three females living on its territory.
When nestlings hatch, both parents feed them with semi-digested food and add to it the “bird milk” characteristic to pigeons and rich in proteins. Nestlings grow quickly, reach the size of adult bird and fully fledge in two months. They leave nest and wander in forest canopy with female for two weeks, then pass to independent life.
Young birds become sexually mature at the age of 1 year. Lifespan is about 10 years, but males usually fall prey of various predators at younger age.
Orange-tailed peafowl pigeon (Pavoenas cirrhocauda), similar to the blue-tailed species, lives in the coastal forests of southern part of South America. Male is bright green with orange feathers in its tail, females are brownish green with cross-striped feathers in wings. Tips of tail feathers at males have fringe of thin and elongated feather barbs. It is slightly smaller: males are about 74 cm long and weight only 2.5 kg. Females are 69 cm long and weight 1.9-2 kg. These birds eat lots of tropical fruits, preferring figs and fruits of other cauliflorous trees.
The other species is the yellow-tailed peafowl pigeon (Pavoenas flavicauda) – its tail feathers are yellow. It lives in the forests of the northeast coast of South America. This species differs from other peafowl pigeons in having a little mobile crest at males. During the courtship male raises crest and cooes loudly to attract females. At these moments its crop is inflated. Females are brownish green and have an expressed cross-striped pattern on neck, body and wings, while the males have the feathers of their back and wings bright green and those of their chest and head yellow. Males are 78 cm long, but have longer tail and lighter weight compared to other species. Females are 72 cm long. This species often flies down to the ground and feeds on mushrooms and fallen fruits.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Red-knobbed pigeon (Nodoenas rubrus)
Order: Pigeons (Columbiformes)
Family: Pigeons (Columbidae)

Habitat: tropical forests at the foothills of the Andes.
In South America the genus Patagioenas survived the environmental changes caused by human activites and gave rise to two new genera: the genus Pavoenas, the colorful peafowl pigeons, and the genus Nodoenas, with its only representative being the red-knobbed pigeon.
Red-knobbed pigeon has physical characteristics very similar to those of its ancestors; the only difference is a prominent and bright red knob above the beak, present only in the males. This knob is responsible for naming the genus. The overall appearance of these birds is typical for the family, with strong legs allowing perching and even hanging head downwards on thin twigs in searches of fruits. Beak is rather short, but the mouth cut is large and mouth may be opened wide, allowing these birds swallowing of rather large fruits entirely.
Both the male and female are reddish brown, with the wings being dark gray. They are small birds with only 35 cm both sexes. Wings have rounded shape fitting to fast flight in forest canopy, and tail is fan-shaped. The sexual dimorphism at these birds is expressed in presence at males of soft tissue knob made of erectile tissues and able to fill with blood during the courtship games. Knob is covered with featherless skin of red color. Females have reduced knobs on their beaks.
Frugivores, they fly long distances in flocks of 10 to 16 individuals in search of food. In times of great abundance of fruits, they form flocks of hundreds. When the number of fruits decreases, the large flocks disperse.
The Red-knobbed pigeon program their breeding periods according to the availability of food, in good years they can reproduce four times.
At the peak of the breeding season the male flies over the forest and is cooing, then perches on tree branch and begins to display its knob while continues to coo. The female chooses the males with the more colorful knob and the highest coo. They are monogamous, living together for life.
The couple nests in territory marked by the male in high flights with a special type of coo. They build the nests in trees using twigs from dry branches. The nest is flat with loosely interlocking twigs. Female lays two white eggs, which are incubated for 17-18 days. The couple takes care of nestlings, feeding them with the “bird milk” characteristic to pigeons and rich in protein, which is produced in crops in both sexes during that period. As the nestlings grow, small fruits are added to their diet, semidigested first, and then fresh. They fledge quickly, leaving the nest after one month and staying with the parents until the two months age. Young birds reach sexual maturity in 1 year, when the males show an increase in the size of their knobs that begin to acquire the characteristic red color.
Their lifespan is of 9 years, with some young males being preyed during their first mating season. Because of such kind of sexual disbalance some females pair with “married” males and raise one nestling alone.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Fruit coorrow (Carpocolumba curro)
Order: Doves (Columbiformes)
Family: Fruit doves (Carpocolumbidae)

Habitat: tropical woods of Africa, Southern Asia, Indonesia and islands of Indian Ocean.

Picture by Amplion

In Neocene borders of natural zones of Earth have started to shift to poles: warming and humidifying of climate has resulted it. Tropical rainforests which had practically missed during the ice age, have occupied extensive territories again. But at the ice age the huge amount of species inhabited such places, has died out, and Neocenic rainforests were occupied practically from zero. A variety of some typically wood birds like parrots has appreciably decreased, that has permitted to other groups of birds to master new habitats. Among settlers of rainforests there were pigeons. Due to high adaptive ability some species of these birds have survived and have replaced forest species of birds had dyed out at the end of Holocene, including representatives of other groups.
Descendants of pigeons are large herbivorous birds coorrow (Carpocolumba). They eat basically soft fruits and tree leaflets. These birds are rather large, and are remarkable among the bird population with rather bright coloring.
Fruit coorrow is rather large bird (up to meter long including tail; its weight is about 4 kg). It is the inhabitant of forest canopy, and appearance of this bird indicates to its adaptation to this habitat. Wings are rather short and rounded on ends, but tail is cuneate and long - such proportions provide maneuverable flight among branches. Legs of bird are short, but tenacious, with bent claws.
Feathering is bright and contrast colored: wings and tail are green, stomach is canary-yellow with black “tie” on chest, and head is rusty-red.
Beak is short, thick and grey-colored. At the basis of beak there is cere (site of naked skin surrounding nostrils) characteristic for pigeons. The mouth cut is wide, reaching vertical of back edge of an eye: it is the adaptation facilitating feeding.
Fruit coorrow eats fruits of various tropical trees. Bird pecks large fruits and swallows small ones entirely. In craw swallowed fruits are softened, and then get to stomach. The stomach of fruit coorrow has some departments in which symbiotic protozoans settle. Due to them speed of digestion at these birds appreciably increases. Seeds of trees, covered with firm coat, are not digested in a stomach. At some species of trees passage through intestines of frugivorous birds like coorrow is necessary condition for germination: under action of gastric juice of bird the seed coat becomes thinner and also more permeable. Thus, coorrow takes the important part in seeds carrying and renewing of woods of tropical zone.
In forest canopy it is often possible to hear a voice of these birds: characteristic rolling coo (the name of this bird is onomatopoeic).
Fruit coorrows migrate in wood by small flocks of 6 - 10 birds. They practically do not fly down to the ground finding all necessary for themselves at tops of trees. Here it is possible to find even enough drinking water: in forest each day there are rains, and water is accumulating in leaves of some trees. Birds constantly move in wood, finding trees with ripe fruits. They are compelled to do it, because fruits of different trees ripen in different time, and some trees fructify irregularly. Inside each flight there are breeding pairs of birds and single young growth.
Pairs at fruit coorrows form to all life. Male and female choose each other by personal sympathy in flight of neighbours. Male cares for the female, cooing and puffing craw. If the female shows reciprocity, male starts to feed her up with semi-digested fruits. Thus the female as a sign of submission slightly opens wings, representing nestling eliciting forage. Birds of one pair keep together, clean each other’s feathers on head and neck. After pairing pair starts to build nest. Coorrows nest in groups, at distance of several tens meters from each other.
Art of nest building directly specifies relationship of these birds with pigeons. Nest of coorrow simply represents big heap of dry branches thrown in forked crown of large tree. In clutch there is only one large egg with greenish-white shell. Male and female within 25 days hatch it alternately. During the year pair of birds makes two clutches.
Nestling hatches blind, covered by thin down on head and back. At the second day at him juvenile down starts to grow, and at week age it opens eyes. Similarly to other pigeons parents feed up posterity by the “bird milk” – a product of craw walls secretion.
Nestling grows in nest within 2 months, increasing for this time up to weight about 3 kg. At young bird feathering is not as bright, as at adults: head is dark-brown, and “tie” on stomach is not present. After nesting parents and brought up young one join other pairs, forming flights, and migrate in forest.

Japanese coorrow (Nipponocurro melanoleucus)
Order: Doves (Columbiformes)
Family: Fruit doves (Carpocolumbidae)

Habitat: Japan Islands; northern populations fly to Big Kurils, but migrate to the south for wintering.
At the boundary of Holocene and Neocene tropical forests represented only small islets in valleys of rivers within the areas of the former area of their growth. It was a consequence of irrational economic activities of people, and also of climatic changes. In such conditions the most part of typical forest groups of animals fall into decline, and some of their groups died out almost completely. At the boundary of epochs large species of parrots had become extinct because of lack of the habitats, capable to support viable populations of such species. In early Neocene, when the area of tropical forests began to increase, parrots got competitors – forest species of pigeons. In tropics of Old World among pigeons the separate family of fruit doves evolved – large birds resembling macaw parakeets of Holocene epoch. These fruit-eating birds successfully compete to parrots and consequently in Old World there are no large parrots and parakeets eating soft vegetative food.
Typical representatives of fruit doves are coorrows, long-tailed birds of a forest canopy remarkable in diverse colouring. They live mainly in tropics, but one species also lives in warm-temperate zone of Northern hemisphere. It is Japanese coorrow - a large bird having wingspan more than one meter and weighing up to 3 kg. Tropical species of coorrows may be brightly colored, but this species differs in contrast black-and-white colouring. Breast, back and tail of these birds are black; on breast there is an expressed blue metallic shine. On wings primarily and secondary feathers are white (sometimes with black spots in the bottom part), and covert feathers of wings are black. White feathers also grow on the bottom side of wings and on sides. The head of Japanese coorrow is white, on it the red rings of featherless skin around of eyes are emphasized; it is expressed at representatives of both genders. During a display ritual this skin swells with blood and becomes clearly visible from apart. Male of this species differs from the female in greater development of warts on skin around of eyes. At some males the area of naked skin is stretched even to forehead, and during the display their head gets absolutely grotesque shape – the warts swollen of blood become very large. On bird’s forehead (at males above the area of skin outgrowths) there is a thin mobile cop of several peaked white feathers.
Coorrows are forest birds very seldom flying down on the ground. Their body shape is perfectly adapted to movement in forest canopy. Wings of Japanese coorrow are rounded, and tail is very long, wedge-shaped and similar to tail of pheasant. Due to such shape flight of coorrow is very maneuverable. In summer northern populations of Japanese coorrow cross sea passages and reach up to Big Kurils, where they nest.
Japanese coorrow eats soft tree fruits, occasionally adding to it young leaves and food of animal origin – cockroaches, caterpillars and slugs. These birds have short thick beak, a little bit similar to beak of finches. Jaws of bird can be opened widely, and Japanese coorrow easily swallows even large fruits (plum-sized ones) entirely. Coorrow eats fruits of treelike plants and lianas of ginseng family, which are inedible for forest mammals. Seeds of these plants do not lose viability, passing through intestines of bird.
Japanese coorrow lives in flocks numbering up to 50 adult birds. This species of birds rather peacefully behaves relatively to the neighbours, but displays aggression in relation to large species of collar pigeons which are its food competitors. Coorrows attack on collar pigeons and strike them impacts by wings and beak. At an opportunity Japanese coorrow ravages nests of pigeons, pecking their eggs. But small collar pigeons can freely nest even near to Japanese coorrow.
At Japanese coorrow breeding couple is formed for the whole following life. Partners choose each other in flock of congeners and permanently keep together. In courtship season male regularly renders signs of attention to the female. It loudly coos, strongly inflating craw and demonstrating metallic shine of feathers on it, carries twig or plant leaf in beak, walks round the female, raising tail vertically and stirring by semi-opened wings. At the moment of the greatest excitation at bird sites of naked skin around of eyes swell very much.
Birds of this species nest in small colonies numbering up to ten nests. In clutch there are 2 – 3 large eggs alternately hatching by both birds within 20 days. Nesting happens once a year, and only in the south of an area birds have time to rear two hatches within one year. Nestlings eat pulp of semidigested fruits mixed with secretions of craw walls (it’s a characteristic feature of pigeons). Young birds have monotonous grey plumage which is replaced with characteristic black-and-white colouring only to six-monthly age.

Stripe-billed tucanops (Tucanops dimorphus)
Order: Cuckoos (Cuculiformes)
Family: Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Northern Meganesia.
In most cases, human activity led to a worsening of the situations of species of wildlife. But some species have learned from this many benefits, among them the large Channel-billed cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae), adapted to life in modified human habitats. After the disappearance of people its descendant became an unusual bird, similar to a toucan: the stripe-billed tucanops that inhabits tropical forests of northern Meganesia and around Arafura Lake and Lake Carpentaria.
This species is one of the largest representatives of cuckoos: its wingspan is up to 80 cm, and its weight is about 1 kg. The bird has elongated pointed wings and a fan-shaped tail.
In the color and size of this bird species sexual dimorphism is clearly pronounced. The male of this species is larger, bright and contrasting colored. The female is smaller (adult weight of about 800 g) and much more modestly colored. The plumage of the male is mostly black, the tips of primarily feathers are white, the back is rusty-red. The area around the eyes of the male is covered with white feathers. The plumage of the female is brownish with black ripples. A characteristic feature of the appearance of these birds is a very large, deep, laterally compressed beak filled with light spongy bone tissue. On the male’s beak there is a horny ridge along the top side of the upper mandible. The coloring of the beak of the male is lemon-yellow with a red base, the female’s is a dull yellow. On the sides of the beak at the male and the female several slanted strokes of black color stretch, contrasting with the background color of the beak.
The stripe-billed tucanops is an exclusively carnivorous bird. This species feeds on small mammals, birds, reptiles and large insects.
Like its ancestor, this species is a brood parasite. A pair forms for several breeding seasons and controls a territory of 4 – 5 square kilometers at which the nests of species feed the juveniles of this cuckoo are located. Stripe-billed tucanops keep in the forest canopy, without going down to the ground. A population of this species lives in mangrove forests separating the Arafura Lake from the ocean. A pair of birds keeps contact with each other, calling to each other in loud shrill voices.
For breeding this species uses the services of various species of birds of medium and large size, including corvids. A pair of these birds lays in their nests up to 20 eggs per season, laying one egg a day. Parental care does not end at this: a pair of these birds controls the territory where the eggs are laid, and expels from the territory of large birds of prey, which may threaten the foster parents of the chicks of this species. Also, these birds can attack wood mammals like cuscuses and rats, which would ravage nests. At the appearance of these large predators the birds raise a collective alarm and harass them, leading the bird flock combined of different species.
The nestlings of stripe-billed tucanopses develop very fast for such a large bird and hatch on the 12th day of incubation. They immediately throw out of the nest other eggs and chicks, remaining the sole object of parental care. After 3 months, they are fully developed and fledged. Juvenile plumage of this species is gray with black primarily feathers, identical for birds of both sexes. The beak has a brown color, black smears on it are not yet visible. After 2 months of independent living the young bird sheds and acquires plumage characteristic for adult birds. Sexual maturity comes at the age of 6 months. By this time a young male grows a horny crest on the beak.

The idea about the existence of this species was proposed by Tim Morris, Adelaide, Australia.
Translated by FanboyPhilosopher

Snake-eating hoopoe, jasper hoopoe (Euupupa serpentophaga)
Order: Hoopoes (Upupiformes)
Family: Hoopoes (Upupidae)

Habitat: south and middle zone of Europe (from Spain up to Ural, to the south up to Fourseas), Central Asia, North Africa, Near East.

Picture by Simon

The greatest advantage in cases of mass extinctions is received by unspecialized species of animals of smaller size. In this case it is easier to them to survive, using various sources of food and habitats. And small size helps to keep high number of population even in district rather poor in forage. For this reason the majority of species of birds could go through mass extinction at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. Only highly specialized species (and the majority of birds of prey among them), initially rare species, and also inhabitants of tropical rainforests, which had missed during the ice age, had died out. But inhabitants of dry open districts and light forests were widely settled at Earth. Among them there were Euroasian species of hoopoes (Upupa). In Neocene among descendants of hoopoes the new species had appeared, becoming in some features the analogue of large ground hornbills and maned crow belonging to corvine birds’ family.
The descendant of common hoopoe (Upupa epops), jasper hoopoe, is larger bird than its ancestor. It reaches the size of kite. Feathering of bird is colored greyish-pink with brownish shade (color of jasper mineral, one name is because of it). On wings of jasper hoopoe the pattern inherited from the ancestor, black and white cross strips stretched across the most part of wing, is kept. This colouring is well appreciable to ground predators, even to hving no color sight ones. Presence of such feature indicates that bird has effective protective adaptation. Tail of bird is black.
On head of jasper hoopoe big mobile fan-like crest grows; it can fold and open. The bottom part of crest feathers is colored dirty pink; top is black, and on tips of feathers there are white specks. When the crest of bird is opened, the black-and-white arch formed by the ends of feathers is appreciable from apart.
Legs of this hoopoe are strong, short, with sharp claws. They are equally well adapted to walk on the ground and to clamber on branches. The hypotarsus is feathered down to toes – this feature is connected to diet of bird. Beak is long and sharp, slightly bent downwards: it is thicker, than at common hoopoe.
Jasper hoopoe eats amphibians and reptiles, but its favourite dish is snakes (from here there is another name of bird), less often lizards. Near reservoirs bird catches frogs. The way of food getting is hunting from the perch. Usually jasper hoopoe arranges the ambush on alone tree or on high bush. Bird simply catches frogs and lizards by beak, throws up and swallows. Snake is more dangerous catch, therefore hoopoe kills it, beating by legs or piercing its head by sharp long beak. Sometimes hoopoe can kill the snake, having seized it in beak to the tail and striking by head against the ground. Bird swallows entirely even rather large snake.
Jasper hoopoe arranges nest in tree-trunk hollows and natural crevices of rocks. In clutch it may be up to 3 – 4 eggs with white shell; they are hatched mainly by the female. Nestlings hatch in 30 days. They are naked and blind, and fledge rather slowly: young birds leave nest approximately to 40-th day of life. They are extremely inaccurate, defecate right in nest and leave in nest litter belched parts of food. Because of it the nest of bird has a characteristic unpleasant smell which is felt from apart. But birds are not afraid of predator attack – they are well enough armed to resist to it. Cleanliness in nest is supported by beetles and their larvae which at night eat the most part of the dross left by nestlings. At the south of area birds make two clutches per one year, and at the north only one clutch. Northern birds migrate to winter to the south, overcoming the Alpes. Birds from Three-Rivers-Land steppes overcome Fourseas through Crimea, Caucasus and Ustyurt Island.
Snake-eating hoopoe has the fine weapon which is effectively frightening off the most part of enemies. The bird is able to shoot by dung to the enemy. Nestlings, defending from a predator, sprinkle dung directly from the nest, having turned back to the enemy. They attack any creature which has not warned about the approach by the special sound, therefore adult birds, perching on edge of nest, utter short signal to not be “shot” by own posterity. Adult birds apply “chemical weapon” by much more effective and memorizing way. At first bird warns predator of intention to defend, rising on legs and having stretched magnificent crest. In such position the hoopoe rocks, turning head sideways to predator that the crest was better swept up. If it has not conceived action, the hoopoe promptly flies up from the ground vertically, loudly clapping by black-and-white wings. At this moment its flight is similar to rise of gallinaceous birds. The hoopoe hangs in air for one second at height about two meters. This way it shows warning contrast colouring of wings, and their loud flapping is audible for tens meters. If the enemy had not left intentions to attack, the bird turns tail downwards and sprinkles to the enemy a jet of sticky and stinky dung. In cloaca of bird the special gland opens, emitting a portion of protective liquid having unpleasant smell. It strengthens efficiency of protection of bird even more.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Waxeater (Ceraphaga sylvatica)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: Honeyguides (Indicatoridae)

Habitat: tropical woods of Central Africa and Zinj Land.
In struggle for existence one of the most widespread ways of survival is narrow specialization. Thus the species becoming the specialist simply avoids a competition to relative ones because its vital interests are crossed with those at neighbours in minimal degree. But such way of existence has the extremely unpleasant return side: at change of conditions of environment highly specialized species die out at first. But sometimes there are happy exceptions when at changes of inhabitancy limiting vital resource is kept in rather constant amount. Then specialized species have a chance of survival.
One of such “lucky beggars” lives in tropical woods of the Central Africa. It is large crow-sized bird of chartreuse color with orange “epaulettes” on wings. The bird is the descendant of honeyguide (Indicator), bird specialized for feeding by wax and contents of bee combs. The beak of bird is black, massive, hooked, resembling beaks of parrots, but more lengthened and not such hooked as at them.
This bird eats mainly… wax, as well as its ancestors therefore it has received the name “waxeater”. Symbiotic protozoans which decompose wax live in stomach of waxeater and synthesize vitamins necessary for bird.
Waxeater is more specialized to getting wax in comparison with honeyguides of Holocene epoch. When to Holocene honeyguide the help of honey badger is required for catch of food, waxeater manages this problem itself. Having found bee colony, waxeater does not call anybody to the aid: with the help of beak the bird simply breaks open an entrance in tree-trunk hollow where the bee nest is placed. Of course, bees try to expel the uninvited visitor from the possession. But it is not so simple to make it – feathering of waxeater is very dense, and stings of insects simply do not reach skin. Only one weak spot remains – eyes of bird. But here the waxeater also has additional protection: above eyes big mobile “eyebrowes” of rigid bristle-like feathers of yellow color grow. When bird ravages bee nest, eyes are closed by these “eyebrowes” which fall downwards during attack, “curtaining off” eyes.
Ravaging colony of bees, waxeater eats only wax, almost not paying attention to honey and bee larvae. Having had eaten the share of combs, bird simply departs. I t is completely unprofitable to waxeater to ravage nest completely, therefore for day the bird attacks two – three bee nests, feeding at every one only a short time. This bird holds in memory the location of all bee nests at the territory, and regularly visits them. Because food resources are limited, waxeater is very much territorial and is not declined to communicating with congeners at all. Bird notifies competitors that the territory is occupied by loud calls. Cry of this bird resembles a hoarse croak. It may be heard at the distance of several kilometers.
Waxeater is not unique bird feeding at bee nests. The nest ravaged by bird is immediately attacked by various “easy money” lovers which, being unable to ravage bee colony, watch for waxeater. When this bird finishes meal, they eat rests not touched by this bird – some honey and larvae. Though it is uneasy to make – bees are annoyed and ready to attack any live creature which has casually appeared nearby.
Waxeater frequently applies other way of food getting. It watches the beekeeper parrot living in the neighbourhood: it is also specialized to feeding in bee nests. But parrot eats honey and bee larvae, leaving after the meal empty combs. Therefore waxeater frequently simply expects aside while beekeeper parrot licks honey from cells of comb. And the empty combs are the food of waxeater. Sometimes waxeater simply settles near to the nest of parrots, and constantly accompanies with these birds in search of food.
If it is not enough bee nests, waxeater is content with “substitute” – bird scrapes out vegetative wax from leaves of some palms and young sprouts of tropical trees. Features of digestive system of waxeater permit it to feed even with such food which is not eaten by other animals, except for insects: bird pecks drops of stiffening gum emitting on trunk of trees belonging to family Euphorbiaceae. This substance is poisonous for other animals.
Eating wax and others hardly digesting substances, waxeater can not bring up nestlings with the same food – other kinds of food rich in proteins are necessary for nestlings’ development. Therefore waxeaters lay eggs in nests of other feathered neighbours. While there is no hatching bird at the nest, waxeater lays in its nest one egg, sometimes throwing out one of eggs of the host bird. Eggs of waxeaters are very small in comparison with the size of body, and more similar to eggs of smaller warblers. Nestling hatches naked and blind. It kills nestlings of host bird, and receives all food alone. In another's nests nestlings of waxeater are brung up with insects. Gradually nestling outgrows adoptive parents, and even squeezes nest. Then it simply changes to branch, and adoptive parents feed it, perching to its back. Nestling of waxeater becomes fully fledged rather quickly: already at week age. It quickly grows, and gradually it becomes more difficult to adoptive parents to warm the переростка stepchild.
Young waxeaters sharply differ in color of feathering from adult birds. Feathering of young bird is brown with separate light feathers; wings are spotty, similar to lichens by colouring. Young waxeaters are silent and cautious. After the mew waxeater gets characteristic bright colouring of adult bird.
The close species living in savannas of Africa is savanna waxeater (Ceraphaga savannophila). It differs in sand color of feathering, grey wings, and larger sizes (it is raven-sized one). This bird spends a lot of time on the ground, digs nests of ground bees and bees settling in trunk hollows of baobabs. Savanna waxeater is not too specialized in diet: bird willingly eats larvae of bees.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Cadaverornis, corpse bird (Cadaverornis indicans)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: Honeyguides (Indicatoridae)

Habitat: tropical forests and woodlands of the Central Africa, Zinj Land.
In Neocene woodpeckers order has reached the great evolutionary successes. Among woodpeckers, the central group of order, the species occupying various (and sometimes unexpected) ecological niches had evolved. But also “younger brothers” of woodpeckers, representatives of other families of order, have continued the evolutional development. For example, representatives of honeyguides family (Indicatoridae), known in human epoch because of their unusual diet and way of food getting, had continued the evolution in different ways. One of them, waxeater, has deepened food specialization of its ancestors. Other species, named cadaverornis, had cardinally changed the diet.
This bird eats mainly carrion. But the small size and weak beak do not permit it to open bodies of dead animals independently. Therefore, having found a corpse of large animal, it tries to draw attention of any omnivorous animal to it, acting the same way, as Holocene honeyguide found a bee nest. When the “partner” of cadaverornis tears carrion, bird receives a part of food. When the sated animal leaves carcass, cadaverornis is fed still on carrion for any time, eating not only meat, but also pecking larvae of insects. In addition to carrion this bird searches for hollows with eggs and nestlings, holes with mammalian cubs and clutches of reptiles in ground. It also draws attention to them of the animals, capable to reach this source of food, having broken a hollow or having dug the ground. In such cases cadaverornis usually also receives a share of prey. But this bird can also get food independently: it quite often catches and eats large beetles, small lizards and frogs.
Not only observation and the advanced intelligence permit cadaverornis to find successfully carrion and other easy for getting sources of food in rich forests and woodlands, but also other feature, much rarer for birds. The matter is that at this bird sense of smell is well advanced. This feature, peculiar to honeyguides, had been developed even deeper at their descendant. However cadaverornis has lost some features characteristic for homeyguides. For example, thick skin protecting from bee stings and symbiotic microflora of the stomach, assisting to digest wax, are not necessary for bird never ravaging bee nests.
Cadaverornis has not striking greyish-green coloring. Only primarily and tail feathers have black color with green shine, and underside of wings appreciable in flight is white. Contrast colouring of these sites of plumage helps this bird to draw attention of “partner” in search of food. Beak, resembling crow’s one a little, is black, and legs are grey. “Face” of bird lacks feathering – it is an adaptation to feeding on carrion which has independently appeared at unrelated species of birds eating carrion; parts of featherless skin on head have light grey color. In size and body shape cadaverornis resembles song thrush: the total body length of this bird reaches 25 cm at wingspan of up to 35 cm. The voice of cadaverornis sounds like loud dry crash or murmur.
Cadaverornis, as well as its ancestors, is brood parasite. But the unusual way of life has left an effect on its breeding features: in order to avoid casual cannibalism, cadaverornis never lays eggs in nests of birds nesting in hollows. Usually nestlings of cadaverornis are brought up by the birds arranging open nests. More often the foundling kills host nestlings.

This species of birds was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Tortoise woodpecker (Testudopicus rubrocephalus)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: Predatory woodpeckers (Carnopicidae), a subfamily of true predatory woodpeckers (Loricoflangerinae), “armor crushers”.

Habitat: coast of former Mediterranean sea – Asia Minor, Balkan, Appenines, Pyrenees, Atlas mountains.

Picture by Amplion

One more species of the carnivorous woodpeckers had appeared on Earth in Neocene. It is one of large species of woodpeckers: the bird is crow-sized. It has rather short rounded tail and strong four-toed legs. The bird is not able to walk, similarly to all woodpeckers, and moves on the ground by jumps. The tortoise woodpecker has spotty colouring: on grey background there are chestnut spots, head is entirely ruby-red (at females it is dimmer, than at males). The beak at birds of both sexes has almost white color.
But not so much colouring, as food predilections of this species had determined the name of bird.
Usually tortoise woodpecker eats various insects. But it does not hollow trees in searches of forage, and simply pecks from the ground beetles, large grasshoppers and other big insects. But meeting the tortoise or large snail bird applies completely another way of food getting. It presses snails by paw against the ground and, having broken their shells by one or two exact beak impacts, swallows meat, having shaken from it splinters of shell. Attacking tortoises, it perches on their carapace and orderly pecks it. The usual tactics of tortoises against such attack (to hide in armor and to wait) does not rescue them. Even tortoises belonging to species closing head and paws by parts of carapace, cannot feel like protected from this bird. Eventually, the woodpecker punches carapace, kills the reptile, and regales itself with its meat. The attacked turtle has three ways of rescue: to creep near to animals which may frighten off a woodpecker from its back, to creep in dense prickly bush, or to dive into water. Reservoirs in savanna meet not so frequently, but it is the best way to protect from this bird. Usually, if the tortoise creeps through bushes, the woodpecker watches it, and attacks in a right moment. Some water turtles having long neck, can bite a woodpecker, having contrived – but such way of protection is effective only against young and inexperienced birds.
Tortoise woodpeckers are monodins, but pairs at them are formed only for the nesting period. These birds nest in tree-trunk hollows hollowing them out, or in cracks of rocks (in hilly terrain or in desert). The tortoise woodpecker is relatively strong, and can break skull of sheep-sized animal; therefore predatory animals avoid attacking this bird. If the predator tries to ravage nest, woodpeckers at first warns it by cries (the voice of this species sounds as lingering “dry” creaking warble), and then attacks it, striking impacts in its head and nose. Woodpeckers sometimes can be predators, attacking rodents and small birds. They stun and kill catch by strong impacts in head by beak. However, more often these woodpeckers do not attack mammal and birds, preferring to them sluggish tortoises and snails which cannot protect themselves actively. Usually these birds attack small animals during nesting and at shortage of the basic forage.
In clutch of tortoise woodpeckers there is up to four white eggs. The posterity hatches after three weeks of incubating.
There is close species of woodpeckers: crab woodpecker (Testudopicus cancriphagus). Its ecology appreciably differs from those at tortoise woodpecker. This species lives in mangrove thickets. Its area is in separation from an area of tortoise woodpecker: it includes southern and southeast coast of Eurasia – the Jakarta Coast and coast of Bay of Bengal.
This bird is similar to tortoise woodpecker in size, but strongly differs from it in colouring. The crab woodpecker has monotonous ash-blue color of stomach and neck, and its wings of sand color. Head at this species is also red, but beaks at the male and females differ in coloring: at males beak is white, and at females black. This species eat beetles and snails numerous in mangrove woods therefore this bird it is not so aggressive and territorial like its desert congener. This species is not interested in tortoises at all: in mangrove thickets turtles live in water, and because of it are absolutely inaccessible to this woodpecker. But the bird actively hunts crabs – from small, coin-sized ones, up to huge mangrove robbers. By strong beak the crab woodpecker punches their armors and pecks meat. But only largest and skilled birds hunt huge crabs because, as against phlegmatic turtles being a food to tortoise woodpeckers, the crab can catch and eat the inexperienced hunter itself.
Crab woodpeckers are monodins, forming pairs to all life, but reunite only during nesting. Outside of nesting season birds feed at different edges of the common territory, occasionally exchanging by cries.
Nesting of crab woodpecker occurs twice per one year. Nests are located in tree-trunk hollows; birds hollow them out themselves, or expand available ones. By nesting features this bird resembles tortoise woodpecker.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the participant of forum.

Egg woodpecker (Ovipicus oviraptor)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: Predatory woodpeckers (Carnopicidae), subfamily of egg woodpeckers (Ovipicinae)

Habitat: Northern Africa, the Central Asia, not numerous populations exist in Arabia. Everywhere this bird inhabits open landscapes with small sites of wood.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

It is one of smallest species of family - a sparrow-sized bird. The egg woodpecker is colored yellowish-white colors with dense brown cross ripple. On wings there are dark edges of feathers forming scaly pattern. On head of this bird the mobile pointed red crest grows.
The food behavior of egg woodpecker combines primitive features characteristic for usual woodpeckers with features of extreme specialization to other, than at other species of family, diet. Usually this bird eats various insects, getting them from under bark as any other woodpecker. But it feeds so only half-year. Other half-year, in nesting season of other birds, it eats their eggs.
It simply steals eggs of smaller birds from nests, breaking them by beak and drinking out the contents. But it also can ravage even clutches of large birds, up to huge giraffe ostrich, the largest feathered creature of ever living on Earth. In this case it acts other way: while nest owners have left, the bird perches on thick-walled egg, and, having caught by claws and supported by tail, starts to hollow it by beak, as if it is the wood bark. Some times not one, but some birds can peck a large egg together. When the egg-shell is broken open, birds start to drink its contents, using long tongues. If in egg the embryo is developed, and the egg-shell is broken, these small woodpeckers can peck the embryo.
In Africa egg woodpeckers peck thus eggs of gallinaceous birds and giraffe ostriches, in Arabia – garudas (local bird descended from gallinule), in Asia – ostrich rails. In Africa the egg woodpecker has competitor – egg-eating drillsnake, the specialized representative of reptiles. But their food predilections are crossed in minimal degree: the woodpecker can eat eggs of wood birds, but the eggs of turtles buried in sand are inaccessible to it. Therefore special rigid competition between bird and reptile is absent. The special loss to slowly breeding large birds from these woodpeckers is not present - in each clutch only 1 - 2 eggs are eaten, and sometimes feathered robbers pass nest of these birds by if the family is amicable and can provide constant protection of nest.
The egg woodpecker nests in tree-trunk hollows, not changing “traditions” of ancestors. These birds are monodins, forming pairs till one nesting season. The female hatches out eggs and nestlings, and the male searches for food at this time. Life cycle of these birds is interesting: eggs and nestlings appear when at small passerines in eggs embryos start to develop. It is connected by that it is difficultly to carry to the nest liquid contents of eggs for feeding of nestlings. Therefore the female and nestlings of this woodpecker feed with meat of embryos of birds: male pecks eggs of other birds, orderly ravaging near nests one by one. This woodpecker has excellent memory, and it can remember an arrangement up to three tens nests of various birds placed in its territory.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the participant of forum.

Bamboo woodpecker (Dendrocopus bambusophilus)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: True woodpeckers (Picidae).

Habitat: bamboo woods of China, South-Eastern Asia and the Coast Jakarta.
Alongside with “atypical” woodpeckers of Africa, Southern Asia and Caribbean islands in Neocene there is a plenty of “typical” woodpeckers of quite recognizable appearance belonging to family of true woodpeckers existed in human epoch, and even to genera, known to people. It indicates that woodpeckers have occupied a convenient ecological niche from which nobody could press them essentially till past millions years. Evolution of “true” woodpeckers proceeded in Neocene, and some species of these birds have developed interesting adaptations to their inhabitancy.
For mountain areas of East and South-Eastern Asia bamboo woods widespread in hillsides to tens kilometers are characteristic. Here there is a little of large animals, but various small creatures prosper. And among them there are woodpeckers of particular species too.
The bamboo woodpecker is a medium-sized bird (starling-sized or a little bit larger). Its addition is typical for woodpeckers: at it there are strong chisel-like beak, pointed tail of rigid feathers, and tenacious four-toed legs. This species has cryptic colouring: the general background is grayish-green, and on back and wings there are brown longitudinal hyphens and strokes. On the head of this woodpecker there is a “cap” of brick-red color characteristic for representatives of family; at the male it is larger, than at the female. At the male there is also bright red feathers under tail using for demonstration in courtship games. Due to colouring the woodpecker masks well from predators of various kinds, and in wood it is possible to hear its voice - loud nasal “kee-kee-kee!” more often, rather than to notice a bird.
By features of behavior the bamboo woodpecker is similar to other representatives of genus Dendrocopus. The bird eats insects, extracting them, pecking stalks of bamboo. As against to other woodpeckers which can hollow firm wood, this species searches for insects mainly in poorly lignified growing trunks of bamboo where they live more often. Also the bamboo woodpecker searches for food on the ground.
“Housing problem” is not critical for this species of birds: in bamboo wood practically any lignified trunk represents a convenient place for life. The bird only makes the hollow at the necessary height, and settles in cored internode. Usually the male is engaged in construction of hollow. It possesses a leading role in courtship games. The male ready to nesting, having arranged a bamboo-trunk hollow, starts to invite females for nesting, “drumming” on well resounding trunk of bamboo. When the female ready to nesting, flies to the site of the male, he arranges “vertical races”: male tries to sit on trunk of bamboo above the female, and shows to her red feathers under tail.
Pair is formed to one season of nesting, and breaks up after nestlings become independent. In clutch of these woodpeckers there are 2 - 3 eggs, nestlings are fed by both parents.
These birds are settled, and seldom leave rendered habitable territory. Unique large “trouble” for bamboo woodpeckers is the mass flowering of bamboo after which this graminoid dies off. In this case number of species is reduced tens times, and usually birds lived in territory where some species of bamboo grow survive: they have an opportunity to move to other species of bamboo.
To the north, on Japan Islands, Sakhalin and Big Kurils where bamboo is presented by small species, the close in behavior species live: fennel tree, or homeless woodpecker (Dendrocopus anethophyllumobius). It also is approximately a starling-sized bird colored greenish. By features of colouring this species is similar to the large spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus major), known in historical epoch. But where at the large spotted woodpecker black color was in feathering, at fennel tree woodpecker these areas are dark green, and white color is replaced by light green. Brightly colored feathers under tail and “cap” at fennel tree woodpecker are kept, but have got more light orange color. Similarly to the majority of woodpecker species, the male has larger “cap”, than the female.
This bird inhabits thickets of fennel tree (Anethophyllum bambusoides), widespread on Pacific coast of the Far East. Fennel tree woodpecker makes hollows in stalks of this huge grass and rears posterity here. Each woodpecker preserves the territory against contenders. Frequently the bird flies up on the highest stalk of plant, and notifies neighbours on the claims on territory by loud creaking cries. This interesting bird eats insects pecking them out from stalks of fennel tree just like other woodpeckers take insects from under tree bark. The most desired catch for this woodpecker is a nest of fennel tree leaf beetle (Anethophyla nanopicus). This beetle arranges in hollow internodes of fennel tree “kindergartens”, and the woodpecker destroys at once whole hatch of this beetle. Quite often fennel tree woodpecker catches insects on the ground, and sometimes hunts tiny clambering frogs living in leaf axils of fennel tree.
The nesting period at these birds begins at the end of April - the beginning of May. At this time the male chooses dry last year's stalks of fennel tree, and “drums” on them, involving the female. In clutch there are up to five round eggs with white shell. Nestlings are feeding by both parents. Development of posterity at this woodpecker occurs quickly, and for one year birds have time to bring up two hatches.
When annual stalks of fennel tree die off (autumn - winter), the woodpecker becomes “homeless”, justifying its second name. Then woodpeckers leave familiar spots and migrate to woody areas of islands. They spend end of autumn, winter and the beginning of spring in deciduous and coniferous woods living similarly to “normal” woodpeckers. But at the end of spring when fennel tree grows anew and stalks get stronger, homeless woodpeckers come back to native places, anew hollowing out hollows in stalks of fennel tree.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the participant of forum.

Coconut woodpecker (Cocopicus marinus)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: True woodpeckers (Picidae).

Habitat: coast of Indian ocean, from Southern Africa up to Jakarta Coast, through Zinj Land, Arabia, India, Indochina; groves of coconut palms. This species does not meet on Madagascar, in Australia and at the islands of Indian Ocean.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

It is rather large representative of woodpeckers, the daw-sized bird. The present species is the descendant of one of the African woodpecker species. The bird has a constitution typical for woodpeckers. The basic colouring is grayish-sandy with set of specks and strokes (tips of feathers on chest and belly are dark). Wings of this bird are monotonous ash-grey. Similarly to many other woodpeckers, this bird has red head contrasting with the general soft colouring of feathering.
Voice of bird is sharp nasal cry. Males also “drum” on trunks of trees, involving the female in courtship season. Coconut woodpeckers are settled birds, and also do not make distant migrations. Besides these birds do not depart far to the sea therefore they do not inhabit islands far from coast.
This woodpecker lives in groves of coconut palms at coast of Indian Ocean. It eats insects pulling them out from under bark of coconut palms, sometimes gathers any edible trifle at coast after storm, or hollows trunks of trees cast ashore, searching for crustaceans and molluscs settling in them. Main and the most interesting feature of this bird is the way of its nesting. The matter is that it rears nestlings in … coconuts. Preparation for nesting begins from the flight of male and the female to palm groves. They find the nut most attractive in their opinion. They choose have not ripened yet and have not become covered by fibers coconuts. Male and female hollow out an aperture in shell of nut, drink “coco milk”, and scrape and throw out thin layer of pulp of the coco, yet not harden and looking at this moment like jelly-looking substance. Sometimes they act even easier: simply keep near to the chosen tree, protecting it. At this time in pulp of coco larvae of insects settle and completely eat the rests of pulp from within a nut. Woodpeckers occasionally check this coco, at the same time eating a part of insects. When it becomes dry in coco hanging at this time on tree, birds start laying and incubating of eggs. Eggs are hatched by the female, and the male protects nest territory and brings food in nest. Almost all pairs have time to hatch nestlings and to leave such “starling house” before it will fall from a palm. But at some “losers” the nest falls from a top of palm earlier, than the hatch leaves it. If the palm is not so high, and nut falls in soft sand, nestlings can survive. In that case woodpeckers will continue to feed them up, but already on the ground. In this case, to tell the truth, a significant amount of young birds perishes, becoming catch of snakes or lizards.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the participant of forum.

Pine pygmy woodpecker (Pinipicus ruber)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: True woodpeckers (Picidae)

Habitat: coniferous woods of the north and temperate zone of Eurasia, from Eastern Siberia up to Scotland.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

During an ice age the glacier some kilometers thick, as if a plough, has ploughed the ground of Northern hemisphere, and is literally wiped off coniferous woods of Northern Eurasia on which life of numerous species of animals directly depend. Because of it Holocene crossbills (Loxia), known to humans, were compelled to leave the most part of former area. At this time the area of their inhabiting appeared broken off, both their number and variety were reduced. Nevertheless crossbills have survived up to Neocene, but now they live in other places, rather than 25 million years before in historical epoch.
In Northern Eurasia missed crossbills had been replaced by pine pygmy woodpeckers – small birds a little bit larger than the sparrow. By appearance they are more similar to any tropical exotic species, rather than to birds from cold areas of Eurasia. These birds almost are entirely colored bright red color which has appeared in their feathering because of carotenoids, containing in seeds of coniferous trees which they eat. It is interesting, that in precisely same way red colouring has appeared at completely other birds – the flamingoes; but they receive carotene from crustaceans. The female of pine pygmy woodpecker is colored duller than the male – it has orange color of feathering, only on stomach passing to reddish-brown. Wings and tail are black at birds of both sexes. Also around of eyes at males “glasses” of black feathers develop. On head of birds of both sexes there is a mobile crest, by color the same, as colouring of feathering on body of bird. Beak is rather long, but weak: pygmy woodpeckers can not hollow wood.
Bright colouring of pine pygmy woodpeckers is warning one: the bird, certainly, is not poisonous, but its meat has unpleasant bitter taste and resinous smell, especially in winter. It is directly connected to diet of pine pygmy woodpecker: it eats seeds of coniferous trees. Pygmy woodpeckers take seeds from under scales, showing elements of acrobatic: the bird perches on pine cone from below, and pushes beak under scales. In forage getting it is helped by exclusive flexibility of neck. Less often pygmy woodpecker simply pecks out seeds from pine cones similarly to other woodpeckers. At lack of forage pygmy woodpecker becomes less legible in meal: it starts to eat berries and seeds of deciduous trees, and at an opportunity pecks carcasses of frozen animals. Especially frequently pine pygmy woodpeckers do it in spring when stocks of habitual forage are exhausted. In summer when the staying seeds of coniferous trees ripen and are carried by wind, pygmy woodpeckers eat mainly insects.
Outside of nesting season these birds live in flocks numbering up to 200-300 birds in every one. At this time pine pygmy woodpeckers are the nomades late in places where it is a lot of cones. They rear nestlings in season when there are more seeds of coniferous trees – in winter, similarly to crossbills. To the moment of nesting flock splits up to separate pairs. Pine pygmy woodpeckers do not hollow tree-trunk hollows – for this purpose at them beak is too weak. These birds prefer to settle in natural cracks in trees, or in free tree-trunk hollows which in the winter anyway stay empty.
In connection with nesting in the winter nestlings of pine pygmy woodpecker already at the moment of hatching from eggs have rich grey down. Having dried under the female, nestlings can not be afraid of cold, therefore pygmy woodpeckers can settle in areas with sharply continental climate. In hatch usually there are 3 - 5 nestlings. Parents rear them by seeds of coniferous trees, and add insects to their diet. These birds frequently dig out ant hills by beak, gathering slept ants, and also sound by beak cracks in tree bark, gathering insects hibernating there.
Approximately in two months after hatching, in second half of winter, young birds leave nest, and separate bird families gather to big flocks.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the participant of forum.

Gospodar woodpecker (Regiopicus gospodar)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Habitat: humid forests of southeast coast of Fourseas and Balkan.

Picture by Amplion

Warming of climate in Neocene had caused the formation of productive ecosystems in places populated earlier with people and strongly changed by their economical activity. It had turned so at the territory of Southeast Europe, on coast of Fourseas – large continental reservoir with brackish water. At Balkan and along southern and western coasts of this reservoir extensive humid subtropical forests had grown up. Stability and efficiency of ecosystems promoted occurrence of large species of animals.
In warm and humid forests of Balkan and Carpathian Mountains very large woodpecker lives, being the original analogue of extinct in historical time large ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) from forests of North America. This bird, named gospodar woodpecker, is the descendant of one of widely widespread woodpeckers of Eurasia, greater-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). The length of adult bird including tail makes about 70 cm (hence its name – “gospodar”, the supreme governor at some folks lived in historical time in Balkan region and near Black Sea).
This bird is not too multicolor, but is colored contrastly. Sides of head at this woodpecker are white; beak, forehead, top of head and nape are black, back and back part of neck are also black. Covert feathers are black with white tips which form striped pattern on folded up wings. Tail is formed of lengthened rigid black feathers. As opposed to them forward part of neck and breast are white. Red stomach at birds of both genders is a bright spot in strict black-and-white colouring of bird. On head of male there is bright red cop of feathers; at the female cop is brown-red.
Smaller species of woodpeckers are mainly insectivorous birds, but gospodar woodpecker shows appreciable predatory bents. This bird eats not only large wood-boring insects (grubs of capricorn beetles), but also ravages nests of small birds and eats small mammals settling in tree-trunk hollows. Frequently bats become its prey. This bird swallows small animals entirely and kills larger ones by impact of beak and pecks, having hooked in fork of branches. In winter this bird also eats seeds of various trees – chestnuts, oaks and horse chestnut. Gospodar woodpecker almost never goes down on the ground, and spends entire life in forest canopy and on trunks of trees.
Gospodar woodpecker is exacting enough relatively to habitats – this bird settles only in old wood where there are high trees, suitable hollows for hollow arranging, and old trees bored by insects.
This species of birds settles in pairs keeping to all further life. The pair of birds makes for nesting a deep hollow – its depth is up to one and a half meters, with width of entrance about 20 cm. At the bottom the hollow extends to rounded nest chamber about 40 – 50 cm width. Gospodar woodpecker is strictly territorial one – each pair of birds in common protects the extensive territory (more than 10 square kilometers) from relatives. Birds notify congeners about the rights to territory by loud sharp cry, especially in the morning. Both birds of pair cry in common and continuously during 15 – 20 minutes.
The pair of birds starts to peck hollow for nesting at the end of winter. In same time birds begin to cry long and loudly in the morning, warning congeners that the territory is occupied. Construction of nest takes about two weeks in total. Nesting begins in early spring, right after hollow making. During courtship games birds chase each other, cry loudly and display bright cops to each other.
Nesting at gospodar woodpecker takes place only once a year, and in years poor in food birds can not nest at all. In clutch at this species it may be 2 – 3 eggs; they are hatched only by the female. Male feeds her and protects territory alone. The female leaves the nest only for a short while. The hatching lasts about 25 days. Nestlings come into the world naked and blind. They are brought up by both parents during two months. For this time young birds fledge and leave a hollow. Later parents feed them till about two weeks, and then start to show aggression to their own posterity. Young birds settle at edges of territory of adult birds and in young forests. They start breeding at the age of three years. Life expectancy of this woodpecker reaches 30 years.
The pair of these woodpeckers seldom settles in the same hollow longer than 2 years. On a twist of fate after woodpeckers their hollow is more often occupied by bats which frequently are prey of these birds. Occasionally woodpeckers visit old hollows at their territory, attack bats settling in them and eat their young growth which can not escape from them.

Termite woodpecker (Neogeocolaptes termitophilus)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: True woodpeckers (Picidae)

Habitat: the south of Africa, Cape province.
In Neocene woodpeckers had developed ecological niches new to this group of birds. Among them predatory birds eating small animals had evolved. Largest woodpeckers of Neocene are scavengers in savannas of Africa. At Great Antigua island flightless woodpecker species lives, and some more kinds live in mangrove thickets and feed in reef zone near to the coast. However, such changes in habit of life represent a rarity among woodpeckers. The majority of species living at the continents have kept adherence to former way of life and diet consisting of insects.
One more species of woodpeckers had partly broken with habit of life typical for these birds lives in savannas of South Africa – it is termite woodpecker. It is the descendant of ground woodpecker (Geocolaptes olivaceus) lived on the Earth in human epoch. It had moved from mountain areas, where its ancestor lived, to plains, and due to expansion of semideserts and savannas territory in ice age had it easily survived in biological crisis epoch.
The descendant of ground woodpecker has kept many features of the ancestor, but this bird hollows not trees, but termitaries with the help of strong beak. Termite woodpecker easily breaks firm walls of termitary, and licks off insects by long tongue. Termites are very common in savanna, and termite woodpeckers are usual birds of plain areas. These birds are very cautious, and their loud cry is heared far in savanna. Therefore termite woodpeckers render very important service to herbivores, warning them about approaching of predators. Besides the pair of birds of this species cries in the morning for a long time, designating claims to the territory.
Termite woodpecker has very imperceptible brownish-grey colouring. On wings and back there are numerous dark spots, and on waist feathers having metal shine and bright red coloring grow. When this bird flies up, these feathers are well visible, and serve as an alarm signal for many animals. Male and female have some distinctions in colouring - at male’s head from ear up to ear across the nape a cross strip of white color stretches. The plumage of termite woodpecker is rigid, and it protects the bird from stings of insects.
This bird species nests in original way – it hollows out nesting chambers right in termitary. During the hollow construction birds eat, seizing termites creeping out for protection of the colony. Gradually they expand hollow and form the nesting chamber in it. Damages, caused by woodpeckers, are so great, that termites simply close up entrances in destroyed galleries, and woodpeckers need only to level a surface of nest walls. The tunnel leading to nest chamber is abruptly bent at the surface and is directed downwards to one meter deep. Such nest appears strong and unapproachable, and any predator trying to destroy it will be attacked by hundreds of termite soldiers. It is interesting, that the pair of birds does not feed in termitary where their nest is arranged, and actively protects it from congeners.
For one year, during the rain season, these birds may rear up two hatches. Female lays up to three eggs and hatches them within 18 days. Fledglings leave nest at the age of 35 days, and parents feed them within several days after it.

Wasp-eating woodpecker (Vespicus auratus)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Habitat: South America, rainforests.
Rainforests of South America represent the habitat of numerous species of insects – from herbivorous up to predatory ones. Representatives of hymenopters order, solitary and social species of wasps, are very diverse in canopy of South American forests. Some species of these insects became very dangerous inhabitants of forest – for example, such one is predatory corsair hornet (Toxivespula flammeocarbunculus) which is capable to attack any animal living in the neighbourhood. However in nature there are various species of birds, adapted to eat stinging insects and to ravage their colonies. Such birds live in Africa – they are beekeeper parrot (Melipsitta melivora) and waxeater (Cerophaga spp.). In Europe crested wasp burglar (Pappopernis fur-vespinus) is their ecological analogue. In South America stinging insects become prey of a special kind of woodpeckers – wasp-eating woodpecker.
This species of birds is adapted to feeding on insects well protected from enemies – ants and wasps. Due to the adaptation to such diet it almost lacks competitors in tropical forest.
The shape of wasp-eating woodpecker is typical for representatives of its family. It is a small bird – its length does not exceed 20 cm including tail. This bird does not have cop, only feathers on the top of male’s head are lengthened a little. Wasp-eating woodpecker is very beautiful – it has straw-coloured body feathering, white “face” with black specks at the basis of beak, and bright red “cap”. For protection against insects feathering of this woodpecker is very dense, and tips of feathers around of eyes are bristly.
The couple of birds occupies the vast site of forest where there is enough of colonies of social insects on which wasp-eating woodpeckers are feeding. Birds designate rights to the territory with the help of loud calls well heard from apart.
Attacking on insects, this woodpecker uses an element of surprise. Bird feeding lasts not for long, but at this time the bird works very quickly. For some seconds woodpecker punches an aperture in cover of wasp nest by strong impacts of beak and pulls out their larvae from honeycomb cells by long tongue. If bees or wasps construct open honeycombs, bird hangs on them with the help of tenacious paws and quickly pulls out the largest larvae. By tip of tongue woodpecker defines larvae by their movements and consequently pupae of insects lying in closed cells remain without its attention. Ant colonies in forest canopy, as a rule, exist inside hollow stalks or petioles of myrmecophilous plants forming the chambers right for this purpose. Also ants settle in wood, gnawing burrows through it, or using already existing ones. Woodpecker gets ants the same way, as any other insects, obviously preferring their larvae and pupae. Wasp-eating woodpecker has very proof immunity to poisons of insects – bird can easily endure a doze of poison enough to kill a mammal weighting up to 50 kg.
The couple of birds nests in a hollow which they make in tree trunk. In clutch there are up to 4 eggs hatched mainly by the female. During one year birds have time to make two clutches. Young birds are similar to adults, but “cap” on their head is not red, but black. Young birds start to nest at the age of about 8 – 9 months.

Plant louse shrewbird (Aphidiornis aphidiphagus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family Shrewbirds (Aphidiornitidae)

Habitat: tropical woods of South America, forest canopy at height about 30 meters above the ground level and higher.

Picture by Arseny Zolotnikov

The tropical wood occupied by set of species of live creatures, represents the favorable environment for evolution. Here, in conditions of rigid competition and variety of ecological niches the occurrence of highly specialized species is more probable.
In South-American selva many specialized varieties of passerine birds had appeared; mainly they are the representatives of so-called calling passerines (not concerning to warblers). And the tiniest representative of this group, plant louse shrewbird, by the size makes a competition to smallest species of hummingbirds. But, as against the hummingbirds eating mainly nectar, this bird eats exclusively small invertebrates, representing the kind of “flying shrew” in crones of tropical wood. This bird never flies down to the ground, keeping in crones of trees.
The body of plant louse shrewbird is covered with rust-colored feathers; wings are motley black with brilliant blue tips of feathers forming mesh pattern. Wings are narrow and pointed. Flight of shrewbird is similar to flight of insects: the bird makes up to 30 waves by wings per one second, uttering a silent buzzing in flight. On the back between wings there is an area of bright orange feathers, needing for recognition of neighbours.
The head seems large in relation to a body. At females it is of the same colors as the body, at the male there is small “cap” of brilliant grayish feathers. The beak is straight and long (being twice longer than other head, it is almost equal to the body length); it serves as “tweezers” for gathering tiniest insects and spiders - the food of this bird.
It is very territorial bird protecting fodder sites from neighbours. Food of plant louse shrewbirds includes tiny soft-bodied insects, mainly plant louses and termites. Each bird occupies territory on which there are some branches with colonies of plant louses, and each day visits them by turns, feeding on each colony. Sometimes this bird follows large insectivorous animals, and feeds in insect colonies ravaged by them. Then near one animal some shrewbirds may gather, but they prefer to keep distance to each other, and observe strict sequence at feeding.
Metabolism of this bird is very intensive: for day the bird eats three times more various small animals, than it weighs itself. Some other attributes of bird are connected to features of physiology. So, the shrewbird falls into catalepsy for night. At this time the bird perches to thinnest branches that it could not be got to clambering on predators, seizes branch by claws, and simply hangs upside down till morning. Breath and palpitation of sleeping bird are strongly slowed down, and at this time the body of bird is cooled up to an ambient temperature.
The basic enemies of this species are small snakes, large climbing amphibians and small mammals. Protecting itself from them, plant louse shrewbird utters the sound of very high frequency passing to ultra sounds. It strongly irritates sensitive hearing of predatory animals. If it does not frighten off predators, the bird protects, striking impacts by beak in eyes and nostrils of predator.
Plant louse shrewbird lives its life some times faster, than large birds live. It can nest up to five times per year. Nest of this species of birds represents an accurate basket on branches which both parents plait of vegetative fibers and spider webs. In clutch there are 4 - 5 eggs, but up to nest leaving only 2 - 3 fledglings survive. Development is very fast: the incubating lasts about one week, nestlings develop in nest two weeks, and the young bird becomes sexual matured at the age of 3 months, and general life expectancy is only about 2 years.

This species is discovered by Arseny Zolotnikov.

Turquoise panapana (Panapana azurea)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Cotingas (Cotingidae)

Habitat: South America, evergreen Atlantic forests.
The extinction of the humans had been followed by restoring of habitats destroyed in human epoch. When natural conditions stabilized, new species of plants and animals emerged. One of these species was the Turquoise panapana, a descendant of one representative of the genus Cotinga, the common bird genus of South American forests in human epoch. Some cotingas had been able to live in heavily destroyed forests, and their descendants are rather common in Neocene.
Living in the forests of the Atlantic coast of South America, the turquoise panapana is a small bird 15 cm long, and it is a type representative of its genus. Even being a small bird, the bright colors of the males make them easily visible. They eat small insects and fruits, being commonly seen regurgitating seeds. So they are among the important distributors of small seeds of some tropical trees. They rarely descend to the ground, preferring to search for food in the forest canopy.
Males have black feathers in the rump, and their breasts are dark blue. But what makes them flashier is the bright turquoise color present in their tail, head and in the primaries and secondaries. The females are greenish-gray: this color allows them to camouflage while incubating the eggs. Both sexes have black short beaks and legs.
During the breeding season, the males form leks of 10-12 individuals to perform the courtship. The courtship starts with the male vocalizing to attract females to them. When the needed number of females gathers, they begin to make short flapping flights with wings and tails widely opened. Making series of short and fast wing flaps, they hover in air like butterflies. These movements also cause the wind to pass through the modified feathers present on its tail and wings, producing sounds similar to a “whistling”. The male that performs the “butterfly flight” for longer time is the winner.
Their characteristics of forming leks and “butterfly flight” gave them the name “panapana”, which in the Tupi language means “cloud of butterflies” or “swarm of butterflies”. During the courtship flight males are vunerable to attacks of predatory birds and bats, so they listen for alarm calls of females and interrupt their flight immediately. Each male pairs with some females during the courtship performance.
After the courtship the female makes a small shallow cup-like nest made of twigs in tree fork and lays two white eggs. The incubation lasts for 18 days and the care for the young is undertaken by the female alone. Hatchlings are fed by the female with semi-digested fruit pulp and insects until they have 3 weeks. After that time they are fed with solid food and are able to swallow entire berries and small fruits like adult birds eat.
The youngs fledge being 4 weeks old and keep with the female for 2 weeks. At this age young males and females look similar to each other; the only difference is that the males have shades of blue in their breasts. They reach the sexual maturity at the age of 8 months – at this age young males acquire the coloration of adult birds.
Their lifespan is about 7 years.
Genus Panapana includes some more species differing from each other mainly in colors of male feathering and features of bird voices. Females of different species look very similar to each other.
Violet panapana (Panapana violacea) is closely related to previous species and shares a common ancestry. This species is 14 cm long and males have bright violet feathers in tail and head, the same color is present in their primaries and secondaries. Other parts of their bodies are of dark gray color. They live in the coastal rainforests of northern part of South America, from the Atlantic coast to the Caribbean Sea coast. Part of their range along the Atlantic coast overlaps part of the range of turquoise panapana; in this area hybridization may occur and birds of intermediate color appear sometimes. Violet panapanas form leks of 7-9 individuals.
Golden panapana (Panapana aurea) has the most contrast coloration compared to related species: male of this species has bright yellow feathers in tail and head, the same color is present in their primaries and secondaries, and also in covert feathers. Body feathers and legs are coal-black. Usual length is about 11 cm. These birds live in the northern part of Amazon basin and prefer wetland forests. They form leks of 12-15 individuals.
Scarlet panapana (Panapana punicea) differs in almost strict frugivory, its beak is short and deep, and mouth cut is larger than at related forms. Adult male of this species is 11 cm long and has bright red feathers in the tail and head. Tips of its primaries and secondaries are also of the same color, and lower parts of these feathers are black, like the color of the body. Some coverts of male’s wings are bright red on black background. They inhabit the southern part of Amazon basin. Males form leks of 10-12 individuals.
Emerald panapana (Panapana viridis) has a range isolated from other species of the genus: it lives in the montane woods near the Andes. Being 10 cm long, male of this species have bright green feathers in the tail and head, and also in wings. Body color is chocolate-brown, and iris of the eye is white. They have less dense populations compared to lowland species and form leks only of 4-7 individuals. This species is also more insectivorous compared to lowland forms, and has longer and thinner beak.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Crab-cleaning rattlebird (Carcinornis crepitaculum)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Nuthatches (Sittidae)

Habitat: South-Eastern Asia, Jakarta Coast, Sunda Land and nearby islands.

Picture by Simon
Background by Alexander Smyslov

During the process of evolution representatives of group of passerine birds had occupied set of ecological niches. Among them it is possible to find omnivorous and herbivorous birds, quick hunters for insects and after mass extinction on the boundary of epochs even predators. Some of these birds have concluded mutually advantageous “union” with plants, becoming their pollinators. And in tropics of South-Eastern Asia one of birds became the constant satellite of animals, clearing them from parasites. Its presence can be found out from afar by characteristic voice – abrupt bitter cries. This small bird (length of body is only 6 – 7 cm including long beak) assiduously gathers flies and mites from local animal – turtles and large crabs “mangrove robbers” (Archocancer mangrophilus). For these features the bird is named crab-cleaning rattlebird.
At it there are short wide trunk, rounded wings, big head and sharp beak. The tail of this bird is also short – it is hardly seen from under wings. But paws of crab-cleaning rattlebird are very tenacious with hooked claws.
The bird is colored from above light green; bottom of body is pale yellow. Beak and legs are black, and from corner of beak through an eye the narrow black strip passes, ending near the ear aperture. At males this strip is wider than at females.
The crab-cleaning rattlebird differs by mobility and characteristic fussy movements. Having perched on the body of crab or turtle, it does not stop even for a second. The bird moves on the body of “patient” by characteristic short jumps, examining plicas of skin or joints of shell, and taking from them catch – parasitic two-winged flies and their larvae. Sometimes the bird simply traps them sitting on the body of “patient” and catches them by sharp throw. Sometimes, when giant “mangrove robber” crabs bear posterity, this bird can harm to them, pecking part of young crabs.
Crab-cleaning rattlebirds nest in pairs in tree-trunk hollows. Sometimes they close up edges of tree-trunk hollow with clay in characteristic for nuthatches manner, reserving only small entrance aperture. In clutch there are 5 – 6 eggs; both parents hatch it. The incubating lasts about 10 days. Nestlings hatch naked and blind, but develop quickly. At the age of one month they already leave nest. For one year these birds can rear 3 – 4 hatches.

This species was discovered by Arseny Zolotnikov.

Stovemaker nuthatch (Sitta furnaria)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Nuthatches (Sittidae)

Habitat: humid forests at the southeastern coast of Fourseas and in Balkan.

Picture by Simon

For European nuthatch (Sitta europaea), widely settled in human epoch in forests of Europe, the special form of nesting behaviour was characteristic. These birds nested in hollows and covered their entrance apertures with dirt and clay, leaving the small aperture permitting to owners of nest to penetrate inside hardly. One of Neocene descendants of European nuthatcher has deepened this interesting feature of ancestor. It is named stovemaker nuthatch.
The shape of this bird is typical for the majority of nuthatches. But nevertheless stovemaker nuthatches surpass the ancestors in size in great degree and are among the largest representatives of family in Neocene. Birds of this species reach the size of great spotted woodpecker: the length of their body reaches 25 cm, and weight is about 100 grammes. Plumage of stovemaker nuthatches is rather bright. The top of their body is colored dark grey (at separate individuals it is even black), belly and breast are ochre-red, and “face” is white. Beak is bright red; paws are colored black. The sexual dimorphism in colouring of these birds is almost not expressed.
Stovemaker nuthatches eat mainly insects and spiders, finding them on tree trunks. The large size gives them an opportunity to eat also small vertebrates. Vegetative food – mainly fruits, nuts and acorns – has also an essential role in a diet of these birds. In searches of food stovemaker nuthatch dexterously moves on branches and trunks of trees. In “acrobatic abilities” this species does not concede to ancestor and is capable to creep on trunks turning head downwards equally dexterously. These birds go down to the ground reluctantly, but sometimes also search for food there.
Stovemaker nuthatches utter a plenty of sounds, basically whistles and short snuffling calls. In the beginning of nesting season male utters especially loud cries, calling the female.
The most interesting feature of this species is its nesting behaviour. At nest building stovemaker nuthatches behave similarly to the majority of hornbills (Bucerotidae) of human epochs: male immures the female in hollow for the time of egg incubation and nestlings feeding, leaving only tiny aperture. Through it male feeds the female and nestlings, bringing them food in beak. Such tactics provides protection against the majority of predators (except for snakes and large local woodpeckers).
Though stovemaker nuthatches are capable to make a hollow of the necessary size in soft or rotten wood independently, they use more often natural hollows or ones made by woodpeckers, quite often expelling former owners therefrom. The bottom of hollow is covered with a layer of litter of thin slices of bark and dry leaves. Male immures the female, using dirt and clay for this purpose. The female is “convicted” within approximately 1.5 months – at this time nestlings hatch from eggs, fledge and become independent. Usually it may be up to 5 – 7 nestlings in hatch; their number is less, than at an ancestor of this species, Eurasian nuthatch. It is connected to higher survival rate of posterity. Besides male simply can not feed the greater number of nestlings. At the bottom of nest a plenty of larvae of various insects constantly lives; they eat waste products of birds’ vital activity – dung, shed feathers and the rests of food. Usually in nest of these nuthatches flies settle, but occasionally beetles live. Usually grubs pass metamorphosises already after the hatch leaves nest.
Stovemaker nuthatches are monogamous birds, and after nestlings rearing breeding couples do not break up. Beyond the nesting period birds live at the site of forest which is protected from the relatives breaking its borders. These birds live up to 15 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Hawaiian hookbill (Curvirostrornis heliciphagus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Starlings (Sturnidae)

Habitat: Hawaiian Islands – Big Island rainforests.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

The fauna of Hawaiian Islands has substantially suffered because of human influence. To Neocene any species of the birds existing there before human colonization of islands, or their descendants had not remained in Hawaii. Descendants of species introduced by people, or later settlers had appeared at these islands after disappearance of people compose mainly new fauna of Hawaiian Islands. Numerous descendants of birds of various families - finches, weaverbirds, and other ones – had appeared so at islands. The part of new settlers had not died out after disappearance of people, and their descendants evolved also have occupied various ecological niches at Hawaiian islands.
In conditions of competition strict specialization appears the favorable strategy of evolution. The descendant of myna (Acridotheres tristis) introduced to Hawaii, the Hawaiian hookbill, is one of such “narrow specialists”. This large finch-sized warbler with curve long beak and wide short tail eats extremely ground snails plentifully inhabiting woods of islands. It lives mainly in wet woods and marshlands where more snails live.
The feathering of this bird is colored rather brightly in comparison with dusky feathering of its ancestor. At the Hawaiian hookbill there is dark brown back with light border on feathers, forming pattern similar to wood bark one. Primary feathers of wings and steering feathers of tail are black. But the bottom part of body is colored brightly: chest is bright red, and stomach is yellow. At males in feathering there is more red color, than at females. At birds of both sexes the area around of eyes is featherless and covered with white skin. And on corners of beak there are skin lobes of pinkish color. At displaying male they become bright red and increased in size because of blood inflow.
The beak of Hawaiian hookbill is long and bent, maxilla is longer than mandible, and its tip slightly deviates to the left side. It is just connected to food specialization of this species: bird eats snails, pulling them out from shells. This bird tears off small snails from leaves and drags them to favorite branch serving as “butchery”. Here this bird presses caught snail by paw against bark, and by dexterous movement of beak tears its body from shell. Under “butcheries” of hookbills a plenty of shells of had eaten molluscs is gathering.
When the bird attacks large snail, the mollusc usually presses edges of shell to substratum, and feels like in relative safety. But the hookbill by prick of beak under edge of shell forces mollusc to come unstuck from substratum and to involve to the shell even more deeply. After that bird simply overturns shell, and right on the spot pecks out body of mollusc.
Hookbills are solitary and territorial birds protecting the nesting site against neighbours. Only in nesting season they keep in pairs and in common bring up nestlings. These birds nest two times per one year, arranging nests in tree-trunk hollows. In courtship season the male occupies a tree-trunk hollow, and starts to sing, involving the female. Hookbills differ in abilities of imitator and improvisator: as a rule, the male imitates voices of birds living in the neighbourhood for courtship songs, adding to them the characteristic “buzzing” note. Usual voice of these birds is lingering buzzing warbles. In clutch there are 3 - 4 rather large eggs with white shell. The female hatches mainly, and the male feeds her.
The incubating lasts about two weeks, and next month the young growth stays in tree-trunk hollow. When feathers complete growth at young birds, they abandon nest and about one month migrate with parents. Gradually male starts to show aggression to them, and young growth and female leave together his territory. Having had a rest and having fed up, male starts to prepare for new nesting season.
Young birds in juvenile feathering do not have red color, and skin on naked parts of head is grey instead of white. They become able to nest at the age of 12 – 15 months.

Bristle-headed starling (Setocephalornis aculeatus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Spike-headed starlings (Echinosturnidae)

Habitat: Southern Asia, from the north of Hindustan up to Indochina; woods and light forests at plains and in foothills.

Picture by FanboyPhilosopher

Passerine birds order is the youngest and most actively evolving group of birds. After mass extinction at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene this group had kept the greater variety, rather than other groups of birds that had permitted to various passerines to occupy new ecological niches, successfully competing with relic predatory birds and even with small fine petrels. When tropical woods were restored at the huge areas of continents and islands, it had caused active speciation at small passerines. These birds, being earlier rather similar in anatomic features, had formed some original groups remarkable in special anatomy.
One family of small warblers descending from any tropical starlings had developed the amazing protective adaptation protecting from small feathered and four-footed predators. The feathering on head of these birds had changed, having turned to the kind of weapon: shafts of feathers as if had “sprouted” through the vane, forming sharp spikes on tips of feathers. Because of it the present group of birds had been named “spike-headed starlings”. By the general shape they are small passerine birds living in tropics and subtropics of Asia. One species had crossed the passage between Asia and Zinj Land and had formed the particular species of the separate genus at this subcontinent. But the majority of species lives mainly in Asia.
Bristle-headed starling is one of primitive species of the family, settled very widely. It is a bird about 20 cm long including short wide tail. Its feathers on head still keep advanced vanes, and tips of feather shafts form only small bristles serving mainly for displaying tournaments between males. Stings of such bristles, possibly, may drive off from nest only predators having sensitive soft skin (like wood amphibians or small mammals).
The head of bristle-headed starling has contrast dichromatic colouring: tips of feathers are black and other vane is white. Such colouring may be discerned well and may be remembered even by predators not having color sight. Chest of bristle-headed starling is red with metal shine. Nape of bird, back part of neck and back are black. On neck there is black “collar” – the strip of black feathers having iridescent shine. The tail is also black, but on tips of feathers there are white spots. Wings are dark blue with bluish metal shade, pointed at the ends. Flight of this bird is fast, prompt and maneuverable. Bristle-headed starling lives at tops of trees, very seldom flying down on the ground.
Beak of bristle-headed starling is straight, strong, thick and short (its length is less than half of bird’s head), black. Eyes of bird are edged by site of naked reddish skin – at males skin is brighter, than at females. An iris of the eye is white.
Bristle-headed starlings eat fruits of various tree species, pecking through the fruit skin. They swallow small berries entirely. The vegetative food is supplemented with insects and small snails – this starling crushes them by beak and eats entirely with shell splinters.
These birds nest up to three times per year in hollows of trees, occupying abandoned nests of woodpeckers and parrots. Pair at this species is formed only for one nesting season. Male finds suitable tree-trunk hollow and drives competitors off from it, using strong beak as the weapon. For same purpose sharp prickly feathers on head serve to it. When near the nest two competing males meet, they arrange improvised duel: having fluffed feathers on head, they show to each other contrastly colored feathers with pointed tips. Usually weaker male recedes during the demonstration of head feathering. But when contenders are equal in force and nobody wants to recede, the real struggle begins. Having bent head forward, birds try to prick each other with tips of feathers in throat or chest. Such battle receptions are safe for fighting birds: feathers bend easily, and their tips are too weak to pierce skin of bird and to put any serious wound.
If competitors or predators are not present nearby, the male of bristle-headed starling actively warbles, involving the female to the nest. As well as other starlings, it imitates songs of other species of birds, adding to them some specific warbles. When any female starts to show interest to male and its nest, male shows to her prickly feathering of head, not interrupting warbling. At these moments male, having fluffed feathers on head, alternates poses of domination and humility. Showing the force, he extends on legs vertically and fluffs feathers on head. Showing to the female readiness to accept her as an equal partner, male squats, having pressed feathers to head and having bent forward.
In family of these birds the male dominates: he is larger than female and is colored brighter then she is. Pair is formed only for one breeding season, and breaks up, when young birds become independent. Birds do not equip the tree-trunk hollow specially: they only rake up and throw out from it the dust. Female lays 4 – 5 eggs with white shell right on bottom of tree-trunk hollow in dust. Both partners hatch eggs, but the male gives more time to protection of territory and search of food for the female and hatch.
Nestlings hatch in 2 weeks. They are naked and blind, only on wings at them germs of feathers appear. By the tenth day of life they become covered by down and at them primary feathers of wings start to develop. Approximately at monthly age young birds leave nest. They have dusky juvenile colouring – brown with “marble” pattern similar to wood bark. Feathers on their heads still soft: they will be replaced with adult bristle-like ones after the first mew. Then the dusky juvenile feathering will give up the place to bright one characteristic for adult birds. It will take place approximately at seven-mouth age – then young birds become able to nesting.
More specialized species of spike-headed starlings live in woods of Southern and South-Eastern Asia: their prickly feathers became more similar to true spikes; they are strong and frequently may be gathered to mobile prickly crests. Birds armed in similar way, do not use needles in fights with congeners, but safely attack small predators, striking to them impacts by head.
Hedgehog bird, or spiny spike-headed starling (Echinocephalornis spinosus) is found in south of Hindustan, Sri Lanka. Sometimes it makes flights between islands and is found even at nearest islands of Indian ocean.
On the head of this bird sharp needle-shaped feathers grow in regular intervals among usual feathers. They are rather short and also are appreciable only when bird lifts them specially. On the forehead of the hedgehog bird there is a site of bright red feathers. When bird is angry, feathers on forehead rise, increasing the visible area of spot. It is a mark of threat, which is showing by this species to smaller predators. Threatening the enemy, bird starts to bounce head. If this demonstration has not conceived action, bird attacks the aggressor, rushing to it and striking it by head. The same receptions of intimidation are used by males during courtship tournaments. But fights of males are strongly ritualistic and also are more similar to demonstration: birds do not touch to each other and show prickly feathering of head at a range. To courtship season forehead feathers of males grow to high crest.
Feathering on chest of these birds is green with pinkish metal shine; wings at males are black with steel shine, at females brown with white cross strips on primary feathers.
Porcupine bird, or long-needled spike-headed starling (Spinocephalornis hystricoides) is larger than previous species: its size is about 30 cm including tail. This species lives in damp woods of South-Eastern Asia, at the Jakarta Coast and nearby islands, frequently developing mangrove thickets. Porcupine bird is armed better, than other congeners: along the middle part of head the crest of long cross-striped brownish-white needle feathers grows. The length of needles growing on the forehead exceeds length of head of this bird. The crest of needles is very mobile - the bird any way can lift and lower it depending on mood. Sides of head are colored brightly: along the basis of crest of needles red strip passes, and from eye up to nape in parallel it there is white one. The angry bird lifts crest and turns head from side to side, showing it to aggressor and observing for its reaction. Feathers on each side of head fluff up, increasing the area of brightly colored sites. Thus the porcupine bird utters loud unpleasant cry.
Being well armed birds, porcupine birds behave very cautiously, sorting out their relations, and their courtship duels are extremely ritualistic. Males, sorting out their relations, limit only to demonstration of ornaments and bright feathers on each side of head. Defensive tactic of long-needled spike-headed starling is so successful, that it has two successful imitators: bird of flycatchers family and parrot.
Shading bright strips along the crest, the bottom part of head of the porcupine bird is dark brown. Beak at this species is white; an iris of the eye is white too (because of it the eye is less visible on the background of head feathering). On the top part of body of the porcupine bird there is brown “scaly” pattern on lighter brown background; on neck there is dark cross strip and stomach is white.
Tail of this bird is dark, long and narrow. On tips of several pairs of quill feathers in middle of tail there are dark blue shining oculate spots. At males such spots are present on all feathers, and at females they sometimes can be absent. It is a unique attribute of sexual dimorphism at long-needled spike-headed starling.
The biology of this species is similar to other hedgehog starlings, but long-needled spike-headed starling nests less often – no more than twice a year. As against “fighting call”, the warble of the porcupine bird male differs in complexity and melody: it includes imitations of songs of other birds.
In hatch at this species it may be no more than four nestlings, but the survival rate of them is very high. Needle-shaped feathers start to grow at them right after the leaving of nest, and for some days they reach about half of length of needles of adult bird. After the second mew the bird gets colouring, characteristic for adult individuals, and its needles reach the normal size.

Double-crested spike-headed starling (Spinolophornis dicristatus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Spike-headed starlings (Echinosturnidae)

Habitat: Zinj Land, tropical woods at east coast and in central part of subcontinent.
This species of birds lives in separation from other species of family, characteristic mainly for Asia. Its close relative is, most likely, long-needled spike-headed starling, or the porcupine bird, able to make flights through sea passages (most likely, at them there was common ancestor). But the biology of these species differs considerably.
Double-crested spike-headed starling concerns to large species of family – it is a small crow-sized bird. Similarly to all representatives of family, this species has feathers modified to needles on head, but they grow very originally. In middle part of head the bright red longitudinal strip of usual feathers stretches, on each side of which strong and pointed needle-shaped feathers form two parallel crests. At the angry bird crests rise upwards and in sides, making red strip more appreciable. Warning an aggressor about the protecting, double-crested spike-headed starling bends head forward, showing bright feathers. This demonstration is accompanied by lingering unpleasant cries of bird similar to gnashing.
Colouring of feathering of double-crested spike-headed starling is very motley and bright: back is dark green with metal shine, chest is violet, and stomach is creamy-white. Tail and wings are brown with dark tips of feathers. Sides of head of this bird are black; on this background light blue iris of eyes and white needle-shaped feathers with black tips are good visible. Beak is white, thick and slightly deflexed.
This species of starlings is more carnivorous, rather than its Asian congeners: it eats vegetative food extremely seldom, preferring insects and small vertebrates. Occasionally it ravages nests of medium-sized birds, eating eggs and nestlings. This bird kills small catch by sharp impacts against branch. Also the double-crested spike-headed starling is aggressive to neighbours, and can repulse even to large birds (for example, to crestbills – local birds closely related to corvine birds). Protecting itself from predators, it strikes lateral impacts by head, trying to strike the enemy by spikes.
Similarly to distant ancestors, starlings, this species nests in tree-trunk hollows. But the good tree-trunk hollow in wood happens more often occupied. However it is not problem for present species of birds: due to aggression the double-crested spike-headed starling easily finds to itself suitable place for nesting, expelling from tree-trunk hollow of ones lived in it earlier. It easily attacks cat-sized animals, and prevails over them due to aggression and sharp needles on head. Even parrots armed with powerful beak recede before an impact of this bird. These birds feel like in wood so confidently, that the male may begin courtship display even near to inhabited tree-trunk hollow while its inhabitants are not expelled. When pair is formed, birds in common attack owners of tree-trunk hollow and grasp to themselves a convenient residence.
Displaying male warbles for a long time near the chosen tree-trunk hollow, occasionally driving away other birds which quite naturally try to attack it, sometimes even by whole flock.
In clutch of these birds there are no more than four eggs. They are hatched only by the female, she also cares of nestlings the first time. Male during the hatching protects territory and gathers forage for the female and nestlings. At the age of six weeks nestlings leave nest and about one week live with parents. Their juvenile feathering is dim: on green feathers of back there is no shine, and head, chest and stomach are brown. Needle-shaped feathers on head at young birds are short and black. Young birds are nonaggressive and very reserved; they eat mainly insects. At the age of about nine months under influence of hormones at maturing birds the juvenile feathering is replaced by adult one. They become bright and cocky, start to hunt small vertebrates, to attack other birds and to ravage their nests. And one-year-old birds start to nest.

False spike-headed bird (Pseudornitohystrix inaculeatus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Flycatchers (Muscicarpidae)

Habitat: south of Indochina, tropical woods.
Occurrence of species of live creatures, able to protect themselves from enemies actively, results to the occurrence of some more or less successful imitators at them. So butterflies imitate wasps, flies look like bees, and spiders imitate ants. In Neocene such tactics of protection had received continuation: the bird of flycatchers family found in woods of South-Eastern Asia, which dexterously simulates the porcupine bird (Spinocephalornis hystricoides), one of species of spike-headed starlings family living in the same place.
False spike-headed bird is smaller than the porcupine bird: this creature is about 25 cm long (porcupine bird is up to 30 cm long), but at a passing such distinction is almost imperceptible. Being disturbed, this bird imitates movements and aggressive demonstration of long-needled spike-headed starling, uttering loud chirring cry and shaking head from side to side. But at closely examening the basic difference becomes visible: instead of spikes on its head only thin feathers forming crest stick up. Bravery of this bird is supported with nothing: at the best it can peck the aggressor, but no more that. Such similarity of the imitator and model represents an example of well-known in nature Bates’s mimicry.
Except for absence of needles on head, false spike-headed bird differs from the prototype in details of colouring. On its head there is wider red strip getting on eyes (practically all top part of head, except for crest, is red), and the white strip stretches from corners of mouth up to nape. As against the porcupine bird at false spike-headed bird throat is black. Black colouring also gets on throat and top part of chest; stomach is grayish-white. Back and wings are covered with motley pattern, looking approximately like to scaly colouring of the porcupine bird: on each feather there are some cross light stripes on dark brown background.
Tail of false spike-headed bird is black, long and narrow. Two middle feathers are little bit longer than other ones, and their tips are colored white. At males of this bird tips of tail feathers are expanded – they are used in courtship demonstrations.
Birds of this species have habit to sit on branches, having raised tail at an angle to the back. And the disturbed bird starts to throb tail that is not characteristic for the porcupine bird.
By the way of feeding false spike-headed bird strongly differs from spike-headed starlings. Similarly to all flycatchers, it is insectivorous bird. Its beak is pointed, rather thin and straight, and the mouth cut is very wide: it reaches almost the level of back edge of eye. This bird eats insects and traps them, motionlessly waiting on branch. The basic catch of false spike-headed bird is made by large bugs, butterflies and flies which are caught in flight by short exact throws. But frequently even well armed wasps and bees may occur on its “dinner table”. False spike-headed bird is not afraid of their stings: it seizes such insects across the abdomen, presses to branch by toes and pecks, throwing out sting with poisonous glands.
As all its congeners, false spike-headed bird nests in tree-trunk hollows. Pairs at this species form to one nesting season and break up, when nestlings mature and become able to eat independently. Male finds suitable tree-trunk hollow and sings near it, involving females. Attempts to form a pair at males have chosen well disguised tree-trunk hollow are most successful.
In clutch there are from 4 up to 6 eggs; female hatches mainly, and male feeds her, only occasionally replacing the female in nest. Till the posterity rearing its duty is protection of nesting site from competitors, and also protection of nest against predators. Till one year this species makes about 4 hatches.
Young birds had left nest approximately at monthly age, have monotonous dark brown colouring. They will get bright protective colouring only up to the third month of independent life, and before this event young false spike-headed birds are very vulnerable for every possible predators.

Forest ronin (Roninornis mortifer)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Tits and Chickadees (Paridae)

Habitat: subtropical forests of Japan and southern part of Big Kurils.
In Holocene some species of titmouses have got the advantage, becoming synanthropic birds. Were widely settled, these birds began development of new food sources. Extinction of many species of predatory birds had caused occurrence of carnivorous species among various groups of passerine birds. Large carnivorous butcherbirds, characteristic for tropical and subtropical areas of Old World, had appeared so. Titmouses, despite of pretty appearance, also differed in predating bents in human epoch (this feature of behaviour was especially brightly shown at the keeping of these birds in captivity). In Neocene this tendency had proceeded and had to found the embodiment.
One species of titmouses developed predating bents lives in forests of Japan Islands. For aggressive character the bird has received the name “forest ronin” (ronin is the masterless wandering Samurai). It is one of the largest species in titmouses family: by size it is larger, rather than starling. Beak of forest ronin is of “universal” type – it is straight with pointed tip. At the bird predating bents are strongly expressed – it attacks various small vertebrate animals – rodents, lizards and birds, and kills them by strong impact of beak in head. Forest ronin also eats large insects and snails, and birds living near the rivers, catch small crabs creeping on land. This bird pecks catch, keeping it by paw. Forest ronin eats large catch on the ground, and carries away small prey in beak to the tree, fixes it in forked branches, and then pecks.
Forest ronin prospers in forests of Japan, and successfully competes with small corvine birds due to features of behaviour. It is clever, courageous and curious bird, able to procure various kinds of food. Forest ronin notices, where other birds may nest, and willingly ravages their nests.
Appearance of forest ronin shows that this bird is typical forest inhabitant. At it there are short wings with rounded tips, wide long tail and prompt maneuverable flight. Forest ronin is able to turn sharply in air and quickly flies even among dense branches. In branches and on the ground this bird moves by jumps.
Colouring of body of this bird is cryptic: top of body is grey with brown spots. Back of bird is white, and stomach is emerald-green. The head of forest ronin sharply differs in color from the body: it is black, and on nape there is a site of red color feathers. This feature of colouring has the important value in life of bird: it is the pacifying signal, which is vital for coexistence of aggressive birds. Demonstration of such spot is the sign of submission, and it quickly suppresses aggressive behaviour of the congener. Bird submitting to the winner rises on legs, inclines the body forward, lowers head and shows this spot. Usually young birds are colored dimmer, rather than adults. But forest ronin represents one of few exceptions. At young birds colouring is much brighter, than at adults – the red spot is larger; it makes up to about third of all surface of head.
As a rule, carnivores are territorial species, and forest ronin is not exception here. The male of this species occupies rather large site of forest – two males do not live closer, than for hundred meters from each other. In courtship season male loudly and sonorously sings, notifying on claims for territory. Its song sounds monotonously, and represents a series of whistles, ending by long rolling warble.
The male maintains two females at the site and simultaneously looks after two hatches, feeding up nestlings. In relation to other males it behaves very aggressively, actively expelling them from the territory. Usually in the beginning of the territorial conflict competitor males loudly sing in a pointed manner, perching in field of view of each other. This way they estimate forces of each other, observing for the opponent. Usually “duel of singers” is enough for the newcomer male to leave from another's territory. If it does not happen, severe fight follows. During the fight males seize each other’s feathers by beak and paws, and also beat the contender by wings. If the duel is especially severe, males may even fall from branch to the ground and continue fighting in grass. At this moment they are so keen on fight, that permit to come to themselves very close. In courtship season one of them or even both ones easily may fall prey to various ground predators.
If the female flies to the site protecting by male, the male tries to stop her at his territory. Courting for the female, male pursues her, flies forward, bends head down, showing the absence of aggression. At this time red spot on his nape is especially appreciable. If the female does not fly out, the male continues its demonstrations. In courtship displaying the male perches on tree in front of the female, inclines the body forward strongly, and demonstrates itself to her. Thus he stretches wings and quivers by them. White feathering on its back becomes well seen, and male fluffs it to exaggerate itself visually. As the result there is spectacularly looking combination of spots of three colors – white back, red spot on nape and black forward part of bird’s head.
The nest of forest ronin is arranged in tree-trunk hollow. The female lays 3 – 5 eggs on litter of wood dust. Usually it feeds nestlings by its own, but male helps her, delivering to nestlings about third of forage eaten by them. Nestlings leave nest at the age of six weeks. The female finishes feeding them till about one week, and then young birds become independent. For one year forest ronin can rear up to two hatches.
Young birds become able to breeding at the age of 8 – 9 months. Life expectancy of this bird makes about 6 – 7 years. More often males live much less, than females – high intraspecific aggression of this bird expresses so. The same circumstance constrains the number of population, regulating the density of settlement of these birds.

Peregrine swallow (Areniriparia peregrina)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Swallows (Hirundinidae)

Habitat: Northern and North-Eastern Europe, riverbanks.
Some species of swallows were among the birds got a considerable benefit due to human activity. They settled in human buildings and human-modified landscapes. One of these species had been sand martin (Riparia riparia) settled in riverine habitats. Having kept rather numerous population and wide range, this species survived in human epoch and in early Neocene it became an ancestor of some new genera and species of Northern hemisphere. One of them is peregrine swallow endemic to the European riverbanks. Because of their long migration to winter in the marshes of Southern Asia, they are named peregrine swallows.
These are numerous migrating birds, very common in river walleys. They are small, with general body length of 13 cm, but their outer tail feathers 5 cm long make them look bigger. Wings of these fast and dexterous flyers are narrow and elongated. Overall appearance of peregrine swallows is typical for their family. The chest of the peregrine swallow is white, other parts of the body are blue-glossed black; bill is short, wide and black, and the legs are brown. Their legs are short but strong enough to dig the sand where they make their nests.
These birds feed on small insects they catch in air. Also they eat young spiders settling on spiderweb threads by air. Being a social species, they form flocks that may number thousands of individuals.
Both sexes have forked tails with long outer tail feathers (similar to that of the wire-tailed swallow (Hirundo smithii) of human era); in the males these long feathers are racquet-shaped, having rounded lobes of feather vanes at tips. Males use these feathers in the courtship flight: the movements they perform during the flight cause wind to shake these feathers, and the female will fly next to the male she chose. Their breeding season starts in the end of spring.
Nesting takes place in colonies which may number from a dozen to hundred pairs; their nests are excavated by breeding couples of birds in steep sand banks near rivers and lakes. Despite of tiny size, birds dig long nesting holes – sometimes the length of tunnel is about 100 cm, but usually it is about 50-60 cm. The real nest is a litter of straw and feathers in a chamber at the end of the burrow. Female lays four or five eggs and incubates the clutch for 14 days.
The hatchlings are fed with semi-digested insects, regurgitated by both parents. They fledge at the age of one month, having the same coloration, as their parents, but lack long outer tail feathers. Juveniles leave the nest at this age, but keep with the parents until the end of summer, when migration begins.
Sexual maturity is reached within 7 months, when they develop their characteristic outer tail feathers. Lifespan is about 8 years.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Red-headed bank swallow (Nigroriparia erythrocephala)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Swallows (Hirundinidae)

Habitat: riverbanks of northern part of North America, migrating in the winter to South America.
For first millions of years of post-human epoch the burst of active speciation among survived species had been characteristic. Human epoch was the time of drastic decrease of species diversity. And the stabilization of natural conditions promoted the increase of biological diversity leading to stability of ecosystems.
Some species of swallows survived in human epoch, and sand martin (Riparia riparia) among them. From it some new genera and species descended in Neocene. One of them is red-headed bank swallow from North America – numerous and common species of migrating passerines of the continent.
This is a small bird; its total length is only 12 cm. Its plumage is blue-glossed black, with the exception of the head, which is brownish-red outside the breeding season and bright red during the nesting season. Its bill and legs are black; this bird has forked tail characteristic for swallows. With their strong legs, these birds are capable of digging their nesting burrows in sandy soil of steep riverbanks.
Red-headed bank swallow is exclusively insectivorous bird, consuming mosquitoes, midges and other insects living in riverine habitats. Sometimes these brave birds attack even large horseflies, but try to tear off their unpalatable head and thorax in flight, swallowing only soft abdomen. They also catch plenty of casual prey when flying above forests during their migration.
Highly sociable, they migrate in groups of hundreds of individuals, sometimes uniting with other fast-flying birds like other species of swallows and swifts. This species spends winter in tropical areas of South America. During the migration these birds move along the river walleys to the shore of Gulf of Mexico. Then they fly along the coast of Central America and cross the Panama Strait. In wintering places they keep near river channels. The returning to nesting areas coincides with the metamorphosis of blood-sucking dipterans making the base of their ration.
They are also social in their nesting habits, with many pairs breeding close together, according to avaiable space. Sometimes it may be up to 20 burrows of these birds to one square meter of steep riverbank slope. After the wintering young birds return to parental colony, but can easily move to another colony or establish new one, having found a suitable place.
During the breeding season starting in late spring, male vocalizes while flying very high, and then descends rapidly in spirals. This behavior is repeated until a female joins it in the flight. Then, the couple digs a tunnel about half meter long in sand banks in rivers or lakes. The nest litter is made of straw and feather in a chamber in the end of the tunnel. The female lays two to four white eggs that are incubated by both parents for 14-15 days.
The hatchlings are fed with semi-digested insects, regurgitated by both parents. They fledge at the age of four weeks and leave the nest at this age. In juvenile feathering their body feathers are dark grey and their heads are brown. They become completely independent one week later and keep in partental colony until the migration to the south. Young birds returning from the wintering are sexually mature and have the coloration of adult birds. Their lifespan is about 7 years.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Morning honeybird (Melisugornis aurorae)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Hawaiian honeybirds (Melisugornitidae)

Habitat: Hawaii, rainforests.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Before the human colonization of Hawaiian Islands their fauna was represented mainly by birds and insects. Among the Hawaiian birds there was a separate family of Hawaiian honeycreepers (Drepanididae) which had a great importance for flora of islands. Various species of these birds had been connected by the symbiotic relations with plants of islands: many species of local trees had been pollinated by these birds, and often exclusively by them. Therefore extinction of Hawaiian honeycreepers led to the disappearance of a number of species of plants.
Flora of Hawaiian Islands of Neocene is represented by descendants of species introduced in the past, and isn’t successive in relation to primary flora existed here before people. But separate tendentions in nature tend to repeat, and in new Hawaiian flora also symbiotic relations of some species of plants with birds appeared. The place of the Hawaiian honeycreepers that had completely disappeared by Neocene, had been occupied by another family of birds descended from white-eyes (Zosterops) introduced to Hawaii. They showed such inclinations in type of feeding during human era, and in Neocene this feature developed to the condition of deep specialization.
Hawaiian honeybirds represent the clearly formed family of nectar-eating birds. They live in forests of various types – from mountain to lowland humid tropical ones. The only limiting factor for them is the permanent existence of blossoming plants.
For Hawaiian honeybirds rather small body size is characteristic: the largest species is starling-sized, and others are even smaller. All species have rather bright coloring including various shades of yellow and green colors, supplemented with metal shine and separate bright spots. One more characteristic feature of family is rings of naked white skin around eyes, the heritage from the ancestor.
Wings of all honeybirds are peaked, and tails are wide. At some species tail feathers have the elongated locks of feathers. Flight of these birds is fast and maneuverable. Honeybirds of larger species during the feeding perch on branches, and small species simply hover around the flower like hummingbird. Usually each species of honey birds is connected with a certain set of species of plants, feeding on them and at the same time making pollination.
Voices of all species of honeybirds represent more or less long ringing trill. Different species prefer to sing at different times of the day – it helps to avoid mistakes at recognition of congeners.
At all species of honeybirds the nest represents a small “basket” skillfully weaved of plant fibers and hanged on thinnest twigs. Such feature is connected with the appearing in forests of Hawaiian Islands of Neocene epoch of numerous mammals, descendants of the species introduced by people, which can ravage nests of birds. In clutch there are usually 4-5 eggs (at large species 3-4 ones) with dark egg shell. Incubation lasts about 10 days. Chicks develop quickly: in three weeks they grow, fledge and leave the nest. In a year the egg layings may repeat three times (at small species up to 4 times). Young birds are able to nest already at six-month-old age.
Morning honeybird lives in rainforests of lowlands of islands. It is a medium-sized species: it is sparrow-sized if not including a long beak. It is colored bright yellow, only on a back there is a site of extended feathers of green color. During courtship season males of this species display it to females, raising back feathers vertically. In addition over areas of featherless skin around eyes this species has “eyebrows” of black feathers, allowing recognizing the congeners visually.
Beak of this bird has white color and is rather long: it exceeds the head length. Birds feed on nectar of tubular flowers, including species of treelike datura. Usually they perch on branch of fodder plant, but if necessary they are able to suck nectar in flight. Also these birds eat small insects, pecking them from branches or out of flowers.
This species is named so because it sings earlier, rather than all other species: since the earliest morning to sunrise. Voice of these birds sounds like long buzzing trill alternated with separate ringing calls.
Other species of honey birds live in forests of Hawaiian islands:
Mountain honeybird (Melisugornis grevilleophila) is the largest, starling-sized species of this genus. This kind is feeding mainly on Grevillea (“silky-oak”) forming “silver forests” in mountains of islands. It is a solitary bird with greyish-green feathering which is remarkable in expressed metal shine. On waist of this species of birds there is bright orange-yellow spot imperceptible when bird folds wings. Beak is long (exceeding head length), crescent, adapted to feeding on plants. The present bird eats mainly nectar, occasionally seizing small invertebrates. This bird sings from sunrise, but for rather short time: in total for about two hours. Its voice is rattling calls.
In marshlands, in underbrush of rainforests butterfly honeybird (Melisugornis papilio) lives. It is very tiny bird: its total length is about 10 cm including beak. It is feeding on flowers of forest-dwelling grassy plants. It can be observed especially frequently in thickets of fragile balsam bush – grassy plant growing in shadow of large grasses and trees near to rivers. This species has dark green top of body, black primarily feathers and pale yellow belly. Voice of this bird sounds like shrill squeak.
Short-beaked, or spectacled honeybird (Melisugornis brevirostris) lives in rainforests. It differs from other species of this genus having short beak: no longer than half of head length. It takes place due to features of its diet – bird eats nectar of widely opened flowers: passionflowers and Asteraceae. This bird is larger a little than sparrow. It has rather short wings, and it prefers to move on fodder plants “on foot”, occasionally flying from one branch to another. This bird has grassy-green back and tail, wings of the same color with dark spots on bends, and primarily feathers with the expressed metal shine. The bottom part of body, breast and throat are bright yellow. White sites of skin around of its eyes are bordered by small black feathers, hence the second name of bird. This species sings late: from dawn till midday; song represents prolonged murmuring trill.

Translated by Alexander Smyslov.

Marine runner (Thalassocinclus arcticus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Water ouzels (Cinclidae)

Habitat: coast of Arctic Ocean and islands.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

In Holocene coasts of seas were a habitat of various birds, but among them there were no representatives of largest order of Passerine birds. After mass extinction at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene the bird's population of coasts had “thinned” a little: it is the result of “plankton accident” which was the consequence of change of ocean currents as a result of extensive congelation. When ice had receded, new ecosystems had started to form, and the chance to master new inhabitancy had appeared at warblers. In various places of Earth species of passerine birds adapted to inhabiting in sea evolved. In sea waters of Subantarctic yellow-headed divesparrow hunts for small fish and crustaceans, and at the other pole, at coast of Arctic Ocean, sea shallow waters are mastered by its distant relative, marine runner, also belonging to water ouzels family.
The marine runner is an thrush-sized bird, the descendant of water ouzels (Cinclus) living at sea coasts. This bird does not involve the special attention to itself, when it searches for food at sea coast. It is colored softly: the main color is chestnut, on chest there is lighter spot; beak and legs are black. Marine runner differs in short body, but it has long strong legs. Bird can run fast on the ground. Wings and tail of marine runner are short; bird flies quickly, but reluctantly. The disturbed bird of this species keeps tail up and even bent to back. And in this case marine runner becomes more appreciable: quill feathers on edges of tail at this bird are white. When disturbed bird has lifted tail, they are well visible on background of other dark feathering. It serves as an original alarm signal – birds observe of congeners and also start to behave more cautiously.
Marine runner eats small sea creatures – invertebrates, small fishes, their fry and larvae. At this bird there is short chisel-like beak, by which it can peck out armours and shells of invertebrates. But in general this bird hunts at all not like its Antarctic relative, yellow-headed divesparrow. Divesparrow swims in thickness of water, flapping wings as flippers, and marine runner runs at the bottom searching for food, clinging by claws for stones and shells of molluscs. Its hunting passes as follows: bird dives under water and searches for catch, running on bottom. Each such immersing lasts not longer than one minute: air pushes out marine runner from water, as a fuse, and bird spends some efforts to be kept at the bottom. Thus nostrils of marine runner are densely closed by skinny operculums. Almost like this hunting at water ouzels proceeded, but they lived in streams, and marine runner applies similar behavior in sea. Current helped water ouzels to keep under water – birds held wings so that current pressed them to bottom. Marine runner uses sea surf for same purpose: when wave surges up a coast, bird safely dives and hunts. During inflow or outflow marine runner stays under water even longer.
To remain lighter than water and keep feathering dry, this bird is compelled to spend a lot of time for feathers’ cleaning. Usually after successful hunting bird shakes itself for a long time and carefully greases feathers with secretions of coccygeal gland. Coccygeal gland of this bird is very much advanced: it is some times larger, than at ground birds of the same size. But even during the strongest rain this bird remains dry – it only stirres feathers up, dumping drops of water. Marine runner easily emerges (to bird it is enough to unclench claws for this purpose), and at once can fly up after emersion right from the surface of water.
Courtship displays of marine runners begin in spring, right after snow thawing. Male finds place convenient for nesting and protected from predators (usually among stones or in bush), and involves female with singing. Marine runners sing simply – their song differs in monotony and abundance of bitter sounds. Pairs form to one nesting season. If female liked place chosen by male for nesting, she shows to the male signs of submission: it “bows” with fanlikely opened tail. The sign of attachment at pair of birds is ritual of mutual clearing and greasing of feathering.
Nest looking like open bowl is made by both birds of pair of poor Arctic vegetation and rests of dried up seaweed. In clutch there are about five eggs with spotty brown shell. Female hatches clutch mainly, and male feeds her. After nestlings hatching female warms them while they will become covered with down. At this time male almost all the day is occupied with searches of food and strongly grows thin. When nestlings become covered by down and become steadier to cold, female also starts to feed them. The posterity leaves nest approximately at the fifth week of life. Young birds differ in brown one-colour feathering which changes to coloration characteristic for adult bird to an autumn.
The ocean may feed marine runner also in winter, but these birds do not withstand bad weather and storm, therefore for winter they migrate to the south. Basic ways of migrations of marine runner pass lengthways channels of large rivers, but birds from Scandinavia migrate along the Atlantic coast up to the Western Europe.

This species of birds is discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Parrot finch (Psittospiza pseudopsitta)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Finches (Fringillidae)

Habitat: Galapagos Islands, thickets of treelike cactuses.
Galapagos, or Darwin’s finches were birds on which example the phenomenon of adaptive radiation – origin of set of related specialized species from common unspecialized ancestor –had been considered for the first time. In human epoch these birds had not from each other too strongly differed. But gradually the world, in which Galapagos finches lived, began to change: people had introduced new species of animals, and after the ending of historical epoch new species of animals got to Galapagos Islands naturally. Gradually some lines of Galapagos finches had died out, superseded by new migrants from continent, and only few most specialized representatives had preserved in Neocene. One of these species is the parrot finch a little similar to small parrot externally. It is the single species of genus settled at all large islands of archipelago.
Parrot finch is a large-headed starling-sized bird, one of the largest Galapagos finches. At it there are rounded wings and wide tail, permitting to maneuver in rich thickets where it lives. Despite of much-promising name, parrot finch is colored softly: at it there are brownish wings with yellowish stripes and back, pale yellow stomach and white “cheeks”. On head of birds of both genders there is a crest which may rise slightly when the bird is excited. The crest is colored bright green, and bright spots of same color are under wings. They are especially appreciable when the bird is excited: annoyed or busy in courtship displays.
The beak of parrot finch strengthens its similarity to parrot: it is high and strong, with the bent tip, black-colored. But, as against to beaks of parrots, the beak of finch is compressed from sides on tip, forming cutting “edge”, and the top jaw is motionless relatively to skull.
One more difference of parrot finch from parrot consists in nesting behavior. When parrots nest mainly in tree-trunk hollows, parrot finch builds nest independently. In the beginning of rain season the male starts to build some spherical nests of twigs, and displays near to each one, gradually completing it. During courtship demonstrations male opens and raises wings, freezing on unfinished nest with twig in beak. Such demonstrations alternate with warbling similar to pipe sounds and active construction of nest.
This bird is monodin. When the female is interested in male and its nest, birds in common complete the nest which the female has liked, and other ones stay unfinished.
Because parrots could not get to Galapagos Islands, this bird had occupied their ecological niche: parrot finch eats firm seeds and fruits of various plants. This species can even eat prickly fruits of treelike prickly pears – most typical plants of islands. By sharp tip of beak finch cuts skin of fruit, and then accurately scrapes out friable pulp with seeds by bottom jaw. Small seeds of treelike cactus pass through its digestive path not digested, and are distributed with dung of bird.
For one rain season parrot finches have time to make two clutches of 4 – 5 eggs, and to bring up nestlings successfully. Young birds are colored softly: they do not have green spots under wings, and yellow color is replaced by grey. They get adult colouring only at the eighth month of life.

This species of birds had been discovered by Simon, the participant of forum.

Night vampire (Dinogeospiza strix)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Finches (Fringillidae)

Habitat: Galapagos Islands, woods.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

In conditions of rigid competition for fodder resources the most favourable strategy is narrow specialization and high fitness to the chosen source of forage. In this case food predilections of adjoining species do not coincide, and the competition between them is practically not present. It had taken place so at Galapagos Islands where after end of human epoch many new immigrant species had appeared. As the result some of ground finches, endemic for these islands, had died out, and others had become narrowly specialized species.
One of former ground finches had mastered very unusual food source, becoming true parasite. This bird eats blood of various animals inhabiting islands, but prefers to attack huge tortoises living in Neocene epoch at Galapagos Islands. For its food predilections it is named “night vampire”. However, this bird also eats parasitic insects and ticks living on tortoises. Probably, some millions years ago ancestors of this bird were fed with parasitic arthropods, and only later passed to feeding by blood of animals. It is interesting, that in Northern Africa the same way of feeding was mastered by bird of weaverbird family. That fact is even more remarkable, that one of subspecies of ground finches already in human epoch had attacked gannets nested at Galapagos Islands and had sucked their blood.
Appearance of this finch does not differ in any special frightening fig. Its feathering is colored black with bluish lustre on neck which at male is expressed stronger, than at female. Eyes of bird are rather large, dark, with transparent haw. They are sensitive to light: the bird can find animals on which it is fed, even at light of stars. And in the afternoon haw serves for protection of eyes against bright light. Long sharp beak of night vampire is colored white, and near its basis the skin is featherless – it permits to the bird to keep itself clean.
Wings of night vampire are rounded and rather short. Edges of primary feathers are covered with tiny barbs which guzzle noise of flaps and allow a bird to fly silently like owls.
Night vampire is small species of finches: this bird is less than sparrow by size. Probably, this circumstance rescues various inhabitants of islands from it: for night each bird sucks at other animals only about 20 grams of blood.
This bird leads extremely nocturnal way of life and in day time hides in secluded places – holes, tree-trunk hollows, cavities in trunks of fallen trees. At night this finch flies out from shelter and searches for fodder animals, using sharp sight and good hearing. Most frequently it attacks tortoises which are not so active at night, as at the afternoon. Less often these birds feed in colonies of sea birds spending the night at the coast. Going to feed, the bird flies up to sleeping animal, accurately sits on it or beside, and pecks skin of victim. Its saliva contains anticoagulant and proteins similar by action to snake poison – they lightly paralyze nerves; because of it animal at which this bird feeds, does not feel pain, and blood does not coagulates. All operation passes very cautiously: the bird waits, while its saliva will work on victim, and only some minutes later starts to peck wound and to suck blood.
In the afternoon night vampire sleeps in tree-trunk hollows and others shelters. Usually birds of this species feed individually, but gather to day spending in groups of some birds. Pair at this species is kept till all life: it helps birds to survive. It happens, that one of partners could not be sated for night. In this case other bird belches to it in beak a part of sucked blood. But such mutual assistance exists not only within the limits of one pair: if it is necessary, birds from different pairs feed each other. The bird eliciting forage, behaves similarly to nestling: it squats before the supporter bird, and trembles wings, having slightly opened mouth.
Male ready to nesting warbles in the morning and at sunset. Voice of this finch sounds like melodious warbles, interrupting by separate cries. This species nests in same shelters where it spends the day, but each pair builds separate nest. Formation of pairs and nesting can pass at any time of year, and for one year pair can rear up to three hatches. In clutch there are 2 – 3 eggs which are hatched alternately by male and female within two weeks. Nestlings hatch naked and blind; they start to fledge since the first week of life. At them black feathering grows at once, but it has no metal shine characteristic for adult birds. Female and male bring up nestlings at first with insects, and then with blood within three weeks, and then accustom young birds to independent feeding. Propensity to peck skin of animals at young birds is instinctive, but skill to suck blood cautiously is developed at each bird individually.

This species of birds had been discovered by Simon, the participant of forum.

Cuckoo finch (Cuculispiza parasitica)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Finches (Fringillidae)

Habitat: Galapagos islands, woods.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Supervision for Galapagos ground, or Darwin’s finches, realized by people, had revealed one interesting feature of courtship behavior of these birds: too frequently males of finches had displayed near the unfinished nests of congeners. Obviously, this feature of behavior had extended and also developed further in Neocene epoch, because in Neocene fauna of Galapagos Islands one species of finches becoming the nesting parasite of other smaller birds of islands had appeared. This characteristic feature of its behaviour had determined the name: cuckoo finch.
This sparrow-sized species differs in short wings and tenacious paws. Cuckoo finches live in woods, searching for food both on the ground, and in tree crones. They eat insects with firm covers, and also dry seeds of trees and grasses. In connection with such diet the beak of this species had kept characteristic “finch” type: it is conic, thick at the basis.
The majority of ground finches differ in dim feathering, but the present species is the exception among them. Besides at cuckoo finch the sharp sexual dimorphism is advanced. The male of this species is colored brightly and contrastly: it is entirely white with black eyes and beak; its primary feathers are black with white border, tail is black too. Female is brown with “agate” pattern of yellowish-green shades, varying at various individuals. The difference in colour at these birds is connected to their role in breeding. This species of finches is the polydin which is not forming constant families. The male in courtship season involves as much females as possible, for what it keeps openly and displays in the afternoon. The task of the female is right opposite: to be imperceptible and to lay egg in another's nest so to not give out its location to probable predators by its actions. Therefore females keep very cautiously, and even cry only in extreme cases.
The male of cuckoo finch displays near nests of other birds, usually near to unfinished ones, and even near to abandoned ones. Nest in this case is powerful stimulus of breeding behaviour. Sometimes the instinct has “malfunction”, and male chooses for displaying plant sprouts struck with diseases, causing ugly growth of branches. Male does not make attempts to build nest, but elements of building behaviour had remained at it: male “bows”, sitting near the nest and holding in beak a blade of grass. Sometimes it throws grass and warbles, uttering resonant warbles similar to reed-pipe sound. When the female flies to him, male jumps around of her having semi-stretched wings, quickly couples (continuing to hold a blade of grass in beak), and the female departs – she does not interest the male any more at present. To lay an egg is her problem in which male can not take part having so bright feathering.
As a rule, two males do not live beside, but one male is visited by some females from next territories. One female can couple with several males living in environs.
This bird lays eggs in nests of other small birds of islands. Female remembers the location of several tens nests of other warblers (including finches to which it lays eggs more often), and visits them in process of clutch formation. To lay an egg, the female behaves very cautiously: she sneaks up to chosen nest and hides nearby. Having seized the moment, she steals and eats fresh egg of owner bird, then quickly lays her own egg and flies away. Till one nesting season (about half-year in most damp months) the female lays in another's nests approximately 15 eggs – about three full clutches of finches of the comparable size.
Nestlings of some nest parasites begin the life from the killing or throwing out from nest of nestlings of the host bird. Nestlings of cuckoo finch, on the contrary, peacefully get on in new family, and consume as much forage, as much nestlings of host bird need. They grow approximately with equal grade, as other small birds: become fully fledged approximately to the second week of life, and leave nest a week later. The first feathering of the cuckoo finch is modest and brownish. Males get contrast colouring at the age of 6 months – when they become sexual matured.

Diverse-beaked finch (Heterospiza dimorphorostra)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Finches (Fringillidae)

Habitat: Galapagos Islands.
Ground finches (Geospiza), lived at Galapagos Islands in human epoch, were known as a vivid example of adaptive radiation – from the common ancestor the set of descendants, differing by habitats, habit of life and shape, had evolved. The part of species of these birds had not evolved any descendants and had died out in epoch of global ecological crisis. Descendants of survived species had occupied the exempted ecological niches and had given rise to new, sometimes rather freakish species.
In forests of Galapagos Islands formed by cacti and treelike representatives of Asteraceae, very original species of finches lives – diverse-beaked finch.
It is insectivorous bird living in crones of trees and seldom moving down to the ground. Birds of this species are interesting in features of their beaks: beaks of males and females strongly differ by shape. Beak of female of diverse-beaked finch is long, thin and slightly deflexed, as at treecreeper (Certhia). It helps the female to take insects and their larvae from under peeled bark, from cracks in wood trunks and between stones. Beak of male is massive, pointed, hooked on the tip like a beak of butcherbird. The reason of this sexual dimorphism at diverse-beaked finches is rather original. The matter is that the male does not extract food to itself independently – he is supplied with it by the female. But the male, due to the beak, protects the female from predators and competitors, constantly accompanying with her during searches of food. Also he helps the female to take forage, crumbling wood and tearing off bark by beak. The similar phenomenon of sexual dimorphism was typical for New Zealand wattlebird Heteralocha acutirostris from Callaeidae family, which was exterminated by people approximately at 1907.
Male of diverse-beaked finch is starling-sized bird; female is smaller a little. Birds of both sexes are colored modestly: their plumage is monochromic, blackish-brown. As opposed to plumage, the male’s beak is colored brightly: it is lacquered pink with white tip, well appreciable from apart. It is a signal: such colouring serves both for attraction of the female, and for the warning for predators, that this bird can give solid repulse. Male of diverse-beaked finch is remarkable by bellicose behaviour, and sometimes it rushes to the opponent considerably surpassing him in size – he attacks, targeting by beak to eyes and naked areas of skin.
These birds are monodins; pairs at this species form to all further life, and partners almost never leave. If one bird of the pair dies, the second one urgently looks for its replacement. The problem of partner search for widowed males, which can not feed normally independently and survive only due to casual food, is especially actual. Diverse-beaked finches build collective nests, where at once some pairs lay eggs. It is connected to features of behaviour of these birds, because at once both parents search for food. While some pairs search for food, other ones stay in the nest, hatching eggs and protecting it. In warm climate absence of both parents in the nest has not an effect for embryo development in egg. Within one year these birds can nest up to three times. In clutch of diverse-beaked finch there are 4 – 5 eggs incubating by male and female alternately. Female, free from hatching, keeps in vicinities of nest, expecting on protection from the part of congeners.
At just hatched nestlings beaks are typical for all finches – they are conic and only slightly deflexed. They keep such shape until birds become adult. The young birds had left nest successfully can feed alone. But at the coming of sexual maturity (at the age of about 7 months) the situation starts to change. At males and females beaks become different, and they are compelled to search for the partner to themselves: male needs it for feeding, and female – for protection against enemies.

This species of birds was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Sumach finch (Unedulis rhucivorus)
Order: Passerines (Passeriformes)
Family: Finches (Fringillidae)

Habitat: Japan, woods and bush thickets.

Picture by Simon

Some species of birds of family Colluricinclidae named pitohui (Pitohui) lived in Holocene in New Guinea Island. These birds had a proof unpleasant smell, but their even more remarkable feature was the unique for birds attribute – the poisoness. In skin and feathers of these small birds with a bright red-and-black feathering strong poison accumulated. It protected birds both from ectoparasites and from four-footed predators. For mankind the nature of pitohui poison remained a riddle for a long time. But it was also known that some other birds could become inedible and even poisonous after ate poisonous plants. It was supposed, that some species of fishes also became poisonous after the feeding on poisonous algae. The poisoning with such fishes was known as “siguatera”. But the phenomenon looking the exception for vertebrate animals appeared usual tactics for invertebrates. In Holocene butterflies of milkweed butterflies family (Danaidae) used for protection the poison of plants belong to devil’s milk family (Euphorbiaceae) on which their caterpillars were fed. In Neocene such tactics of protection has not lost the urgency: Asian menthol leaf beetle and burning snail from Hawaiian Islands protect from enemies the same way. Among vertebrates adherents of such way of protection also had appeared: at the Sunda Land, the large island in Indonesia, the beetlecracker finch lives. It eats poisonous insects and accumulates in body their poison for self-defense.
Beetlecracker has the relative at Japan Islands – the sumach finch. This starling-sized bird is named so because it lives in thickets of poisonous sumach bush (Rhus, Toxicodendron) of various species, and even among branches of “death tree” (Necrodendron omnimortalis) fatally poisonous for the majority of animals. But it is not a simple whim in choice of an inhabitancy, but vital necessity for bird. Sumach finch eats exclusively seeds, flower buds and leaflets of poisonous species of sumach. Such diet provides to the sumach finch the fine protection: its meat also becomes poisonous; in it strong vegetative toxin accumulates.
Sumach finch prefers to not depart far from thickets of plants in which it lives. This bird is narrowly specialized to such unusual species of food as seeds and greens of poisonous plants, therefore in the distribution it is closely connected to places of their growth. These finches often lodge in thickets of “death tree” – very poisonous wood plant of Japan Islands. In connection with relatively settled way of life wings of these birds are rounded, and a tail is rather short and wide. Such constitution permits to move well among rich branches of bushes. Legs of bird are long and have tenacious toes. Sumach finches frequently swarm up trunks of “death tree”, searching for few insects able to feed on this plant.
Colouring of feathering at sumach finch is very bright: the basic colouring of bird is orange, on head there is reddish “cap”, and back is brightly yellow. Primary feathers and tail are black with white tips, and around of eyes there are “glasses” of black feathers. This colouring is typical warning – predator risked to have eaten such bird may receive rather strong poisoning. Finches keep deliberately safely: they do not hide at any feathered or four-footed predator, and only meet its occurrence with disturbing calls. If the enemy comes too near to bird, sumach finch starts to show the colouring: bird fluffs feathering on head and breast, also opens wings and tail like fans, making especially appreciable their black-and-white colouring. Usually the predator had tried once meat of this bird, avoids the further attack.
Sumach finch eats rather firm food. In this connection at it the powerful conic beak of black color with white strip in the basis was developed. At males the beak is thicker a little, rather than at females.
This bird is monodin; pairs at it are formed only to one nesting cycle. The male ready to nesting begins courtship demonstrations: it chooses rich thickets of young sumach plants and starts to sing for a long time, making a break only in hottest afternoon time. The song of sumach finch includes series of whistling sounds. The disturbed bird utters lingering warble of “dry”, abrupt and sharp sounds. It acts so, noticing any feathered or ground predator.
When the female has chosen a site suitable to nesting, she starts to build nest of thin rods. The male at this time sings actively, protecting nesting area, and occasionally visits the female, bringing to her some blades of grass or sprigs for nest construction. The nest of sumach finch looks like a deep bowl in forked branches.
Usually this bird makes hatches per one year – in late spring and in the middle of summer. But if the winter is warm enough, birds may nest earlier: in this case at the end of summer they have an opportunity to lay eggs third time. The third hatch is usually small, but it survives not less successfully, rather than posterity of spring and summer hatches. In clutch of sumach finch it may be up to 5 – 6 eggs. This bird has so well adapted to coexistence with this plant, that even its eggs accumulate in yolk a small amount of alcaloids. Therefore sumach finch is not afraid, that its clutch may be ravaged: it nests at small height from the ground, among sumach branches and among young plants of “death tree”. Eggs of this bird have bright white shell with black speckles. Having tried eggs of this bird for some times, nest ravager will not die, but will remember well the relationship between these easily accessible eggs and the subsequent sharp stomach-ache.
Eggs are hatched almost exclusively by the female, and the male catches insects and gathers edible (only for these birds!) parts of sumach bushes. Also the male protects the territory from contenders, though practically the rivalry is not so sharp being out of competition with other bird species, and intraspecific aggression at this species is weak.
First time parents feed nestlings on insects, then they add to food semidigested seeds and buds of sumach and other plants. Nestlings accumulate poisonous substances with such forage, and in their development at once get the bright warning feathering (as against to them, nestlings of beetlecracker have not striking cryptic colouring up to the first mew).
Life expectancy of sumach finch does not exceed 4 years, and birds living in thickets of “death tree” live up to the age of 3 years seldom. Obviously, it is the “payment” for inhabiting in so dangerous conditions – the organism of bird should spend energy to neutralize the certain amount of poison. But survival rate of posterity at these birds is very high: they are practically not threatened with predators, only casually appearing in thickets of plants where these finches live.

Architector weaver (Heteropasser tectorius)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Weavers (Ploceidae)

Habitat: savannas of Meganesia.
In human epoch the fauna of Australia, developed in isolation till millions of years, has undergone the significant changes. People had introduced to this continent the whole set of species of animals and plants from other continents, and had broken the natural balance developed in the natural way. Due to nature protection actions and flashes of infectious deseases number of placental predators was so reduced, that their populations had died away. People had never managed to cope with other species. House sparrows (Passer domesticus) belong to the number of introduced species which have gone through human epoch. They were successfully settled across the whole continent, and their descendants had taken the place in ecosystems of Neocene epoch.
The southern part of Meganesia to the north and the west from Eyre Gulf represents the savanna. In some places in extensive grassy plains high trees are scattered, and on some of them the huge nests are arranged; these nests resemble nests of sociable weavers (Philetairus socius) inhabited Africa in human epoch. They are owned by descendants of house sparrow, the small birds settling in numerous colonies. This species of birds is named architector weaver. Such building behaviour and sociality are quite natural continuation of development of behavioural features natural for ancestor of this species. But they had received very unusual continuation at Neocene descendants of sparrows.
Architector weaver, sparrow-sized bird, has much in common with the ancestor in shape. It has peaked wings of fast flyer and short tail – this bird has fast and maneuverable flight; at an attack of flying predator it is capable to evase from it, sharply changing direction of movement. Thick conic beak permits architector weaver to use effectively the kind of food most widespread in savanna – seeds of grasses of various stages of ripeness. Colouring of this species is soft, but very recognizeable: brown back, white primarily feathers and tail, brownish-yellow plumage on breast and stomach. Beak has bright red colouring at male and cherry colouring at female. The forehead and feathers around of eyes have white colouring which makes red colouring of beak better seen from apart. For this species of birds it is vital to be appreciable for other birds with which it nests in common.
Architector weaver has a great skill in nest building. Its huge colonial nest is made of grass, and all adult birds of the colony work simultaneously to construct it. Construction of nest begins at once from the several sides, and the ready construction represents the irregular-shaped structure firmly attached to large branches in tree crone and separated to numerous nest chambers. In these chambers various species of birds settle – in colony of architector weaver small parrots, pigeons and weaverbirds of other species find a place for nesting. But in colony of architector weaver two more closely related species of birds are always present, and they descend from the same common ancestor, as architector weaver – from house sparrow. Their mutual relation resembles more the relations of different castes in ant colony.
Warrior weaver (Heteropasser bellicosus) is larger bird with sharply expressed sexual dimorphism: male is starling-sized bird, female is little bit larger than the largest male of architector weaver. These birds are remarkable in their powerful beak with several pairs of sharp triangular denses on lower jaw. Warrior weavers have bright colouring: bright blue breast, black back, wings and nape, white “face” and orange-red beak. This bird differs in aggressive behaviour and is capable to attack the medium-sized mammals coming too close to nest in which it lives. Attacking birds splash liquid dung into the enemy, beat it by wings, tear out pieces of wool, and also put deep bleeding bites in head and ears by beak. This species expresses flesh-eating inclination in diet and frequently eats food rich in protein: large insects and seeds of plants of leguminous family. Also at an opportunity this species willingly eats carrion, the rests of prey of large local predators, and attacks small vertebrates – lizards and snakes.
Brooder weaver (Heteropasser maya) is a species on which the survival of colony depends completely. It is the modestly colored bird a little bit smaller than sparrow. The basic colouring of plumage is brown with dark scaly pattern on back. Tail feathers have white tips. Around of eyes and on forehead white feathers form “mask” figure. Beak is rather thin and black in color. This species eats mainly insects.
These three species of birds evolved together, adapting to each other, and have shared with each other duties in maintenance of life in the colony. Architector weaver builds nests and constantly repairs them, but it has completely lost parental instinct. Also warrior weaver protecting a colony from predators also has lost it. And brooder weaver raises not only its own posterity, but also posterity of two other species which became its nest parasites. The parental instinct at this species is so expressed, what even males take part actively in incubation of eggs and rearing of posterity. Brooder weavers are monogamous ones: their family is kept during the time of posterity rearing; at two other species couples are formed only for the period of pairing and laying of eggs.
The ratio of birds in colony is approximately constant: 40 – 50% of brooder weavers and 25 – 30% of each other species (warrior and architector weavers). In areas of favorable climate the colony is used all-the-year-round, and in it constantly there are eggs and nestlings of various ages. During the season favorable for nesting brooder weavers have time to bring up two hatches of nestlings of their own and another’s species. In places where all-the-year-round nesting is possible, the number of hatches may reach four in one year. In areas of seasonal drought the multispecific colony leaves nest and migrates in savanna; at this time birds of all species keep together. Such migrating flock occupies an empty collective nest to the beginning of nesting season, or quickly builds new one. Usually the colonies from areas of seasonal climate are not as numerous, as settled colony. New colonies are easily formed by division of old one: when the colony reaches too large number, the part of it is separated and moves to another tree. Less often the flock is formed by birds of one species – as a rule, it is a result of disbalance of number of species, and the stress because of aggravation of competition following it. Then the unispecific flock may join already existing colonies, or gathers missing representatives of symbiotic species, yet will reach a normal ratio of number of species.

These species of birds were discovered by Simon, the forum member.

Sea, or green-faced weaverbird (Chlorochrysornis chlorops)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Waxbills (Estrildidae)

Habitat: mangrove thickets at the coast of Eyre Gulf.
In Neocene at the territory of Meganesia (the continent uniting Australia and New Guinea) the group of passerine birds of waxbills family, Meganesian weaverbirds, is widely settled. These birds are rather large in comparison with their ancestors: the majority of species is larger than a sparrow, and some surpass starling in size. They inhabit woodlands, mountain and rainforests of continent. But among these birds there is one species strongly distinguished by habit of life from other Meganesian weaverbirds. It lives in marshy and nearwater biotops, and separate colonies meet even in thickets of Pandanus (screw palm) on shoalinesses of Eyre Gulf having no any connection with coast. It is sea, or green-faced weaverbird.
This species is rather large, starling-sized bird. Green-faced weaverbird differs in very bright colouring – background color of bird feathering is dark yellow with brownish shade (“honey”), and primary feathers have beige colouring. On this background bright green with metal shine “mask” on head looks as a contrast spot. At females it takes only forward part of head and partly stretches on forehead, but at males the most part of head may have green color, and only the top of head and nape keep background colouring.
At these birds there is straight and strong conic-shaped beak. Sea weaverbird is unpretentious in meal and eats practically any kind of food. It pecks infructescences of screw palms, cracks their seeds, and eats seeds of some other plants living in mangrove thickets of Eyre Gulf. This bird willingly eats forages of animal origin: sea weaverbirds frequently peck dead fish, molluscs and crustaceans. There is one more interesting feature of behaviour of these birds - they had learned to rob a web of mangrove fishing spider living on the bottom part of mangrove trunks.
The nest of this bird differs in inaccessibility and is reliably protected from predators. Sea weaverbird plaits nest in the bases of leaves of pandanus on which edge long thorns grow. Bird braids the bases of several near growing leaves with long plant fibres, and then plaits them together by shorter fibres. The entrance to the nest represents the long “sleeve” hanging down. Thorns on leaves of pandanus provide more durable attaching of nests to the plant, and make them inaccessible to predators. These birds nest in colonies, and frequently one trunk of pandanus forms the basis for the true “city” of sea weaverbirds numbering some tens of nests.
Pairs at these birds form to one breeding cycle. Male involves the female, uttering modulating advertisement call near the nest. When near the nest the female appears, he begins courtship displays: male fluffs green feathers on head, displaying their shine in sunlight. He hangs on leaves near the nest, trembling by wings and having stretched tail. If the nest is acceptable in quality and protecting, the female gets into it, and male follows her.
In clutch of this species there are about 6 eggs with greenish shell. The incubation lasts till about 12 days, both birds hatch eggs alternately. Nestlings develop quickly, and already at the age of 4 weeks leave the nest. Within one year these birds may rear three hatches. The half year old bird already can nest. Life expectancy of sea weaverbird does not exceed three years.

Sleeve weaverbird (Manuleornis pandanophilus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Waxbills (Estrildidae)

Habitat: Meganesia, thickets of pandanus along the coast of reservoirs and at the islands of Eyre Gulf.
Eyre Gulf in southern part of Meganesia represents the extensive shallow reservoir connected to the ocean and having changing level of water salinity. It is shallow and is well warmed by sun. In some places above the water surface the small islets rise; they are overgrown with pandanus and represent the analogues of mangrove thickets at the coast of oceans. They do not contact to land, and in them the community of insects, spiders, fishes and birds is formed. One of the birds nesting here is the sleeve weaverbird.
This bird has received the strange name for very characteristic form of nest – it is plaited of grass and fibres, long, resembling a sleeve, and attached along the leaf of pandanus on its bottom side. The nest chamber is between leaves of plant and is well protected from enemies like birds or snakes by the prickles sticking out from edges of the nearest leaves. It is possible to penetrate into the nest only through the narrow entrance, opened close to the tip of leaf. As the leaf is spiny from sides and from below along the middle nerve, the entrance also appears protected. Moreover, only the dexterous bird can get in it when the leaf waves on wind.
Sleeve weaverbird is the representative of waxbills, group numerous in Meganesia; it’s a bird of tiny size and bright colouring. Wingspan of this weaverbird does not exceed 15 cm. They have rounded tips and permit this bird to maneuver dexterously in thickets of pandanus forest. Thick conic beak helps to crush the core of pandanus seeds and insects with strong covers. In outflow sleeve weaverbirds move down to the bottom part of pandanus trunks and search for the snails stayed after outflow, and for young crabs.
The plumage on back, head and wings of sleeve weaverbird has grass-green color. Sides of head, throat, breast and stomach are straw-coloured. On back there is site of silver-grey feathers. On background of plumage the beak of bright red color is clearly visible. Near mouth corners there are small sites of the featherless skin of white color; at male they are larger, rather than at female. Paws are grey. The female differs from male in thinner beak and greyish shade of plumage on stomach.
Birds of this species nest in small groups. At the same pandanus tree up to ten nests may be arranged, poorly appreciable at sight from the side. Single and young birds keep in flocks of some tens birds. They can make flights between different islets of vegetation, easily overcoming distance of some kilometers above the sea. The birds having a nest lead a settled way of life.
Nesting occurs irregularly, 2 – 3 times per one year. Male starts to prepare for nesting, occupying a site in tree crone. On the chosen leaf of pandanus bird starts to braid its bottom side with fibres, hooking them on prickles growing along the edge. At the initial stage of building the nest represents deep cup in the basis of leaf. Male gradually builds on an entrance, transforming it to tube. It interrupts work for singing, uttering series of monotonous trills, perching on leaf near the nest. If the female accepts its court and also likes a place for nest, birds complete it in common. The female exclusively makes a litter for the nest.
In clutch of these birds there are about five eggs; the female hatches only, but male feeds her regularly. The incubation lasts till about 12 days. Male and female in common feed nestlings during three weeks. Young birds keep together for some time, searching for flock of congeners. After nestlings leave the nest, the parental couple also breaks up and adult birds join one of flocks of congeners, flying sometimes far from place of former nesting.
The young bird begins nesting at the age of half-year. Life expectancy of adult birds does not exceed 4 years.

Goldenback crownhead bird (Umbellornis aurodorsalis)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Umbellate birds (Umbellornitidae)

Habitat: Central Africa, flooded forests of Congo basin.

Picture by FanboyPhilosopher

At the ice age the area of tropical woods all over the world had considerably reduced: the climate began drier because huge amounts of water appeared accumulated at poles of planet as ice. At this time the variability of species of wood birds had sharply decreased, but inhabitants of savannas became more numerous and various. When the situation was stabilized, the climate became more damp and warm, and the area of tropical woods began to increase promptly, some inhabitants of savannas had adapted to life in forest. Among immigrants there were birds, representatives of weaverbirds family (Ploceidae) which became ancestors of new family of forest birds – crownhead birds, or umbellate birds (Umbellornitidae). This family is presented by rather small birds – by size from sparrow up to daw. Their characteristic attribute is hood on head top looking like crown (it is especially advanced at males, at females can be absent). The feathers making it have long core on which barbs grow only at top (in any case make top two thirds of length of feather). These feathers stick up to sides as an umbrella, but at excitation of bird they rise almost vertically, as if a crown. The length of them at times exceeds length of head and neck of bird. At various emotional conditions of bird such hood can open or close up. Movements of hood are actively used by males during courtship games. At many species males gather for courtship games at well appreciable branch or on trunk of fallen tree by groups of 10 birds and more. Courtship demonstrations are accompanied by loud melodious warbles and separate resonant cries. After pairing pair of birds in common builds wattled hanging nest; at one species closely related genus nests are large and collective, renewing and extending annually. Representatives of family basically eat tree seeds, some eat insects with firm covers.
Goldenback crownhead bird is rather large species in family: length of body including tail is about 18 cm. Constitution of bird is rather compact; neck and tail are short. Wings are moderately long, with pointed ends. Bird flies well and is able to make sharp turns in air and to change direction of movement.
Goldenback crownhead bird eats seeds of trees, splitting them by strong short beak. It feeds nestlings by insects and semi-digested seeds.
Colouring of goldenback crownhead bird combines cryptic colors with bright spots used at courtship rituals. Body of bird is colored grayish-green with brown primary feathers. Chest of bird is colored white, but tips of feathers are black; that’s why common colouring looks as “speckled”. On head around of eyes there are white “glasses” of naked skin. Feathers of hood are black-and-white: the basic colouring of feathers is black, at top there is white wedge-shaped spot (at females hoods are made by short brownish feathers). Main ornament of bird is feathering of back, in rest closed by wings. At courtship ritual bird opens and lowers wings, having fluffed up feathers on back. Then they become appreciable from afar - feathers of back at males are painted golden-yellow color with appreciable metal shine (at females they are simply brightly-yellow).
In nesting season males search for trees which stand at some distance from each others, and where forest canopy between them is more friable. Each male occupies branch on which sunlight falls, and starts to involve females, making courtship dance. If the male has chosen an advantage-ground, the sunlight falls on his back and makes this bird appreciable from afar. At one lek up to one and half tens males gather. Courtship games in mass pass up to three times per year though in intervals between “peaks” of nesting in forest it is possible to see separate displaying males.
Females from afar notice bright “grooms”, and near lek at times twice more females, than males gather. At this species polygamy exists “legally”, and sometimes male simultaneously looks after three nests, replacing hatching females by turns. Having coupled with one female, male begins nest building, from time to time flying to lek to form new pair with other female, and sometimes with third one. He forwards all females to the territory where birds together choose place for the next nest. Flying “by circle” all females at the territory, male participates in construction of their nests. Nest of this species represents wattled construction with long hanging “corridor”, suspended on branch. As building material long fibrous leaves of graminoids are using; birds gather them on bogs and river banks. Birds tear apart leaves to lengthwise strips and drag them to the basis of nest in beak. Some individuals do not squeamish “piracy”, taking away ready building materials at neighbours, or ravaging and untwining nests of water birds. After egg laying (up to 4 - 5 eggs in one nest) and the beginning of incubating females serially are fed up and replaced at the nest by male. For the male it very favorable time: his bright colouring is not visible, when he sits into the nest. At this time female eats and cleans feathers. In time free from hatching the male declares rights to territory: sitting on separately sticking up branch, he songs loud warble similar to cricket chirr which comes to an end with melodious “flourish”.
The incubating lasts 17 days, nestlings hatch blind, covered by down only on back and head. At the age of one week they start to fledge, at 10-days age open eyes, and at monthly age abandon nest. Parents finish feeding fledglings after nest leaving two more weeks, and thus sometimes near hatches at the territory of the same male can unite. Young birds by colouring are similar to female, but feathers of hood at them are absent. Usually they migrate in wood, having united in flocks. Puberty at males comes at one-year-old age, at females two - three months earlier. Thus they leave “youthful” flocks earlier, forming pairs with older mature males. Young males at approach of sexual maturity form own leks at which bachelor flights break up. Life expectancy at this species is about 5 - 6 years.
Close species of crownhead birds live in forests of Equatorial Africa:

Picture by FanboyPhilosopher

Red-headed crownhead bird (Umbellornis rubro-viridis) is rather small bird (like finch by size). Males are colored brightly and contrast: head and neck are coral-red, body, tail and wings are green with brown speckles. Females are entirely colored green. Hood on head at the male is white; at the female it is green. Feathers making it are very long; at them the vane amounts only about third of feather length. Beak is moderately long; bird eats soft fruits with small seeds. It is monodin; at the lek it gathers no more, than by ten birds. Nest is making of long leaves of epiphytic plants and thin stalks of lianas; birds hang it from below in forked crown of branches.
Copper crownhead bird (Umbellornis cupreus) is medium-sized bird (pigeon-sized one). The male is colored rather brightly: all his feathering is brown-red with bright metal shine on head, wings and tail. Feathers of “crown” of the male are white (vane makes all about 1/5 of feather length), around of eye there is a ring of white naked skin – the male uses these contrast stains during courtship demonstrations. Female is colored brown with dark spots and cross strips, without metal shine. “Crown” of females is also brown; feathers making it are very short. This species eats firm seeds of trees, therefore beak of copper crownhead birds is very short and thick. Displaying takes place in branches of highest trees of rainforest. In displaying time male involves females with shine of feathering, and at closer “acquaintance” shows white “glasses” and “crown”. Usually it is monodin, less often polydin: male participates in nesting no more, than with two females, but approximately in half of cases (especially at lack of forage) it forms pair only with one female. Nest is very original: it is the long “sleeve” attached to branch from below and opening from the side of the end of branch.
Black crownhead bird (Umbellornis niger) is bird the small pigeon-sized bird. Male and female, as well as at the previous species, strongly differ in colouring. Male is black with bluish metal shine on wings and bright blue feathers on back. Irises at him are also blue, and beak is white. Feathers of “crown” at him are very elastic and narrow, colored white. Female is colored brown with rust-colored stomach; its iris of the eye is yellow; “crown” at her is not present. Beak is direct and moderately long: this species eats soft fruits of palms, unripe seeds of graminoids and insects. It lives at northern border of tropical forests and meets even in woody parts of savanna. For nest building it splits to fibers leaves of fan palms, and weaves these strips to spherical nest directly on petiole of leaf, strengthening them with dry grass.

Umbellate harlequin bird (Scurrulornis rubrocephalus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Umbellate birds (Umbellornitidae)

Habitat: Central Africa, flooding forests in Congo basin.

Picture by Tony Johnes

This species is the distant relative of goldenback crownhead bird distinguished from it by features of anatomy and behaviour. This bird is considerably smaller: it is sparrow-sized bird. The basic colouring of body is black; on head of male there is mobile orange-red hood. Feathers of hood have vane only at the top third of length. At females hood is shorter and colored dark cherry. Around of eyes at birds of both sexes there are white rings of naked skin. Under wings at males there are bright red stains. Colouring of the adult male resembles motley scrappy suit of Harlequin – bird is named because of it.
This bird eats mainly insects though it can eat small seeds of various trees. In this connection beak of this species is thinner than at related species.
As against goldenback colleague, umbellate harlequin bird is only monodin. However it does not avoid society of relatives though it is shown a little differently: birds of this species build huge collective nest, occupying the chosen tree for many years. The nest is building and renewing by members of colony practically all year round. It is shared to set of “apartments” in which nesting pairs of birds live. Breeding pairs at these birds formed to one nesting season, and the nest is “inherited” by the male. It renews nest and performs near it ritual of female attraction. For this purpose the male seizes by claws edge of nest and hangs on it headfirst, having opened wings so, that red colouring of sides becomes visible. Thus it chirrs attractively for females. If the female is ready to form pair with him, she simply flies into the nest, and male gets after her.
In clutch of the harlequin bird there are 5 - 7 eggs, both birds hatch it alternately within 14 days, and then feed nestlings together. At the age of 5 weeks young birds leave nest then parents finish feeding them about one week. When fledglings abandon parents, pair breaks, and the male has a rest and prepares nest for new nesting cycle. In total during one year in one nest up to 4 hatches can be made. The young bird becomes sexual matured at the age of 4 months.
Efficiency of breeding at birds of this species is increased due to features of behavior: collective protection is applied to defense of nests at harlequin birds. Having found the enemy – snake, large lizard or small predatory mammal, birds swoop down on it by all flight, driving predator away from nest.
Despite of such features of behaviour allowing effective surviving, life expectancy at this bird it is very short – no more than 3 years. It is common feature of all animals having the small size of body.

Wood soilprober (Georimarornis motacilloides)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Habitat: New Azora Island, tropical woods.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

The animal population of New Azora volcanic island generated from one of tops of Mid-Atlantic Ridge is presented mainly by European species of birds. It is connected by that islands of Macaronesia (the area including also Madiera and Canary Islands) still in historical epoch had been the wintering place of plenty of European birds species. Till the ice age some birds had formed in Macaronesia settled populations, and after formation of New Azora Island they had successfully occupied it.
The nature of New Azora is very diverse: due to altitude zones various types of vegetation are presented here: from tropical wood up to Alpine desert. The fauna of island is presented by numerous species of birds and some species of mammal – descendants of species introduced to islands by humans. Bird population of island is especially rich.
In woods of New Azora the majority of birds live in tree crones. The gloomy underbrush overgrown with ferns seems less suitable for their life, but it is the deceptive impression. Many species of birds, varying in shape and feeding habits, inhabit the underbrush of New Azora woods.
One of interesting New Azora birds is the wood soilprober. It had descended from one of species of wagtails (Motacilla), spent winter at Azores in Holocene, and formed the settled island form. Till millions years the descendant of small wagtails had considerably changed: now it is rather large, starling-sized bird. But the wood soilprober seems even larger because of long tail. It has kept a characteristic for wagtail habit to shake tail up and down. Soilprober has long and slightly bent beak: bird eats insects drawing them from wood litter. In searches of forage this bird practically constantly stirs fallen leaves and rakes ground. For such characteristic feature of behavior it has received the name.
The body of this bird combines bright spots and cryptic colouring: at the wood soilprober there are grey chest, brown wings with black spots and coal-black tail. Tips of tail feathers have deliberately appreciable colouring: they are snow-white with strong metal shine. “Mirrors” on the tail reflect the poor sunlight getting in underbrush, and are used by birds of this species to submit signals to congeners. Soilprober is the solitary bird strictly preserving the fodder site from congeners. This bird moves in wood, running similarly to wagtails, and shakes tail in same characteristic way. But, though it spends the most part of time on the ground, this bird can fly well, and escapes from predators in flight.
One more adaptation which permits to these birds to distinguish each other is bright black-and-white head. Forehead, crown and nape at this bird are colored black, from beak through the eye to a shoulder the white strip stretches, and throat is black. At males white strip is appreciably wider, than at females. During conflicts on border of territory birds rise opposite to each other, and fluff feathering on head, making it similar to pompon. Thus they visually exaggerate themselves, trying to impress the opponent.
Each individual of wood soilprober keeps in certain territory which borders are well-known to it. Birds of this species eat small invertebrates, and frequently feed near to other inhabitants of underbrush – Azorean partridges, local gallinaceous birds. Due to quickness wood soilprober takes insects when partridges rake ground by legs. Partridges try to drive off the importunate competitor, but all the same the soilprober has time to eat more insects or seeds, than they get. But nevertheless there is a benefit to birds from the presence of soilprober near to them. It is very sensitive bird: at first attributes of danger it warns other wood inhabitants by shrill resonant chirp.
Some times till one year soilprobers form pairs and rear posterity in common. In courtship season the male executes original “dance”, perching on fallen branches of trees or stubs sticking above leaves of ferns. It turns round, shakes tail, stretches wings and utters modulating warble, involving females. Usually male beforehand chooses the nesting place, and shows itself nearby to it. This bird nests in hollow trunks of fallen trees, or in abandoned holes of various ground animals. Similarly to all warblers, it is nidicolous species. In clutch there are 3 – 5 eggs from which blind nestlings covered with thin grey down hatch. They grow quickly, and at monthly age leave nest, keeping near to parents. Young birds differ from adults in colouring: at them head is brown. It will get black-and-white colouring to the first nesting season – at five-monthly age.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

At coasts of island the close species lives: beach soilprober (Georimarornis psammophilus), which differs from wood congener in almost monochrome feathering of yellowish-grey color, masking bird on sand background. Also its beak is longer: it exceeds length of head. This bird feeds in ebb-tide strip, searching for small invertebrates burying in sand. Also beach soilprober clears large sea birds, living on beaches of New Azora, of parasites. At the same time it receives good protection against small feathered and four-footed predators of island. This species nests in cracks of rocks and among coastal vegetation, choosing places away from surf border.

Stream wagtail (Motacinclus novazorae)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Habitat: New Azora, mountain streams.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Expansion of Atlantic Ocean had resulted in occurrence of faltering chain of islands in central part of this ocean. Already in human epoch Iceland was large island, and Canary Islands and Azores represented archipelagoes. In Neocene volcanic activity had resulted in formation of unite large New Azora island instead of Azores.
The fauna of New Azora is formed as of descendants of species introduced by people, as of species migrated in the natural way from Europe. They had occupied all possible ecological niches at the island; tropical conditions and abundance of food resources had allowed some of them to turn to highly specialized forms.
The small songbird able to dive and to run on the bottom dexterously, clinging by paws for stones, lives in cool mountain streams of New Azora. It is similar to ouzels (Cinclus), but it is not their descendant or the relative. This bird is the stream wagtail, descended from blue-headed wagtail (Motacilla flava) migrated to Azores in ice age at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. This bird initially lived near to water, and its descendants had developed this ability even further.
Stream wagtail is approximately starling-sized bird. Its shape only by few features specifies that the bird is adapted to life in water, but it is the full inhabitant of fast mountain streams by the way of life. This bird has streamline body, conic-shaped head, rather short and rounded wings, and the short fan-shaped tail. This bird inherited the habit to shake by tail from wagtails, its ancestors. This feature of behaviour expresses an emotional condition of bird and is used in courtship displays. The plumage of stream wagtail is greased with plentiful secretions of coccygeal gland, therefore, having jumped out from water, bird remains absolutely dry. Besides it has kept one preadaptation existed at wagtails: leathery covers at nostrils.
The basic plumage colouring of this bird is greenish. Covert feathers of wings at this bird are dark with wide bright green border; therefore the body top of the bird looks spotty. The bottom part of body sharply contrasts with top – it is yellow; this feature is kept from an ancestor. From beak across eyes on lateral faces of neck to wings black strips stretch, dividing colouring of top and bottom parts of body. Short tail is black; on tips of feathers there are white spots.
Legs of stream wagtail are well adapted to run on stones slippery of algae and water. On the bottom surface of long toes the set of corneous bristles develops, helping to cling to support. This bird runs, instead of jumps, as many songbirds do. Stream wagtail flies rather seldom, and prefers to dive into the water for the sake of food and protection against a predator. Sometimes the bird gathers speed in air, folds wings and dives into water, as if the thrown stone. Under water this bird due to special body shape does not spend efforts in order to keep in depth – current presses it to the bottom. Food of stream wagtail includes larvae of insects and young growth of small crabs. This bird also catches larger crabs and pecks them on coastal stones. Sometimes these birds become prey of fishes swimming to short rivers of New Azora from the sea, or large crabs, which can ravage their nests and eat nestlings.
Stream wagtail inhabits coastal vegetation. Each individual declares rights to the territory by series of loud dual calls. If the contender does not leave, the owner of territory meets him, showing the colouring. It fluffs feathers on stomach, extends body vertically and opens tail like a fan. After such demonstration the owner of territory is ready to banish the newcomer using force.
Pair at these birds is formed to one season of nesting, and breaks up soon after posterity rearing. Birds arrange nest in holes, cracks between stones and in thers shelters, where the predator can not penetrate. In clutch of this species there are about 4 eggs. Naked and blind nestlings are looked after by both parents. Parents bring up them mainly with soft larvae of insects. Approximately after 43 – 45 days completely advanced fledglings do not require any more parental care, and the pair of adult birds breaks up. Young birds nest for the first time at the age of 7 – 8 months. Life expectancy of this bird does not exceed 4 years.

The idea about existence of this species of birds was proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Green bee-eater tanager (Apiphagus viridis)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Tanagers (Thraupidae)

Habitat: tropical woodlands and savannas of South America.
The introduction of species by the man caused many impacts over the environment. In some cases these impacts proved to be not negative. The genus Apiphagus, in the family Thraupidae evolved in Neocene. The type species of this genus is green bee-eater tanager, a bird that lives in the savannas and woodlands of Tropical South America.
The green bee-eater tanager has 23 cm of length and 25 cm of wingspan. Adult males have bright green plumage with black wings and tail, while the females are greyish-green with dark gray wings and tail. The bill of green bee-eater tanager is curved, long and ending in a sharp point. Young birds of both sexes look similar to the female until reaching sexual maturity in 7 months.
As their name says, these birds are adapted to eat bees. Green bee-eater tanagers catch these insects, seizing their abdomens. To kill bee, bird strikes it against branch or rock. After that, it removes bee’s sting using the beak, and finally eats its prey. Not only green bee-eater tanager, but all species in the genus Apiphagus have an ecological relationship with jaguape (mammal of genus Manducomelifer). When these mammals approach a bee nest, flocks of bee-eater tanagers fly closer to them, vocalizing to attract jaguape. When bees begin attacking the invader, these birds rush and catch the insects. In addition to bees, these passerines can eat wasps (with the same method used to kill bees) and other insects, but they also feed on fruits and flowers.
Green bee-eater tanagers are monogamous; male vocalizes to attract the female and once the pair is formed, they will stay together until death of one them. The nesting season takes place all the year round, with the pair building a nest made of small roots, mosses and leaf petioles. It is hidden in dense epiphytic vegetation in forked tree trunk. Female lays 2 to 3 eggs of white color patterned brown speckles and is responsible for the incubation that lasts of 14 days. The couple feeds the chicks, which leave the nest at the age of 20 days. The sexual maturity comes at the age of 7-8 month, and lifespan of these birds is up to 11 years.
There are some more species in the genus Apiphagus:
Amazonian bee-eater tanager (Apiphagus caeruleus) lives in Amazon rainforest. This bird is 22 cm long and its wingspan is 24 cm. Males are bright blue with black primaries, secondaries, tertials and tail. Female is grayish-blue with dark grey wings and tail.
Turquoise bee-eater tanager (Apiphagus atlanticus) inhabiting the forests in the Atlantic coast of South America, is 23 cm long with a wingspan of 24 cm. Males are bright turquoise with black feathers on wings and tail. Females are grayish-green with dark grey wings and tail. The range of this species overlaps that of the green bee-eater tanager in the regions where the Atlantic forests transit to savannas. In these areas hybrids of intermediate coloration appear.
Andean bee-eater tanager (Apiphagus andinus) lives in elevated areas of the Andes. This bird is 21 cm long and has a wingspan of 23 cm. The males are yellow with dark gray feathers on wings and tail. Female is brown with shades of yellow, its wings and tail are dark brown. Its plumage is much denser than at flatland forms. In winter it migrates to warmer lowlands.
Fiery bee-eater tanager (Apiphagus australis) lives in forests of southern part of South America. This bird grows to 22 cm with a wingspan of 24 cm. Males have reddish-orange plumage with the exception of wings and tail which are black. Females are pale grey with some shades of red. During the winter these birds migrate to northern areas, reaching the savannas of central part of South America.

This bird species was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil

Thick-billed guiraguacu (Guiraguacu macrorhynchus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Grackles, or American orioles (Icteridae)

Habitat: rainforest of northern part of South America.
Oropendolas represent rather successful group of passerine birds of New World. In South America some species of these birds inhabited Andean montane forests, and in human epoch some of them survived in relic inaccessible forest patches in places hard for human activity. During the period of restoration after global ecological crisis descendants of these birds settled to rainforests of plain areas of the continent, filling the empty ecological niches. In Neocene some descendants of the russet-backed oropendola (Psarocolius angustifrons) are characteristic birds of rainforests of northern part of South America.
These Neocene oropendolas form a separate genus Guyraguacu (açu and guaçu means “big” in Tupi, and the whole name means “large winged animal”) and have a rather large size and very thick bill compared to related forms. The most common species of South American rainforests is thick-billed guiraguacu.
It is a largest representative of the genus: male is 53 cm long, female grows to 44 cm. It inhabits the Amazon basin and lives in the rainforest canopy almost never descending to the ground. Its striking feature is the thick and colorful beak of the males; corneous cover of beak stretches to bird’s crown, making birds looking as if “bald”. Females are smaller than the males and have beaks less thick in size and pale in color. The color of male’s beak is black with a bright red part at the tip; feathers of its body are green and tail feathers are yellow. Red tip of its beak attracts the attention of females, being especially noticeable on the background of male’s plumage. Female has black beak with yellowish-white tip visible in the darkness of the nest.
Being solitary most of the time, they gather in harems in the summer, when the mating season takes place. Males behave aggressively when protect their territory and harem. Their harem numbers from 6 to 9 females building their individual nests on tree tops close to each other.
These birds eat fruits, insects and eggs of other birds. But the individuals of the Amazon basin began to have more predatory habits, resembling thus feeding habits of toucans, being capable to eat eggs, small birds and reptiles. Larger size facilitates them the capture and killing of prey animals.
The courtship consists in the male to vocalizing while showing their colorful beaks. Their vocalizations can be of their own sounds or imitations of sounds of other birds living nearby. The more colorful the beak and the more diverse vocalizations are made, the greater will be the male’s harem. The females build nests of plant fibres and vines. In a tree that is usually in the center of the male’s territory, there are various long woven basket-like nests, each hanging from the end of branch. The male protects the harem from predators and rival males, being very aggressive in the mating season. Each female lays two blue-gray eggs which hatch in 19 days, with the hatchlings fledging in 36 days. Life span is about 10 years.
An allopatric speciation resulted in appearing of closely related species of different ecology – lesser, or mountain guiraguacu (Guiraguacu andinus). The populations of this smaller (males 48 cm long, and females 39 cm long) species are numerous in the tropical forests near the Andes. Males of this species have a harem of 5-7 females. This smaller species also differs from its larger cousin in appearance: it has bright yellow beak, with the feathers of the body brown and the feathers of the tail black. It is also more peaceful and feeds only on fruits and insects in way similar to the oropendolas of human epoch.

This bird was discovered by João Vitor Coutinho, Brazil.

Lamplighter bird (Lanternariornis nocturnus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae)

Habitat: Meganesia, tropical rainforests.

Picture by Sauron from FurNation

In Neocene Australia and New Guinea had merged to unite continent Meganesia. Under action of internal forces of Earth crust since human epoch this continent had moved to the north, to the area of equatorial climate. It had caused the occurrence of extensive and almost impassable rainforests at the north of the continent. These forests are inhabited by set of odd-looking and original species of animals and plants. One of the most surprising inhabitants of these forests hides from sunlight in day time, and leaves the refuge only at night. Its life passes in pale and greenish light of some species of luminescent mushrooms growing on fallen and rotten trunks of trees. This creature is a special kind of bowerbirds named lamplighter bird.
Usually males of bowerbirds build for courtship rituals original buildings, “bowers”. In human epoch these constructions varied from the primitive round platform cleared away from leaves on which fresh leaves are scattered up to complex and very large in comparison with the bird constructions decorated with various bright objects. Actually, these constructions represent an element of the courtship dress of the male, transferred from the bird to objects of world around.
In Neocene one species of these birds had replaced brightness of colors and berries shining in sunlight to pale light of some species of luminescent mushrooms settling on rotten wood. This bird began in literal sense to cultivate luminescent mushrooms which grow plentifully and shine on building of this species. For this feature the nocturnal species of bowerbirds is named lamplighter bird.
The lamplighter bird is small – it is not larger than any medium-sized finch. It has thickset body on long legs, tail of moderate length and straight strong beak. At males there is a small cop on head. Remarkable feature of birds of this species is large eyes shining in darkness like at some nocturnal mammals. In retina of lamplighter bird there is a special layer of cells containing guanine which returns to photosensitive elements of retina light penetrating through them.
The feathering of these birds has soft colouring; sexual dimorphism is clearly expressed. Male has pale green color similar by shade to the light emitting by mushrooms. The female which raises nestlings alone, has camouflage colouring – brown with longitudinal black strips on feathers of wings and longitudinal white strokes on feathers of head and chest.
Females and males differ in way of life. The female not busy in care of posterity, is similar by habit of life to the majority of nocturnal insectivorous animals. It hunts insects and other invertebrates living in wood litter and rotten wood. Male till the most part of adult life is occupied with unique major work – it builds a construction which at this species replaces magnificently decorated complex bowers characteristic for other species of bowerbirds. Construction of lamplighter bird represents a heap of pieces of rotten wood, heaped up between plank-buttress roots of any tree. But it is only a basis for the main ornament of construction because of which the lamplighter bird is named. When the heap reaches the enough size, bird drags on pieces of rotten wood some luminescent mushrooms found in forest. First time male is compelled to change frequently mushrooms, because they, quite naturally, do not take roots and decay quickly. But in some weeks the situation chamges. From the decayed fruit bodies of mushrooms spores spilled out, which have sprouted and have formed a viable mycelium. And diligence of lamplighter bird male get married success – the mycelium forms fruit bodies which start to shine at night by strange ghosty chartreuse light. The bird constantly looks after the construction – it regularly brings new pieces of rotten wood, and accurately pecks out from mushrooms various insects flied to feed on mushrooms. These insects make a significant part of ration of the male of lamplighter bird.
With the first beams of sun when day time animals wake up, lamplighter birds hide in shelters. The female usually spends day time time in hollows of trees or under bark peeled off. Male chooses as shelter burrows and holes under roots, usually near its construction. Frequently it gets into the tree trunk rotten from within.
At night courtship displays of lamplighter birds begin. Male calls the female by melodious single cries, audible far in night forest. When near male’s “mushroom garden” the female appears, male begins courtship dance. It keeps between female and construction, and light of mushrooms precisely depicts his silhouette. Самец “bows” to the female, slightly spread wings and having stretched vertically rised tail like a fan. If the female accepts his court, fast pairing follows, and the male loses interest to this female.
The female broods clutch of 3 – 5 eggs, and raises hatch alone. She builds a nest in tree hollow. Bringing up posterity, the female leaves a nest before the sunset, and last feeding of nestlings takes place one – two hours after sunrise. The female looks after posterity till nine – ten weeks while young birds stay in the nest, and finishes the feeding of young birds till about one week after they leave nest.
Young birds become sexually mature at the age of ten months.

The idea about existence of this species is proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Gardener bowerbird (Hortulornis plantarum-cultor)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae)

Habitat: rainforests at the north of Meganesia, areas of interrupted forest, riverbanks.
The courtship behaviour of birds may turn odd forms, and according to them the shape of the bird changes. At males of various species of birds freakish bright feather “ornaments” grow, or colouring becomes bright and appreciable from apart. But at representatives of bowerbirds family evolution has resulted in “replacing” of features of courtship behaviour to extraneous object – artificial “construction” which has actually replacing by itself a courtship dress of male. In Neocene descendants of any species of bowerbirds with primitive building behaviour had replaced artificial constructions to successfully cultivated living organisms – usually in this way plants are used. They had actually transferred functions of secondary sexual attribute from lifeless objects (various brightly colored objects) to live plant. The result of such adaptations is simply surprising. One of species of family, lamplighter bird, began to lead nocturnal habit of life, and involves the female, cultivating luminescent mushrooms on simple heap of rotten pieces of wood. The birds of close species leading a traditional diurnal habit of life, use for similar courtship displays of plants with bright leaves.
One of species having such features of behaviour is the gardener bowerbird, ground bird smaller than sparrow in size. Male and female of this species distinguish in sharply expressed sexual dimorphism. Male has black-and-white colouring - white head with black nape and “cap”, white breast and stomach, black covert feathers and tail, and black-and-white cross-striped primarily feathers. The female is brown with black specks on wings, feathers of nape and back. At birds of both genders there is thick beak of grey color. Iris of eyes is bright red at male and yellow at female.
Gardener bowerbird developed close symbiotic relations with one species of balsam - crimson balsam (Impatiens cinnabarifolia), grassy plant of underbrush. This species of plants grows better at enough of light – in sites of damaged forest, and also at riverbanks. Therefore males of gardener bowerbird meet in these places more often.
Male of the bowerbird lives near the plant and carefully looks after it: bird pecks out pest insects, throws out dry leaves falling on plant from trees, breaks off dry and ill leaves, and also regularly rakes under stem friable fallen leaves. It stimulates formation of adventitious roots at the plant, and it grows better. The bird’s dung serves as additional fertilizer for the plant. The most surprising feature of behaviour of gardener bowerbird is the skill of plant forming. Bird picks by beak a top of main stalk, and thus forces it to branch. Leaves of crimson balsam have bright anthocyan colouring – they are green with numerous red spots, and the youngest leaflets are completely ruby-red. Male of gardener bowerbird controls the growth of patronizing bush, from time to time pinching out tops of too strongly grew sprouts and biting off part of stalk by strong beak. Such operation results in development of the plant as a compact bush. Well formed bush of this species has a plenty of tops and looks more impressive. On its background the bowerbird displays black-and-white plumage. At the strong adult male some plants form semicircular “stage”.
The female of gardener bowerbird visits “flower bed” of the male only for pairing. She leads a secretive way of life, and prefers to hide in hollow or among branches in day time. She is most active from dawn till midday, and also in the evening.
When the female comes nearer to male’s “flower bed”, she utters silent calling whistle. Having heard it, male as if changes itself. He starts to fly excitedly from branch to branch near “flower bed”, searching for the female. If at his territory another male, or a bird even remotely similar to him by colouring will appear at this time, male will attack them and banish. Meeting the female, the male perch on plant grown up up by him, shakes stalks, and utters chirring advertisement call alternating with loud resonant calls. Pairing takes place on the ground near plants.
Male does not take part in care of posterity, but protects the site from other males. As a rule, at the territory of one male one or two females may nest. Nest of these birds is simple cup-like one; it is made of thin twigs and sturdy fibrous leaves of giant grasses. The female chooses rich bushes for nesting and builds a nest itself. In clutch of this species of birds there is up to six rounded eggs with dark green smooth shell. Nesting repeats two times per year.

The idea about existence of this species of birds is proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Asian tree-creeper (Nechlorus dendrobatoides)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Fairy-bluebirds (Irenidae)

Habitat: southern China, Southeast Asia.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Neocene is the time of restoration of tropical forests, the most productive natural communities of land. Degraded in great degree in human epoch, forests have covered again the vast areas of land, and they are inhabited by various creatures. The initial fauna had strongly suffered from destruction of habitats, and tropical forests of early Neocene had been occupied by species settled from other ecosystems. During the process of establishing of natural balance evolution had produced the diverse forms of animals, birds and reptiles which quite often may seem strange and unusual. The bird Asian tree-creeper is one of them.
Tree-creeper is rather small bird: its length reaches 20 – 23 cm including tail. This bird has monophonic, dim and dark plumage of blue-green color which makes it imperceptible among various epiphytes, so plentiful in Asian jungle. The most unusual feature of this bird is its body shape and a habit of life: tree-creeper has almost completely lost the ability to fly, having kept rather small wings and strongly reduced keel bone. It is rather unusual to forest bird, but in rich forest canopy this species prefers to move a different way. During the evolution at Asian tree-creeper very strong and tenacious legs had developed; by means of them tree-creepers climb and jump from one branch to another and even from tree to tree, especially if trees grow close enough. Besides rather light weight and remained wings permit tree-creeper to glide from the top downward, but the bird makes it reluctantly, preferring to use wings as signal flags at courting for females or during tournaments against contenders. On inner side of wings there are bright red spots, appreciable only when the bird opens wings.
As well as other tropical birds of small size, Asian tree-creepers eat small invertebrates, and also soft fruits and sometimes nectar – everything that is possible to find in tropical forest canopy in plenty. Therefore birds are rather tolerant relatively to neighbours and in crones of large enough trees up to 6 breeding couples of these birds may live. Each couple, however, has strictly protected territory which borders are observed. Displaying signals to neighbours, bird stands on tiptoes and trembles wings, making visible at look from the side their bright inner side. Though Asian tree-creepers can not fly, their constitution, resembling an anatomy of nuthatches (Sitta), apermits them to move on trees very quickly, hunting for prey or escaping from enemies – predatory mammals, snakes and birds.
Asian tree-creeper starts to hatch eggs in second half of dry season, and to the beginning of rainseason from eggs nestlings covered with rare yellowish-green down hatch. The cup-like nest of these birds is constructed on thin branches bound by rods and fibres. In clutch it may be up to 4 eggs with speckled brown shell. Eggs are hatching only by the female, but nestlings are brought up by both parents. They leave nestlings alone for a long time, and at this time nestlings lay in nest, not moving – their camouflage is their only protection. At the age of 2 months young birds leave nest. They differ from adult birds in colouring – the top part of their body is coloured cryptic greyish-brown with dark speckles; the bottom part of body is green. After the first shed they get colouring of adult individuals and become capable to breeding at the age of 4 months.
In places with long-lasting rainseason Asian tree-creepers have time to bring up two hatches within one year, and then have a rest during several months.
Life expectancy of Asian tree-creeper is about 7 – 8 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Stripe-headed daw (Callomonedula fasciatocephala)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Corvine bird (Corvidae)

Habitat: Northern Africa, savannas and light forests.

Picture by Lambert

In Holocene the fauna of Earth had suffered from human activity. It had especially touched species not suffering anxieties from the part of people. But in same time synanthropic species could expand an area and occupy new habitats. Among them some representatives of corvine bird family had especially succeeded. These birds due to intelligence and abilities to get on with people had received excellent chance of survival in Neocene. Having kept high number, representatives of corvine birds had advantage after human extinction before other species, and could occupy various ecological niches. Among them large predators and scavengers had appeared, and some species of this family had became analogues of other medium-sized warblers, representatives of other families of the order.
In savannas of Northern Africa speckle-headed daws are – rather small-sized birds making the separate genus – are characteristic representatives of corvine birds. They are descendants of common daw (Corvus monedula), one of usual synanthropic species in Holocene. The majority of species of these birds is starling-sized, or a little bit larger. The characteristic feature speckle-headed daws – the presence of well-distinguished and appreciable from afar pattern on back part of head. It serves for demonstration at conflicts between birds, and also for recognition of congeners. Wishing to show this pattern, bird rears feathers on head, slightly having bent it forward. At different species of speckle-headed daws pattern differs, that precisely permits them to find out congeners, not reacting to other species. Crown, forehead and throat at birds of all species of this genus are dark, and feathering on body has more varying colouring, than at ancestor, due to metal shine. At all species characteristic feature of daws is kept: light grey iris of eyes distinguishing them from other corvine birds.
Being in the majority small birds, speckle-headed daws eat insects. They keep on backs of large herbivores of savanna – flathorns, harelopes, giraffe ostriches. Birds gather parasitic and blood-sucking insects from them therefore both large herbivore and bird receive mutual benefit. Other service, which they render to large animal, is the work of “sentinels”: due to keen sight birds notice predators beforehand, and warn herd by loud cries.
Stripe-headed daw is the typical representative of genus. This bird is colored lighter, than its far ancestor known to people. Feathers on its nape are hatched in narrow cross strips, forming regular black-and-white pattern. These feathers are lengthened and look like a wig. Beak is light grey. Feathers on stomach and back of bird are also light grey, almost white. Wings and tail are black with bright blue metal shine. Due to the neighbourhood with large animals stripe-headed daw feels like protected from an attack of various feathered predators even having such bright colouring.
Outside of nesting season stripe-headed daws migrate in savanna with herds of herbivores, perching for a night on trees or bushes near to herd. Animals like flathorn represent convenient “dining room” for them: on each animal some birds constantly are “on duty”, gathering from the animal ticks and horseflies. These birds keep on back, shoulders and groats of animals, gathering from them mainly large flies. Sometimes they fly out from animal, and quickly catch insect in flight.
Once a year, in the beginning of rain season, stripe-headed daws partly lose interest to herds: the time of nesting comes. At this time they gather to large colonies on big hollow trees, and arrange noisy courtship demonstrations. Males start displaying: they hang on branches headfirst near the chosen tree-trunk hollow, and start to shake, loudly crying. When any female shows interest to nest and its owner, male arranges noisy race, pursuing her in air. So birds estimate forces of each other. If birds have had a good first impression about each other, they start to get acquainted closer: cautiously touch each other by beaks and start to clean feathers to each other - in the beginning on wings and back, and then when the trust will be established – near eyes of the partner. At last the female shows the even greater trust to the male, allowing him to feed her. For this purpose she squats and stretches wings, imitating a nestling, and male feeds her from beak with insects. The generated pair keeps very amicably, in common protecting nest from encroachments of competitors.
When eggs (4 – 5 white eggs) appear in nests, parents hatch them alternately. Free from a hatch bird feeds and gathers food for the partner.
Nesting in colony has one essential advantage: safety of clutches and hatches of stripe-headed daws is very high. Potentially dangerous enemy will be driven off at once with the whole colony: birds snatch on aggressor, cry, beat him by wings and, peck and scratch by claws. Force of joint attack of birds happens so great, that even the deadlynetta or giraffe ostrich recedes from flock of these birds.
Nestlings hatch after 17 – 18 days of hatching. They are naked and blind, but develop quickly – at the second week of life they fledge, and to the end of third week of life leave nest and perch on branches of tree. About two weeks parents feed them, and then young birds start to feed independently near to adults. The young growth becomes able to nesting from the eighth – the ninth month of life, but usually young birds nests at one-year-old age, when new rain season begins.
Close species of speckle-headed daws live in savannas of Northern Africa:
Silver-headed daw (Callomonedula argenteocephala) is one of small species of family. It is remarkable in color of feathers on nape: they are silvery colored with strong metal shine. Showing them, bird trembles the head, and sun light sparkles on feathers. That’s why the bird looks very effectively, especially in courtship season. In other features the biology of this species is typical for genus. Silver-headed daw feeds on rather small herbivores: harelopes and kangoohoppers. In nesting biology of this species there are essential differences from congeners: this bird does not form large colonies, nests in dense prickly bush and builds dense spherical nests of branches.
Snow-headed daw (Callomonedula grandis) is the largest species of genus: it is little bit larger than common daw by size. Nape, sides of head and cheeks at this bird are snow-white, beak is ivory-colored; on the head there is small black “cap”, and there is dark site on a throat like narrow “tie”. During the courtship demonstration bird fluffs feathers on head such way that black sites are brightly visible on white background. The feathering on body sharply contrasts with head in colouring: whole body of bird is coal-black, but on wings and tail there is strong bluish-green metal shine. Paws of snow-headed daw have very remarkable color: they are coral-red at birds of both genders.
This bird does not render services of the cleaner to large animals, but constantly keeps near to them. The bird benefits by presence of large animals: moving, they scare away small animals for which this bird hunts – rodents, lizards and large insects. Usually such bird perches on bushes and trees near to grazing herbivores, and catches frightened away animals by fast throws. And when it joins the herd of flathorns, this bird at all perches on their wide corneous head incrustations, and attacks catch therefrom. Also these birds may attack miteeaters and bloodbirds – small warblers feeding on large animals.
Silver-headed daw nests in small colonies numbering up to 3 – 5 pairs of adult birds. It is much more aggressive than other representatives of genus, and attacks even other species of speckle-headed daws, driving them away from nests.
Nice-headed daw (Callomonedula callocephala) is starling-sized bird. It differs in brightest feathering among congeners. All body of this bird is grayish-white, tail is black with greenish metal shine. Occasionally birds of this species have black primary feathers in wings - at various birds in varying amount, sometimes wings of any bird are colored differently. Head of this species is very bright: black “cap” is bordered behind and from sides by blue feathers with strong metal shine. Blue “mane” gradually passes to glaucescent colouring of shoulders with crimson-pink shine. Beak of this bird is snow-white.
Nice-headed daws keep in big flocks of rather constant structure, numbering up to 50 birds. Out of nesting season they “serve” herds of various hoofed mammals, clearing them from parasites. More often they keep on sides and stomach of animals, gathering from them ticks and small horseflies. Thus, they do not compete to close species of genus.

Maned crow (Leontocorvula leonina)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Corvine birds (Corvidae)

Habitat: Northern Africa, Southwest Europe, Apennines, “oases” of Mediterranean swamps; savannas and light forests.
In Neocene corvine birds realized the advantages received from inhabiting near to people. Due to private, but very favourable union with people they had an opportunity to settle widely and to keep high number whereas other animals disappeared in the world changed by people.
In Neocene the specific structure of many ecosystems had considerably changed: the part of large species, characteristic for Holocene, had died out, and they had been replaced by completely other animals. Extinction had affected the majority of orders and families of world fauna, which representatives differed in large size. Therefore among new species of herbivores in African savanna instead of representatives of hornbills other birds, maned crows, representatives of completely other family and order, wander.
Maned crow is rather large bird: it is up to 50 cm in height; its wingspan is about one and half meters. By proportions it is a little similar to any hornbill - the similar habit of life has an effect. At it there are long legs, short body and large head with big beak. Tail of bird is straight and fan-shaped; wings are wide and have rounded ends. Maned crow flies well and even can hover, though it prefers to spend more time on the ground.
Colouring of the most part of body of this bird is rather dim: wings are black with bluish metal shine; body is covered with brown feathering. On head and neck long narrow feathers similar to domestic cock’s ones grow. They form some kind of “mane”, having determined thus the name of bird. “Mane” is colored brightly: feathers making it are yellowish, and along every feather black strip stretches. Showing itself to the opponent during intraspecific conflicts, bird fluffs these feathers, visually exaggerating its own size. At this moment it becomes a little similar to the cock prepared to fight Beak is black and shining; at adult birds its tip is white. Around of eyes there is an area of naked wrinkled grayish skin covered only with separate bristle-looking feathers. At adult birds this skin is lighter, than at young growth which had recently left nest.
Maned crow had became the original ecological analogue of ground hornbills (genus Bucorvus) – African representatives of hornbill family. It wanders by the ground and searches for small vertebrates and various insects. Occasionally this bird eats carrion: maned crow observes of behavior of predators and scavenging birds, and due to powerful beak easily receives the share of meal at their feast. In Mediterranean “oases” where the most part of year it is difficult to find potable water, this bird willingly eats juicy fruits of local plants.
Maned crow lives solitarily or in pairs. The amicable pair, which had successfully brought up posterity, can be kept till several nesting seasons. This species nests in big tree-trunk hollows, high from the ground. In “oases” of Mediterranean swamps these birds can not find trees suitable to nesting, because not every species of plants can sustain extreme conditions of salt swamps. Therefore maned crows nest in rock cracks in former Mediterranean. Here nobody threatens them, because ground predators can not reach “oases”: mammals prefer to not go deep into disastrous district where there is no potable water. For nesting in such places maned crows choose clefts where hot midday sun beams will not reach.
In clutch there is up to three large eggs (like big chicken egg by size) with white shell. They are hatched mainly by female, and male feeds her and protects nest. The posterity – blind naked nestlings – hatches after fifteen days of incubating. The young growth develops rather slowly: nestlings completely fledge only at bi-monthly age, and leave nest at the age of three months.
Maned crows living in Africa and Europe have the normal sizes typical for species. The settled small form (L. l. minima) lives in “oases” of Mediterranean, never leaving this place. It is widespread at Apennines, forming in Northern Africa the transitive hybrid form with the nominative subspecies.

Mangrove crow (Subcorvus arafurensis)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Corvids (Corvidae)

Habitat: Meganesia, Arafura Lake and surrounding mangrove woods.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Corvids are considered as one of tops of avian evolution. Possessing good intelligence and flexible behavior, they easily adapt to changing conditions of life. During the human epoch some representatives of corvids reached the great successes in struggle for existence. The destruction of natural communities in human era resulted in considerable decrease of specific variety of birds. The appearance of new ecological niches in early Neocene allowed corvids to expand considerably an area and among them the species adapted for life in new conditions had evolved. Mangrove crow, the typical representative of family, the inhabitant of mangrove woods in northern part of Meganesia, became one of such types.
This bird species differs not so much in body shape from typical crows of human epoch. Mangrove crow is a bird having wingspan up to 70 cm and weighting up to 1 kg. The appearance of bird has some traits of adaptation to life in humid habitats. Cheeks, throat and forward part of neck of this bird lack feathers and are covered with light gray skin. Beak of mangrove crow is deeper and more compressed from sides, rather than at the similar species living in the woods. Such beak is well suitable for opening the shells of bivalves; this bird eats them especially willingly.
The plumage of mangrove crow is lead-colored which passes into bluish on back and the top of the neck. “Hat” of almost white color on crown and nape contrasts with gray plumage on neck. Beak and feet of bird are black.
Mangrove crow is a sociable bird; out of the nesting period these birds gather in small flocks and in common migrate in mangrove thickets in search of food. Thus they constantly keep the contact with congeners with the help of abrupt croak. In the “language” of these birds there are up to 20 various sound signals. Inside the flock single birds find a partner to themselves, and adult birds keep in common and do not leave each other. The nesting season in tropics is not expressed, and pair ready to nesting simply leaves the flock and settles at the certain territory in forest. This species nests in pairs which are kept till the whole life. The nest of mangrove crow is opened from top, made of thin twigs and arranged in places visible worse from air. In clutch there are up to 4 eggs with spotty grey shell. Mainly the female hatches them (within 22 days), but nestlings are fed up by both parents. Young birds leave a nest at the age of 2 months and become mature at the age of 1 year.
This bird species is omnivorous, but prefers food of animal origin. Mangrove crow pecks up the snails, openly settling bivalve mollusks and wood-drilling «shipworms» in roots of mangrove trees. Also this bird hunts crabs and catches fishes in littoral pools. Mangrove crow is often feeding together with larger animals; when Brontochelis turtles living in Arafura Lake uproot mangrove trees, these birds catch the invertebrates seeking safety in flight or ones attached to roots. Also mangrove crows often attack other animals fishing or hunting small animals, and compel them to leave prey by their attacks.

Translated by Alexander Smyslov.

Forest Azorean magpie (Azopica collector)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Corvine bird (Corvidae)

Habitat: New Azora, tropical forest.

Picture by Simon

During the ice age separate populations of common magpies (Pica pica), European corvine birds, turned to birds of passage, receding from the edge of the approaching glacier. They began to migrate over drying up Mediterranean Sea to Atlas Mountains. Other route of migrant magpies ran to the west – up to Canary Islands. And separate individuals migrated even farther – to Azores; there they had formed the settled population. In Neocene the archipelago had turned to unite big island New Azora.
In human epoch magpies differed in propensity to larceny of small shining objects. This feature had received continuation in Neocene, turning to the feature of courtship behaviour of new species – forest Azorean magpie. Males of these birds are known for the propensity to collect various bright objects for female attraction.
Azorean magpie is a large, approximately crow-sized bird. Females are much smaller, rather than males – they are equal to Holocene magpie in size. The constitution of this bird is robust and more resembles crow’s one, rather than magpie’s one. Its tail has the size usual for corvine birds – it is shorter, than half of body length; middle feathers are a little bit longer, than edge ones. The sexual dimorphism of this species is expressed not only in size, but also in colouring. Males are colored contrast black-and-white tones: tail, head and wings are black, and sides, belly and primary feathers are white. Beak and paws at males are bright yellow. In corners of the beak males have original “wattles” – skin outgrowths of bluish color, at excitation reddening and increasing, swelling of blood. The similar attribute was known at New Zealand birds of family Callaeidae (New Zealand wattlebirds). Females are colored more modestly – they are grey with black and white spots.
This bird lives on the ground – at the island there is less number of predators, rather than at the continent. It has not lost ability to fly, but flies reluctantly and hardly: wings of this bird are rather short. Azorean wood magpies are omnivorous: they eat seeds, fruits fallen from trees, and various small live beings such as snails, insects and lizards. These birds avoid a society of congeners – each bird solitarily wanders in forest in searches of food. Azorean forest magpies are clever and cautious birds: they beforehand try to escape from predators, but if necessary, can hide in foliage. If it does not help, the bird actively defends from the enemy by beak or hardly and noisily flies up, warning thus other forest inhabitants about danger. Voice of this species of birds is drumming chatter, similar to the voice of common magpie.
Males of forest Azorean magpie are strictly territorial: each of them has the site in forest, which is strictly protected. Quite often at borders there are skirmishes between males from the next sites. Thus they cry, fluff feathers and “fence” by beaks, striking lateral impacts by beak to beak of the opponent. Females observe borders of sites not so strictly: they freely wander in forest, coming to the territory of one or another male.
This bird differs in especial courtship display – males of this species differ in propensity to gathering various objects which they show to females, trying to draw their attention. The male, like the bowerbird male, searches for various bright objects: fallen fruits, flowers, egg shells, feathers etc. Bright elytrums of beetles are especially appreciated to males; because of them birds can break border of nother's site or arrange fight. The male spreads collected objects on the platform trodden beforehand in bush in front of the “bower”, resembling usual magpie nest (covered building with friable roof). The “bower” building is strongly modified element of building behaviour of the male.
Besides the platform, male also decorates walls of “bower”. The most part of time in courtship season male is busy with gathering and sorting of “collection”. Also he furiously protects collection from other males and other small animals of New Azora involved with shine or color of collected objects. When the female comes to the territory of the male, he begins courtship displays. Male loudly cries, fluffs feathering, straightens white primary feathers “dancing” near the female, and, certainly, invites her in “bower”. Male shows gathered “collection” to female, catching and dropping various objects. Sometimes he jumps on the spot, keeping brightest objects of “collection” in beak. If it does not impress the female, she simply goes out, but if she accepts courtship, the male pairs with her … and his family duties come to end after it. At this species, as against to common magpies, male does not take participation in posterity rearing, because gathering of collection occupies too long time.
After pairing female builds in bushes cup-like nest with friable “roof” anywhere in territory of the male, and lays in it 5 – 7 eggs, hatching and protecting them from predators. She feeds hatched nestlings for a long time, and when they become fledged and leave the nest, leads them in forest and trains to search for food. Some weeks later the hatch breaks up.
At coasts of New Azora the close species lives: coastal Azorean magpie (Azopica littoralica). It differs from the wood neighbour in smaller size (it is daw-sized bird) and colouring. Males are colored greenish with black beak and paws, and blue primary feathers; “wattles” are white. Females of this species are grey with darker head. This bird lives in forests near the coast of island. At sea coast males gather stones, the fish scale, feathers of sea birds and shells for collections. Females search for food in coastal woods and bushes. Other features of behaviour of this bird are similar to behaviour of forest Azorean magpie. Fertility of this bird is less - 2 – 4 eggs. But the egg laying can repeat twice per year.

These species of birds were discovered by Simon, the forum member.

White-throated resonatornis (Resonatornis albopectoralis)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Corvids (Corvidae)

Habitat: Equatorial Africa, Congo.

Picture by fanboyphilosopher

Congo basin in Neocene represents the extensive territory covered by circuit of lakes and bogs among sites of impassable tropical forest. Flooded forests of Congo are adverse for life of large tetrapods, but represent a perfect habitat for climbing and flying creatures. The variety of birds in Congo basin of Neocene epoch is comparable to those in territory of Amazonia of human epoch. Among birds of Congo basin corvine birds take an appreciable place. This family has considerably succeeded in Neocene. These birds had managed to receive advantages in struggle for existence, living in cultural landscapes of human epoch. Natural ingenuity and ability to adaptation had helped these birds to occupy various ecological niches in ecosystems of Neocene. For Eurasia and North America large birds of prey, related to corvids and descending from representatives of this family, are characteristic, and in forests of Zinj Land the separate family of tropical birds, crestbills, also related to corvids, had evolved. But, in addition to them, in Neocene also various representatives of true corvids exist, which in due course of evolution had developed the various adaptations, helping to survive in specific conditions, characteristic for their habitats.
Tropical rainforests of Equatorial Africa, growing in Congo basin, represent a habitat of one interesting representative of Neocene corvids. It is rather easy to hear it among thickets of branches and lianas. The voice of this bird is very loud and unpleasant, resembling bull bellow. It is one of characteristic sounds of gallery forests crossed by rivers.
The bird uttering such cry appears unexpectedly small for such loud voice. It may be hardly noticed among lianas and in tree crones. During the cry under its skin on breast two big air bubbles of white color strengthening loudness of its voice are inflated. This feature has determined the name of this species – it is white-throated resonatornis.
This species is a raven-sized bird weighting about 1 kg. Colouring of resonatornis is not striking – plumage of bird is almost entirely black with greenish metal shine on wings. On breast of bird there is large white spot stretching upwards up to the throat. Besides for it, other ornamental features at this species are small fluffy feather cop above the beak and blue skin of eyelids. The main feature of bird is visible when it begins calling. Before uttering the impressive call, white-throated resonatornis makes some deep breaths, rising on paws. The trachea of this bird near to entrance to lungs forms two outgrowths which are located under skin. They have elastic walls, capable to stretch very strong. During an exhalation bird “pumps up” these outgrowths with air, and they are increased up to the size of orange. The skin above them forms the pair of folded “pockets” of white color hidden under feathers. When resonators are inflated, they appear from under feathers of bird. Such inflated resonators are well appreciable to competitors and partners of opposite gender. With the help of calls and displaying of inflated resonators this bird declares the rights on territory.
Resonatornises are sociable birds, constantly exchanging signals with each other. The usual voice of these birds is similar to croak with various modulations; in “dictionary” of resonatornis there is about ten signals used by birds in different situations. The birds free of nesting gather in small flocks and migrate in forest. Wide wings and long tail permit this bird to move easily in forest canopy, changing direction of flight.
Resonatornis the powerful deep beak assisting to crush firm seeds and to tear meat equally easily. These birds are omnivorous with inclination to zoophagy. Having an opportunity, they catch smaller birds, reptiles or mammals, ravage the bird’s nests and eat invertebrates, even beetles and snails covered with firm shell. These birds live strictly in forest canopy and do not fly down to the ground.
Resonatornises nest in pairs which are kept till their whole further life. The nest is built by both partners. It represents a construction of thin branches and other vegetative material. Frequently resonatornises occupy available nests of other birds, sometimes even attacking on the lawful owners and killing them. In clutch of resonatornises it may be up to five eggs which are hatched exclusively by the female. Male protects territory and gathers food for the female and posterity. When nestlings hatch, both parents feed them. At the age of six weeks young birds leave nest. They differ from adults in color of spot on the breast – it is not white, but dark grey. Within one year birds rear two hatches. Young birds become capable to breeding at the age of two years. Life expectancy of this species reaches 50 years and more.
Close species of resonatornises live in forests of Central Africa:
Ornamented resonatornis (Resonatornis ornatus) is smaller (daw-sized) species. Feathering of this species is black-and-white: primarily feathers are white with black tips; tail is long and white. Lateral parts of head are also white. Black color on wings has intensive green, and on breast – purple metal shine. Resonator bubbles at this species are bright orange. Voice sounds like long “metal” ringing whistle more often heard in midday hours. This species eats mainly invertebrates and small vertebrates – frogs and nestlings of small birds.
White resonatornis (Resonatornis albus) differs in colouring from other species: its plumage is almost entirely white, except for secondary feathers and waist having black color. It is a large bird: weight of adult individual is about 800 grammes. It has short fan-shaped tail and thick beak adapted to feeding on small animals and firm seeds. This species eats reptiles, including snakes up to one meter long, attacks birds and eats crabs and insects with firm shells. Head of this species is decorated with a bunch of fluffy feathers growing on forehead with soft shaft and down-like vane. Resonator bubbles of this species are grey; the voice is similar to sound of working mechanical saw. The adult individuals, having formed breeding couple, frequently cry a duet, continuing the call of the partner. This species cries in the morning more actively.
Green resonatornis (Resonatornis viridis) is the smallest species of the genus (starling-sized one). It differs in dark green color of plumage with intensive green metal shine on wings, back and nape. It has tenacious paws; this species can easily climb up trunks and branches of trees. Also it has pointed awl-shaped beak of white color adapted to getting of insects from cracks and other shelters. Instead of soft cop this species has elastic bristle-like feathers on forehead and about nostrils protecting feathering against pollution. Resonators are colored white. Voice of this bird is shrill long-lasting whistle. This species is active in twilight, in the morning and in the evening.

Multicolored tufted crestbill (Cristoctenops polychromus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Crestbills (Ctenorhampidae)

Habitat: Zinj Land, tropical forests.
The Neocaenic family of crestbills is endemic to Zinj Land and is represented primarily by small and medium-sized forest birds. In this family several genera represent the natural group of “crestbills of paradise”, among which various species differ in development of bright colors and ornaments of feathers. Representatives of tufted crestbills develop on the head an erect or movable crest, supplementing the growth on the upper mandible typical of the family.
The multicolored tufted crestbill is one of the most colorful-looking members of the group. It is a bird of the size of a small daw with plumage which combines several bright colors. The head of the male of this bird is painted in a charcoal black color with a greenish metallic sheen. Against this backdrop the iris of the eye of white or bluish color stands out. The bird’s beak and rounded horny outgrowth on the upper mandible are white. The outgrowth on the upper mandible is complemented by a thick black tuft on the crown and nape, the edge of which continues the line of the outgrowth edge. The back of the neck, back and wings of the male are colored bright green with a spotty pattern, which is formed by the brownish tips of feathers. The front part of the neck is lemon-yellow with a white bottom edge. The belly and undertail of the bird are crimson-red; the tail is white. The female of this species is colored much more modestly: it is a dull green with a white throat and a black head. The beak and growth on her upper mandible are dark gray.
This species feeds mainly on small fruits and seeds, but often pecks insects crawling on plants.
A courting male utters a loud buzzing trill, sitting on a branch without leaves and exposing itself. The female behaves secretively and her special call reports to the male her presence. Hearing the call, the male begins courtship displaying, dancing and bouncing on a branch with his wings spread. At that he shakes his head and fluffs yellow feathers on his neck.
The male of this species is not involved in nest building. His role in the preparation of nesting is reduced exclusively to fertilizing the female, but it is usually paired with only one female. This is due to the fact that after the start of the nesting the male takes a certain care of female. He gathers insects and puts them in a special sublingual pouch that can be stretched. The male keeps on the edge of the nesting territory of the female and from time to time beckons her, uttering a particular sound. The female briefly flies off of the nest, flies to the male and receives a portion of the gathered insects. She behaves the same way while rearing offspring. Due to this feature a couple can bring up a brood of 7-8 chicks: more than that of other small crestbills. The juvenile plumage of young birds looks like the color of the female’s plumage, but males have darker heads. As the crest of the male grows to sexual maturity, at the same time his plumage acquires multiple colors.
Sexual maturity comes at the age of 11-13 months; a lifetime is approximately 8 years.

Translated by FanboyPhilosopher

Sawbeak fisher (Serratorostrum piscatoius)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Sawbeaks (Serratorostridae)

Habitat: Northern Asia, Beringia. Bird lives at riverbanks.
Mass extinction at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, figuratively speaking, “had spoilt game”, having changed parity of forces in biosphere. Species from earlier prospering and various taxons appeared completely destroyed, but species from groups insignificant earlier received unexpected chance of further development. At times representatives of any group had opportunity to occupy the ecological niche not peculiar to this group earlier. Warblers used this way the chance of survival: some representatives of this suborder in large and variable order of passerine birds have occupied the “business” completely unusual for these birds in the past. Sawbeak fisher, eating fish, began one of such “deviated” species.
Sawbeak fisher is rather large representative of warblers: it is duck-sized bird. This species is the descendant of corvine birds (Corvidae), known by their ecological plasticity and advanced intelligence. It is similar to the halcyon of huge size: at this bird there are short body, large head, long sharp beak, short wings and tail. At edges of the end of beak of bird jags are developed: this is the adaptation for keeping of slippery catch – fishes. And for more reliable capture of catch on the end of tongue the horn oblique back teeth also are developed. Toes on legs of bird are edged by skinny fringe which can fold at forward movement of leg and fall out when bird pushes by paw. Sawbeak fisher can dive and chase catch under water, making in chase of it dizzy turns. Under water body of bird looks silvery: At the sawbeak coccygeal gland, producing plentiful fat greasing which has water-repellent properties, is advanced. This bird spends a lot of time, cleaning feathering and greasing it with fat.
The body of sawbeak is colored rather brightly: back, nape and wings are grey with shade; sides of head, throat, chest, stomach and tail are colored blue with metal shine. Such colouring makes dived bird rather imperceptible at look from above and from below. At each side of head from eyes two “tresses” of lengthened feathers direct back: at males they are red, at females grey. Beak is colored yellowish-grey, and legs are dark grey. Wings of bird are short but strong: the sawbeak fisher is the bird of passage, each year making long migrations.
The sawbeak fisher catches catch from any support: to look for underwater inhabitants it chooses branch of tree growing horizontally above water. This bird eats fish and crayfishes, chasing them safely diving in water. During swimming bird extends body almost in straight line, presses wings to body (using them for turns), and swims rowing by paws. It kills prey by impact of beak.
Sawbeak fisher is monodin; pairs at these birds form to one season. Male occupies site of the river with riverside thickets of trees, builds the basis for nest and starts to involve females to the territory with the help of abrupt cries similar to crow croak. Female chooses site, views it, and only after that starts acquaintance to “groom”. Acquaintance is accompanied by bows, original “dance” of the male in air above the female, and an exchange of “gifts” – pieces of bark, twigs or feathers. If birds have liked each other, they complete nest together. The generated pair hunts together; birds make to each other signs of attention: clean feathers to each other, treat with small fish and cry a duet, declaring about rights to territory.
This species builds bowl-like nest of thin rods on tree near to water. Trees growing on small islands, where ground predators do not reach, are especially preferable at these birds. In clutch there are two large eggs, female hatches basically, male substitutes her to short time, but basically only feeds female. The incubating lasts about 4 weeks. Nestlings hatch blind, but covered by down. They begin to see at the age of 1 week, in same time they start to cover with feathers. Both parents take part in feeding of posterity: nestlings are very gluttonous. At six-week age they abandon nest and start studying to swim and hunt fishes and frogs. At one-year-old age young birds become sexual matured.
Sawbeak fisher is the bird of passage. For winter it flies away to southern rivers and Pacific coast to islands of Kuril - Kamchatka zone, catching there fishes in coastal sea waters.

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