Bestiarium of the future - Birds
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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

Mammals
Birds
Amphibians and Reptiles
Fishes
Invertebrates
Fungi
Plants
Microorganisms

 

Birds

 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.

Grumbling loon (Gavia murmurara)
Order: Loons (Gaviformes)
Family: Loons (Gaviidae)

Habitat: Eurasia from Crimea and Ustyurt islands in the south to the Arctic islands in the north and from the English Channel to Beringia, North America to Greenland.
In the human era, loons were a small group of birds widespread mainly in the cold latitudes of the northern hemisphere. During the ice age, loons were pushed south by the advancing ice along with other northern animals. Later, when the glacier retreated, some populations remained in the south and evolved into new forms, others gradually migrated back to the north and settled in familiar conditions, and others simply adapted to the changed habitat conditions. The grumbling loon, a descendant of the black–throated loon (Gavia arctica), belongs to the latter.
This species is a relatively large aquatic bird: adult weight 4.0-6.4 kg, body length 75-100 cm, wingspan 135-155 cm. The color of the plumage of the upper side of the body is grayish-brown, a ring of small feathers with a metallic green shine appears around the eyes in some populations. The belly is white in representatives of all populations. A characteristic feature in the appearance of birds is a bright pink beak. Geographical variability is clearly expressed in this species: the closer to the south, the darker the color of the bird, when moving to the east, the “ring” around the bird’s eyes becomes more expressed. Birds prefer to choose partners similar to members of their population, so even in wintering areas, different populations do not interbreed and avoid each other. In addition, with the accidental hybridization of birds from remote populations, the offspring turns out to be infertile – so strong are the intraspecific differences at the edges of the range. The voice of this species is very characteristic: it’s a “uorr-uorr-uorr-kerr” grunt. The alarm call resembles a horse neigh.
Grumbling loon feeds on any medium-sized pelagic and bottom-dwelling fish, in the Fourseas the basis of the diet consists of gobies and fry of large fish. Also, birds often eat arthropods – crustaceans and aquatic insects; frogs are rarely hunted. The hunting territory of a pair of birds has an area of up to 3-5 hectares; birds regularly declare their rights to it by vocalization. The northern populations of grumbling loon are migratory, the southern ones are sedentary. Birds from Eastern Siberia migrate to Baikal and further to the wetlands of China, ones from the Arctic Ocean cross the Beringian Isthmus and fly along the Pacific coast, part of the population remains on the Sea of Okhotsk. Birds from the Atlantic migrate south along the coasts of Eurasia and North America, and part of the population winters on the Fourseas.
The mating season in the south begins in April, in the north – in May. Grumbling loon nests in the same place from year to year, often using last year’s nest. Moreover, on the pond inhabited by these birds, as a rule, only the same pair of birds settles for several years in a row. The nest is located in lowland, often at the water’s edge. Birds at the nest behave secretively; hunting sites are often located several kilometers away from it. During courtship, males and females in the established pair preen each other’s feathers and present a symbolic gift – a bunch of water plants. Young birds arrange more rampant games, accompanied by courtship flight: they synchronously run up on the water and take off, and also synchronously land on the water, swim and dive. In this case the “gift” is more often real – a small fish or crayfish. There are two eggs in the clutch, sometimes one, 9 cm long with a greenish spotted eggshell. Both partners hatch the eggs and feed the chicks; incubation lasts about 25 days. The chicks are covered with down and have opened eyes. They immediately leave the nest and learn to catch small animals on their own. Parents feed them for the first three weeks of life, and then their care islimited mainly to protection of the chicks. The young bird fledges at the age of about two weeks. At 5 weeks, the juveniles are already flying, but they become independent only in winter. Birds from the northern part of the range go to winter with their parents, but return to the nesting sites on their own. Grumbling loons become sexually mature at 3 years old. Life expectancy is up to 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

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

Habitat: New Azora island, woods and bush thickets.

Picture by Carlos Pizcueta, colorization by Biolog

Initial image 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.

Wabun (Crocorax wabun)
Order: Pelecaniforms (Pelecaniformes)
Family: Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae)

Habitat: freshwater reservoirs of North America in the subtropical climate.
The boundary of two epochs, the Holocene and the Neocene, was marked by mass extinctions associated with very drastic climate changes. Extensive glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere forced the inhabitants of temperate latitudes to move further south, following the changes in the boundaries of climatic zones. Later, when the glaciers retreated again, many species returned to the lands of their ancestors, but some of them simply adapted to changing conditions in new habitats. Thus, representatives of groups of animals and plants more characteristic of the polar regions appeared in low latitudes. Wabun is one of these species.
Wabun is one of the descendants of the double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) of the Holocene epoch. Even in the human era, this bird had significant adaptability and was represented by various subspecies; in the Neocene, several new species, differing in ecology, evolved from this species. One of the species is wabun, which inhabits rivers and lakes in North America.
The wabun is an aquatic bird about half a meter long. The coloration, like that of the ancestral species, is dark (males are darker than females), but not monotonous, but with a pronounced pattern of longitudinal stripes on the neck and chest. This feature helps the bird to hide in the coastal thickets. The characteristic feather crests of the ancestral species have turned into two narrow feather “tufts”; the skin on the face is bare, of meaty-red color. The wings are small, but the bird retains the ability to fly; the wabun cannot fly for a long time, but at short distances it flies fast enough to escape from an underwater or ground predator. If necessary, the bird jumps out of the water into the air and immediately takes off, despite the wet plumage. Wabun escapes from aerial enemies underwater: it is as good a diver as his ancestor. On the ground, this bird is very careful: because of the long webbed toes, wabun walks very clumsily, although it is able to take off from the ground.
The enemies of the wabun are not numerous – mainly predatory fish and snakes; the meat of this bird has quite unpleasant taste, so many birds of prey and carnivores do not hunt it, but ravage its nests in search of eggs and chicks. Wabun itself hunts small pelagic fish, insects and other imvertebrates, as well as amphibians. The bird will attack bottom-dwelling fish and crayfish less often, preferring to hunt in open water.
Wabuns are sociable birds forming not numerous loose colonies. Each pair arranges a nest individually, but relatively close to each other, and does not show aggression to neighbors during hunting. In addition, they jointly defend themselves from enemies, raising the general alarm and supporting each other with loud calls.
This is a non-migrating bird species that lives where large bodies of water (especially rivers) usually do not freeze for the winter, or do not freeze completely and for a short time. In winter, these birds search for wintering pits of fish, diving to a depth of 20 meters.
Nesting begins in spring. Even at the end of winter, males of this species begin to court of females, hunting together and feeding their mates with fish. The courting male performs somersaults under water and often jumps into the air vertically, and then falls into the water. During such courtship games, the females assess the physical condition of the males before reciprocating. This species is monogamous, and partners often stay together for life.
Wabun nests are a bit similar in structure to the great crested grebe’s nest of human era. A pair of birds throws a bunch of twigs into the thickets of water plants until a floating island is formed on which a nest is arranged. There are no more than 6 eggs in the clutch; they are incubated by both parents in turn. The chicks hatch by the end of spring, and by the end of summer they are already able to swim and dive along with their parents. Usually young birds overwinter with their parents, but in the spring the families break up, and breeding pairs renovate the nests and make a new clutch. Sexual maturity occurs at the 2nd year of life.
The average life expectancy of wabun is 10-15 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Ta'aroa (Taaroa involans)
Order: Pelecaniforms (Pelecaniformes)
Family: Cormorants (Plalacrocoracidae)

Habitat: Eonesia, Fisaga Islands.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

Eonesia islands originated in the Pacific Ocean after the human era, so they were settled in natural way by default. In the Neocene, their nature is radically different from the nature of the islands that existed in the human era, which are inhabited mainly by descendants of species introduced by people. Seabirds were among the first settlers on the new islands. In the new habitats, peculiar ecosystems were formed, in which the descendants of the settlers evolved much more freely than on the continents, in conditions of intensive competition and the presence of enemies. Therefore, island species turned out to be peculiar in comparison with their mainland relatives. So, miru (Pezolarus miru), a poorly flying gull, appeared on the Burotu Islands. A large descendant of cormorants – ta’aroa (the name of this species comes from the name of the Polynesian god of the sky) appeared on the young volcanically active Fisaga islands. This species is a large flightless cormorant, forming large colonies on the shores of the islands, numbering up to 300 adult birds and more.
The loss of the ability to fly in island habitats is relatively easy: in the human era, there were island-dwelling flightless cormorant species, which, however, became extinct in the human era or immediately after it. Ta’aroa's body length is up to 85-95 cm, weight about 4.5 kg. While walking on land, ta’aroa keeps the body in almost erect posture. The wings of this species are shorter than those of other cormorants that have retained the ability to fly. The primary feathers are very strong and shortened, so the wings are a bit like the flippers of penguins. On the bird’s head there is a short serrated corneous crest, similar to a crown, under the beak on the throat pouch a red skin “wattle”, pierced with blood vessels, grows – it is an adaptation for cooling when the bird is on the shore. The area around the eyes and from the eyes to the beak is covered with featherless light gray skin. The plumage color is mainly dull – the background color is brown, the wings are black, the belly is gray. The skin on the legs is black.
Taaroa is a monogamous species; pairs are formed for life and birds form a new pair only after the death of a partner. This species feeds mainly on fish, crustaceans and mollusks, does not disdain carrion and bird eggs. Sometimes taaroa attacks small vertebrates caught on the coast – lizards, large insects and land crabs. The bird swims well, flaps its wings under water, and paddles with webbed feet on the surface. Some individuals swim across the straits between the islands of the archipelago, so ta’aroa colonies exist on all the islands of the Fisaga archipelago.
This bird species lives and nests exclusively in colonies, solitary birds experience severe stress, when lack the society of relatives. Colonies are usually located in the forest at a distance of several tens of meters from the beach. From the colony to the sea well-trodden paths devoid of vegetation stretch. Each pair has its own small nesting area. The mating season is very long; nesting birds are present in the colony at any time of the year. Adult birds, preparing for nesting, perform a mating ritual: they open their wings in front of each other and call, raising their heads to the sky. Young birds also stomp on the ground, lifting their legs high. The nest is very simple: it is just a hole in the forest floor or in the sand. There are 4-5 eggs in the clutch, laid at intervals of 1-2 days. Incubation begins from the first egg, the chicks hatch after 30 days. Development is relatively slow. For the first month and a half of their life, they stay in the nest and are fed by their parents. At this time, quarrels often break out in colonies: either one of the adult birds got too close to someone else’s nest, or a chick penetrated to the neighbour’s brood, trying to get an additional portion of food. Later, the young birds leave the nest and accompany their parents to the sea, waiting for their return, then begin to swim with their parents to the sea for fishing. At this time, they often become prey of sharks. Ta’aroas become independent at the age of about 8 months and reach sexual maturity at 4-6 years (females do it earlier). Life expectancy is very long and can reach 50 years or more.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Caribbean manchot (Manchotus caribaeus)
Order: Pelecaniforms (Pelecaniformes)
Family: Boobies (Sulidae)

Habitat: Caribbean islands, sea coasts.
The “plankton catastrophe” that occurred at the end of the Holocene caused a mass extinction of marine pelagic animals, and cetaceans suffered the most from it. In the human era, the number of many their species was undermined: they were on the edge of extinction as a result of excessive whaling. In due course of restoring of marine ecosystems, their place was taken by cephalopods, fish and very peculiar birds – gannetwhales. These birds are actually “hyper-penguins”, and are well adapted to life in the cold waters of the Atlantic and Arctic Ocean. But in the Neocene, the species from which these huge birds originate have also retained: in the warm seas of the New World, penguin boobies, or manchots, representatives of the group that became the ancestors of gannetwhales, live. These are relics of the Ice Age that have lost the ability to fly and resemble the penguins in their body shape.
Caribbean manchot is a large bird 75-85 cm long, weighing about 5 kg. Its physique is more reminiscent of archaic Paleocene penguins: it has a relatively graceful constitution and a more elongated neck and head. The wings are well developed, flipper-like, with short stiff feathers. A large horny claw grows at the tip of the hand. The tail is fan-shaped. The color of the plumage is characteristic for pelagic animals: the back and head are gray, the belly is white, the beak is yellow. Females have a red vertical stripe on it, which becomes bright during the breeding season. This species feeds on various kinds of fish, squid and crustaceans, chasing prey in the open sea. These birds can fish in groups, driving fish into a shoal near the surface and snatching them. Their prey is smaller than that of tropical gannetwhales.
Caribbean manchot is flightless, but walks well on land, keeping an upright position when walking. It lives in colonies on rocky islands, where sometimes it has to climb, jumping and climbing on ledges of rocks. The claw on the wing helps birds cling to rocks and defend themselves when attacked by a predator.
The mating season of these birds begins in early-mid-January. Pairs of manchots are formed for one season. During the courtship ritual, males call females with loud buzzing cries. The nesting area turns out to be divided into many individual nesting sites. During the struggle for a place for a nest and a female, males quarrel loudly and jostle, striking each other with their wings. The nest of this species is a simple bowl of sand and stones, and the males remember their nests and occupy their former nesting sites from year to year, especially if these are good places won from relatives. During the annual renovation of the nests, quarrels occur over the stones for the nest, which the birds steal from each other. There are usually two eggs in the clutch, which are laid with a break of 1-2 days. The clutch is incubated by both parents for about 40 days. During incubation, the blood vessels on the palamas dilate greatly, due to which the eggs are heated.
The chicks are covered with sparse gray down and remain in the nest for some time. They are fed primarily by females holding prey at the red stripe on the beak, from where the chick takes it. At the age of one month, the chicks already leave the nest and begin to walk around the nesting area, where they gather in “kindergartens” under the supervision of young birds who are not engaged in feeding offspring. At this time, they are fed by both parents, who recognize their chick by voice. At the age of 3 months, the chick is fully fledged; it leaves the nest and descends to the sea for the first time. Here the young bird learns to swim and fish, although the parents continue to feed the young bird. At the age of 5 months, young birds fish in the sea on their own, and at 8 some birds leave the colony. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 4 years, life expectancy is up to 20-25 years.
A closely related species, Florida manchot (Manchotus floridianus), lives on the coast of North America. It goes further north than all other species, often adjacent to gannetwhales of southern populations. It forms several colonies on the Gulf of Mexico coast and in the Mississippi Delta. This species is larger (up to a meter long), with a darker color of the upper part of the body – dark gray with a silvery sheen. The beak is yellowish-brown, on the lower jaw at females there is a large cherry-red spot. Birds prey on fish and cephalopods at depths of up to 50 meters. Pairs in this species are formed for life.
Motley manchot (Manchotus galapagoensis) inhabits the Galapagos. Body length is 85-90 cm. The color is piebald: the head, wings and upper back are gray, and other parts of the body are white. The beak is yellow with a red tip in male and female. This species differs from the Atlantic species in nesting features: it nests in burrows that are arranged at a distance of several tens of meters from the shore. The colony consists of several dozen pairs that dig holes in the neighborhood, at a distance of several meters between them – often among shrubs, where the soil is held by their roots. Adult birds jointly protect nesting sites. “Kindergartens” of the growing chicks gather on the coast 3 weeks after hatching.
Crested manchot (Manchotus cristatus) is an inhabitant of Burotu archipelago, related to the Galapagos species. It is the smallest species in size: 60-65 cm long. The back is bluish-gray, the belly is white. Unlike other species, a tuft of elongated filamentous yellow feathers grows on the head. Individual forms from different islands vary in color (from yellow to orange) and size (from large to several feathers above the eyes) of this crest. The species also nests in burrows that are located 1-1.5 m far from each other; there are up to 20-30 breeding pairs in the colony. The chicks gather in “kindergarten” at the age of two weeks.
On the coast of Central America and the Panama Strait a large Panama manchot (Manchotus colombiensis) lives, reaching 90 cm in length. It resembles a Florida species, only the color is darker – the back is black and there is a black transverse sling on the throat. The wings are black with a white tip and back edge. Biology is similar to Florida manchot, but a significant part of the diet is made up of crustaceans and cephalopods, as well as small holothurias.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

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.

White Rumped Swan (Cygnus albicauda)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks and Geese (Anatidae)

Habitat: Waterways and freshwater bodies of Southeastern Meganesia, Murray River system, mouth of the Murray River, coastal areas of Eyre Gulf.
During the age of man, certain animals survived by being unpretentious and even endearing themselves to humans. In Holocene Australia, waterfowl were a common fixture of public watercourses, and were generally encouraged to settle there.
And so we see in Neocene Meganesia with the White Rumped Swan, its ancestor, the Black Swan was a common and favoured animal in any parks which contained watercourses, and they had mostly escaped persecution.
This bird usually measures about 120 centimetres long and weighs up to 5 kilograms, wingspan reaches as much as 190 centimetres, they generally resemble their ancestor, except in colour. The head and neck are a dark black color, graduating into ashy grey on the shoulders and wings, which also have white patches on the primaries, the underside, rump and tail are dirty white. The bill is similar to its ancestor but is an orange-red colour instead of pinkish red, with a white tip.
As with all swans, these birds feed on submerged vegetation, which they reach on the riverbed by plunging their heads underwater, they can sometimes be found in coastal shallows where they will feed on seaweed. They may travel in groups of 6 or 7, and produce a trumpeting call that ends on a higher note. Flies exceedingly well and can travel long distances between watercourses. This bird is mostly diurnal but will socialize more in the morning.
As with all swans, they are monogamous, mating for life. Nesting occurs from March to September, and the pair will build a platform nest standing about 1 meter above the water, this nest can be reused every year. Up to 8 eggs are laid which are whitish green and these take up to 40 days to incubate. Both parents take turns to sit on the eggs, and after hatching, the cygnets stay with their parents for 9 months, at which stage they are fully fledged. The parents will vigorously defend their young.
Predators include the Bunyip, as well as large marsupial carnivores. Lifespan is up to 12 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Donald Morris, Adelaida, Australia.

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.

Graceful maned duck (Caballoanas gracilis)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: mountain areas of China, lakes and rivers in mountain valleys.
Sexual selection leads to the formation of bizarre structures in living organisms. Bright colors, long feathers, various combs and wattles are elements of the appearance of birds that are the result of sexual selection. In the Neocene epoch, a distinct group of bird species – maned ducks – is characteristic of the mountain regions of East Asia. These are duck species with a characteristic decoration on the back of the neck – here a strip of long narrow feathers along the backbone forms something like a mane. These feathers are movable, and the bird can raise and lower them at will. The courting male opens them and swims around the female, displaying this decoration to her. Hence the genus name meaning “horse duck”.
The size of maned ducks, as a rule, is small: the weight of an adult is no more than 700-800 grams. Their typical representative is a graceful maned duck. It is a non-migrating bird, occasionally making small migrations within its range. As a rule, these birds spend the summer on high-altitude lakes, and in winter migrate to warmer mountain valleys.
Sexual dimorphism is clearly expressed in these birds. The male is slightly larger than the female. The head is dark green with white cheeks and throat, the body and wings are brown. The secondary feathers have bright blue “speculums” with a white border. The mane feathers on its neck are white with red bases, with an expressed metallic sheen. The female has a camouflage color of the plumage – it is brown with a greenish tinge on the neck and shoulders; there is a dark scaly pattern on the wings. The beak of males and females is black with a white tip, the legs are gray. Other species are also characterized by sharp sexual dimorphism.
The head is wedge-shaped with a relatively long beak. This species feeds on soft aquatic plants, dipping its head into the water in the process of feeding. In case of danger, birds can dive to a depth of up to 2 meters.
The mating season begins in spring, after returning to the mountain lakes. Males divide the coastal zone of the lake into individual territories, where there are necessarily thickets of coastal marsh plants – a place for the nest. Part of the mating ritual is dipping the head with the mane into the water and a small tremor of the neck, which is accompanied by splashing water. The male also swims around the chosen female with his mane spread out, vocalizing loudly.
The nest is arranged in thickets of marsh plants. Clutch numbers up to 10 eggs with a dark green spotted shell. Incubation lasts 19 days; the chicks leave the nest the day after hatching. Young birds fully fledge and acquire the ability to fly at the age of 38-40 days. Sexual maturity comes at the age of 10-11 months, life expectancy is up to 15 years.
Mountain lakes of East Asia are inhabited by similar species:
Cobaltic maned duck (Caballoanas cyanea) is a small species weighing up to 600 grams. The head, neck and back of the male are dark blue with a metallic sheen; the “mane” is white. There is a V-shaped white spot on the chest, the body is brown. In the female, the blue color is replaced by dark green with a faint metallic luster. This species lives in the Yunnan Mountains. There are 5-6 eggs in a clutch.
Modest maned duck (Caballoanas modesta) belongs to medium-sized species: the weight of the male is up to 1.2 kg, the female is about 1 kg. It inhabits the Sichuan Mountains and spends the winter in warm valleys. This species is distinguished by a faint plumage color: the male and female are dark brown, differ only in the presence of a longitudinal white stripe on the male’s throat and upper neck. The male’s “mane” is also white. Birds of both sexes have dark blue speculums on their wings, visible only in flight. These birds are cautious, prefer to stay close to reeds, and are able to dive to a depth of 3 meters, escaping from predators. There are up to 10 eggs in a clutch.
Isolated from these species, Japan maned duck (Caballoanas nipponensis) lives on the Japan Islands. This species inhabits the mountain reservoirs of the Japan Archipelago. This is a bird weighing 700-900 grams, with clearly expressed sexual dimorphism. Male is black with a green metallic sheen on the wings, white neck and a “tie” on the chest. The head is dark blue with a metallic sheen; the beak is yellow with a black tip. The “mane” is orange-red with black tips of feathers. The female has brownish-gray plumage with small mottling on the head, neck and chest, and with a dark scaly pattern on the wings. Birds feed on underwater vegetation and ground grasses with thin leaves. There are up to 8 eggs in a clutch. Escaping from the enemy, these ducks can dive to a depth of 4-5 meters and stay under water for up to 2 minutes.

Golden-maned duck (Caballoanas juba-aurata)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: rivers of the plain area of China in the zone of tropical and subtropical climate.
A group of species of maned ducks is very characteristic for freshwater reservoirs of East Asia, where they are found from mountainous areas to plain rivers. The greatest diversity of these birds is observed in mountainous areas, where many local species of these birds have formed due to isolation. Lowland species are less diverse and have a wide range, differing in their diet and behavior. The largest species in the group of maned ducks is golden-maned duck: the weight of an adult is up to 2 kilograms.
The plumage color of the male is reddish-brown with light gray wings; the head is chocolate-brown. The elongated feathers on the back of the male’s neck are bright yellow. Sometimes birds of a dark color morph appear – the background color of males is dark brown, the wings are dark gray, and the “mane” is orange. Females are grey with a dark scaly pattern on the wings and longitudinal brown strokes on the feathers of the head and neck.
The mating season begins in spring. Males occupy individual areas along the riverbanks and arrange courtship displays, swimming parallel to each other with their manes open. On the borders of individual territories there are duels between males during which birds call loudly, “nodding” their heads and showing rampant “manes” of feathers. Sometimes displays turn into fights, during which birds can tear each other’s feathers out of the “mane”.
Courting the female, the male swims around her, bending his head and trembling his “mane”.
This duck species feeds on swamp and terrestrial vegetation, eating a significant number of invertebrates together with plants. Especially often this duck settles on islets in the river channel inaccessible to terrestrial predators. In such places, birds arrange nests on the ground among tall swamp vegetation. Clutch numbers up to 8 eggs with a greenish-blue shell lacking spots. Chicks are led by both parents, the male mainly protects the brood from predators, and the female warms the chicks. Young birds have modest plumage and are similar in color to the female; males have only slightly lighter wings. In juvenile plumage, the “mane” on the neck is not developed – it appears only with the onset of sexual maturity. Young birds become capable of reproduction the next year. Life expectancy is up to 20 years.
In the warm-temperate regions of East Asia, a similar species is found – Transbaikalian maned duck (Caballoanas transbaikalica). This is the northernmost species of the genus, living east and south of Lake Baikal, as well as in the Amur basin. This species has a memorable coloring: the “mane” of males is red with white tips of feathers. The plumage of the drake is gray with a darker back and a metallic sheen on the neck, the head is almost black with a snow-white beak. The wings have dark blue speculums with a white edge. The female is brown with blue speculums on the wings; there are numerous mottled spots on the neck and chest. The female’s “mane” is shortened. The weight of the male is about 1500 g, the female – up to 1300 g. These birds feed on soft aquatic vegetation. There are up to 6-7 eggs in a clutch. This species is migratory, winters on the plain rivers of China, occasionally forms hybrids with the golden-maned duck.

Bunbulama (Barobiziura bunbulama)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: South and southeast of Meganesia, Tasmania Island.
Neocene ducks are as widespread in the world as they were in the human era. Many of them are descendants of mallards, including descendants of birds domesticated by people. However, the descendants of other species of ducks are quite numerous, and among them there are very peculiar forms. The lifestyle of most of them has changed little – ducks occupy a convenient ecological niche where they have practically no competitors. The large bunbulama duck inhabiting Meganesia looks rather strange and unusual against their background. This species is a descendant of the musk duck (Biziura lobata) of the Holocene epoch. The name is given after the rain spirit of the Australian Aborigines.
This bird species is a very large representative of the family. The body length of the male is 110 cm, the female is 85 cm, and the wingspan is up to 170 cm. The weight of an adult is 6-8 kg. At the male bunbulama the throat “blade” of the ancestor turned into a resonator that amplifies the bird’s voice. Birds of both sexes have gray plumage with mottling on the wings, back and tail, the head and upper half of the neck of the male are red-brown. Bunbulamas feed mainly on food of animal origin – crustaceans, fish and amphibians; they can eat small reptiles or rodents. Birds often peck snails, insects, and occasionally spiders. Very rarely, bunbulams eat ripe berries, using them as a source of vitamins and some minerals. Outside of the breeding season, these birds are relatively tolerant of their relatives, however, not letting them get too close. This allows the birds not to deplete their food resources. Outside of the breeding season, a significant part of the population leaves the rivers and goes to feed in the Eyre Gulf and in the shallow waters of the southern coast of Meganesia.
The mating season begins in spring, in September-October, and often coincides with the onset of rains. At this time, the birds return to the rivers and lakes, where they begin to occupy convenient territories, preparing for nesting. Males at this time vocalize loudly, inflating their resonators. They try to win a harem of 7-8 females, and weaker males have to live in monogamy or remain single until the next breeding season. At this time, all convenient places on swampy and simply damp areas of the coasts become a battlefield – males are aggressive towards their relatives. During the fight, they strike the opponents with their wings and pinch with their beaks, tearing out patches of feathers from each other. Weaker males often go for a trick: they hide in the thickets on the edge of the nesting territory of the harem owner, and try to mate with a female who is out of sight of the male. Some females meet such courtship aggressively, but in other females 1-2 eggs in a clutch are fertilized by such a third-party male. The owner of the harem regularly patrols the borders of the territory and checks possible shelters, but still he has to raise a certain number of other male’s chicks.
A few days after mating, 5-6 eggs with a dark green shell with small brown spots appear in a cup-shaped nest made of grass. Bunbulamas nest in groups, so single females are stressed, and the number of eggs in their nest is 1-2 less. Eggs are incubated mainly by females, but males with a small harem can replace them on the nest, so fewer eggs die in such birds, and less number of eggs is compensated by the better survival of chicks. Both parents take care of the chicks. Females of the same harem, as a rule, do not care about other female’s chicks. When young birds are in danger, the male tries to attract the predator’s attention by honking loudly and simulating injury, while the female takes the chicks to the shelter. The male attacks small predators and strikes them with his beak and wings. Chicks become independent in the period from January to February. At this time they are fully fledged, only in males the head has a gray color. At the age of 2, they are already sexually mature. Life expectancy is up to 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

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.

American non-goose (Anseroanas chenus)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae), subfamily: True ducks (Anatinae)

Habitat: temperate and subarctic regions of North America, freshwater reservoirs.
Anserine birds represent one of the oldest orders of birds: their first representatives appeared in the Mesozoic, during the time of the dinosaurs. Over the next tens of millions of years, they successfully survived many changes in the biosphere: the mass extinction that destroyed the dinosaurs, other episodes of extinction, glaciations, and even the epoch of anthropogenic pressure. In the Neocene, new families and species appeared among these birds, sometimes of a rather unusual shape, but more often of a fairly recognizable appearance. One of these “background” common species is the American non-goose.
This is a fairly large bird, 45-60 cm in length. The body of this bird is similar in proportions to a duck, and on land this bird also waddles, but with a long neck and head it looks more like true geese. This bird feeds on plants, both terrestrial and growing in shallow water – American non-goose in unable to dive, but, like its ancestor, the American wigeon (Anas americana) of the Holocene epoch, the bird can plunge its head into the water quite deeply, standing in the water with its tail up. These birds almost do not eat food of animal origin: only those small animals that accidentally are swollen along with plant food. This bird often feeds on land, especially in autumn, when berries and similar food ripen.
Age variability and sexual dimorphism are expressed in the plumage of American non-goose. Females and juveniles have ripply brown-red plumage, darker on the neck. In adult females, the skin around the eyes is white, but these areas of skin at rest and outside the courtship season are covered with plumage. During the courtship season, the female spreads her feathers around her eyes, and the blood vessels under the areas of white skin fill with blood. Then the white markings on the head become more noticeable. Mature males are brighter colored than females: they have black-and-blue wings and a green “mask” on the head. The chicks are covered with yellowish down with longitudinal stripes of gray color. The legs of young birds are black, coral pink in adult males, pinkish-white in females.
The American non-goose breeds on the shores of small reservoirs, often among swamps and in other places inaccessible to terrestrial predators. This is a fairly aggressive bird that lives in separate families and forms large congestions only closer to the time of migration. Breeding couples often last a lifetime. The main enemies of this species are birds of prey and carnivores, predatory fish occasionally attack chicks; epizootics also occur, caused by mass infection with internal parasites.
The American non-goose is a migratory species, and in the northern part of its range in the second half of autumn this bird flies to the south of the North American continent for the wintering. Birds living in the southern part of the range make relatively small migrations, and individuals of northern populations fly much farther south. In the spring, birds usually return to their old nests, but young individuals first of all have to win a place for nesting, often fighting fiercely for it. Also, young birds that have not yet nested are easier to change their place of residence, flying from wintering to new places for themselves; males do this especially often. Fighting for territory, non-geese beat each other with their wings and try to pinch the opponent’s neck. The male can drag the defeated opponent by grabbing him by the plumage on the neck or on the nape. Females have a stronger attachment to their native places, and they prefer to nest in their native pond or near their native places. Pairs of this species are formed in the south, during wintering.
The males of the American non-goose court females very gently, swimming around, quacking and “hugging” with their wings from the side. If the female accepts courtship, the ritual delivery of food – parts of plants – begins, as well as the rubbing of mating partners against each other with necks and heads. The nest is land-based, arranged in a shelter, in places inaccessible to terrestrial predators. Egg laying occurs in the second half of spring, with an average of about 6-7 eggs in the clutch. Only the female incubates, the male does not replace her, but guards the borders of the territory and drives away enemies, aggressively attacking them and striking with wings and beak. Sometimes widowed females stay on the edge of the territory of breeding couples and mate with a male from a pair, but lay eggs and raise offspring alone. Such females lay less number of eggs and sometimes lay their egg in the nest of another female. Chicks are fed and protected by both parents, but parental bonds break up during wintering, when young birds choose their mating partners.
The usual life expectancy of the American non-goose is 13 years, but some individuals live up to 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

California brant (Branta insularis)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: California Island.
The ice Age that separated the Holocene from the Neocene forced many polar species to retreat to lower latitudes, towards the tropics. The black geese inhabiting the Holarctic zoogeographic realm were no exception. The species diversity of these tundra birds declined shortly after the extinction of man, but during the ice age they restored their numbers. And after the retreat of the glacier, some of the newly appeared species remained in more southern areas, having adapting to climate change. The southernmost species of Neocene-era black geese is the California brant from the California island, a descendant of the Canadian goose (Branta canadensis).
This is a relatively small representative of the family: the body length is 61-67 cm, the wingspan is 121-145 cm, and the body weight of an adult is 1-1.6 kg. In its proportions, the bird resembles a goose, but has elongated legs. The palamas are partially reduced: they reach only the middle of the length of the toes. The color of the plumage is inconspicuous – brownish-gray with white transverse mottling, wider on the belly, which makes it seem lighter. Of all the Neocene black geese, this species is the most undemanding to the presence of reservoirs. The native island of this species is quite dry, and most of the fresh water here are temporary ponds and short rapid rivers. Birds of this species prefer to stay in the forest, among rocks and in thickets of cacti, but often gather on the seashore, especially when freshwater bodies dry up. This bird moves steadily on the ground, runs fast and often escapes from danger in this way during molting, when it completely loses the ability to fly. The California brant is a good swimmer, but a poor flier – the bird is able to fly several hundred meters only. Sometimes birds of this species fly into the sea and feed on brown algae on coastal shoals, but they do not fly away from the island.
This species has switched exclusively to plant food: leaves, shoots of herbaceous plants, berries (including cactus fruits) and algae.
The California brant is a monogamous species, pairs persist until the death of one of the partners. The breeding season falls on October-November, when winter rains begin and ground grassy vegetation develops rapidly. This species nests in pairs or scattered colonies numbering 4-5 pairs, often on a cliff and under the protection of some bird of prey that has settled in the neighborhood. Courtship displays include ritual plunge of the beak in water or simply touching the ground with the beak if there is no water nearby (this element is performed by both birds), and the vertical pose of the male, in which he presses the female to the ground. After mating, the brants fully spread their wings, fluff their tails and stretch their necks with a call. The female lays 5-7 eggs in a hole lined with grass and down. Incubation lasts 29 days, only the female hatches. The hatched chicks are covered with brown down. At the age of 8-9 weeks, they fledge, and become independent at 7 months, although parents can tolerate their presence until the beginning of the next breeding season. A pair of birds, often with the last brood, keeps and feeds together. Before the onset of sexual maturity, at the age of 2, birds of the same brood keep together; later, flocks break up and young birds look for a mate. Life expectancy reaches 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Kuihi-nui (Notobranta vocifer)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks and Geese (Anatidae)

Habitat: North and South Islands of New Zealand, lowland vegetated habitats adjacent to fresh water sources.
Game birds were introduced into New Zealand by man during the Holocene, along with large game animals for shooting. One such bird was the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis), that also served as an ornamental waterfowl.
The Kuihi-nui is a descendant of this usually migratory bird, which was introduced to New Zealand by man during the Holocene. This goose is somewhat heavier and longer-legged than its ancestor, up to 130 centimeters long with a 2.2 meter wingspan and weighing up to 4.5 kilograms. Unlike its ancestor it does not migrate, and spends more time on land, mainly grazing, wings are somewhat shorter and rounder in proportion. Head a neck is colored dark blackish brown, without the white “chinstrap”; bill is shorter and more robust bearing coarse serrations. Its body is an all over brownish grey, with darker brown on the primary wing feathers, and a whitish rump, legs and bill are yellowish.
Diet consists of mainly grass, herbs, grains, the leaves of low bushes, and various water plants, this bird spends less time feeding in the water than its ancestor. Its call is rather typical for a goose but louder, an abrupt honk, name of this bird translates to “loud goose” in native Maori language. Males are antagonistic toward each other both in and out of the breeding season, both sexes are territorial and audacious, chasing away smaller animals they consider a threat. They generally congregate in large flocks in preferable feeding grounds, and though not migratory, will fly in groups from place to place.
Kuihi-nui seek out a mate during their second year, forming pairs that remain together their whole lives. In early spring, up to 9 eggs are laid on a nest which is usually located on the ground in a secluded, well-vegetated spot, both male and female help incubate the eggs. The nest is a shallow bowl-depression lined thickly with leaves and down, incubation lasts up to 33 days. Goslings are precocial, immediately able to follow their parents, swim and feed themselves; parents will lead them in a line from place to place. Multiple groups of parents may form crèches of young. Goslings start to fledge from about 7 to 9 weeks old; by 3 months old they have reached adult size; sexual maturity is reached at 2 years old. Life expectancy is up to 25 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Morris, Adelaide, Australia.

Great gerda (Gravianas gerd)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: Europe to the north of the Alps and the Fourseas, rivers, Wenedian Lake.
Hunting and habitat destruction have undermined the numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl. Some of them became extinct, and others survived only due to hybridization with related species. Some species turned out to be numerous enough to survive the anthropogenic crisis and the ice age. One of these birds was tufted pochard (Aythya fuligula). Driven south by the glacier, it succeeded to restore the population and become the ancestor of new species. The largest of them is the great gerda (the species is named after the Scandinavian giantess – the mistress of rivers and lakes).
This species is one of the largest waterfowl and flying birds in the world. The body length of an adult bird is up to 150 cm, the wingspan is about 3 m, the weight is up to 15 kg (the male is larger than the female). Sexual dimorphism is expressed in the appearance of the bird. The color of the males is black with a green metallic sheen on the neck, shoulders and back; on the head there is a large crest of elongated rusty-red and white feathers. The female is grey with a black head and neck, with a small tuft of black feathers on her head. The body is somewhat heavy, the neck is short. The bird’s head is relatively massive; the beak is large, equipped with a significant number of corneous serrations that allow picking plants. Gerda looks heavier than Holocene swans, but leggier. The palamas between the toes are normally developed, although the bird spends a significant part of the time on the shore. The voice of these birds is a rasping quacking and cawing, the alarm signal is a loud trumpet sound.
This bird species lives on the shores of large lakes and rivers, less often near ponds and in river estuaries, and sometimes is seen on the seashore. A prerequisite for bird life is the development of coastal grassy vegetation. The great gerda feeds on plant food – stems and leaves of cane, reeds, underwater vegetation. A strong beak helps the bird to tear off even the tough foliage of sedges and cereals. Sometimes gerda dives for food to a depth of 5 m and digs up the rhizomes of water lilies under water; the birds eat the surfaced rhizomes on the surface of the water. This species is a kind of ecological analogue of ruminant mammals in swamps. On land, the bird moves easily and freely, and can even run, but it is almost unable to take off, so it prefers to graze in swampy meadows, inaccessible to terrestrial predators. From the water, the bird flies up heavily, noisily, from a running start, but the flight is fast and easy.
The great gerda breeds in colonies of 10-15 pairs of birds, and in wintering areas it gathers in flocks of hundreds of individuals. This species of birds flies off for the winter one of the last – already when ice begins to appear on the surface of reservoirs. Until a snow cover has formed on land, birds eat withered autumn vegetation and shoots of evergreen wetland shrubs. Gerda winters in North Africa (the basin of the Saharan Nile), at Zinj Land, New Azora and the Canarian islands. Some flocks reach Madagascar.
The breeding season begins in early spring, in April-May, depending on the location of nesting place. At this time birds squabble over the places of nesting and young or single males also over females. At this time, males arrange courtship dances: they open their crests and stamp their feet on the ground, and young birds also scream, flapping their wings. The nest is a bowl of last year’s vegetation gathered by the female. The inner diameter of the nest is about 140-150 cm. The building of the nest begins immediately after the spring flood. The nest is arranged on islands among marshes, in thickets of cane, reeds or cattails, less often in shallow water, where the nest rests on the bottom of the reservoir. The bottom of the nest is lined with grass and moss, as well as the female’s own down. The clutch contains 5-7 large eggs with a greenish shell without spots, which the female incubates for 30-32 days. Males guard the colony at this time and behave aggressively towards small and medium-sized terrestrial predators. In the case of the destruction of the clutch, the birds do not repeat it – this is due to the long period of development of the young. Ducklings hatch well developed, follow the female 20 minutes after hatching. They feed actively and grow quickly, at the age of 4 months they are completely independent and acquire a juvenile feather dress. By the time of migration, young birds weigh up to 8 kilograms. During the wintering, they separate from their parents and begin an independent life. The growth of young birds continues during the wintering, birds returning in the spring weigh up to 11 kg. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 1 year, but some birds participate in reproduction only from the age of 2. Life expectancy is up to 40 years.
In the swamps of Siberia and the Far East, a close relative lives – grey gerda (Gravianas cinerea), a duck 110 cm long, with gray plumage. Females of this species do not have a crest. These birds winter in Southeast Asia, India, Indonesia and Meganesia. Their migration way goes around the Himalayan mountain range – they do not fly high. This species does not overlap with its European relative; the barrier between their ranges is the Urals and the steppes of Central Asia. On the shores of the Fourseas, the sea or lesser gerda (Gravianas minor) lives – the smallest species of the genus, about 95 cm long and weighing up to 6 kg. This is a bird with brown plumage, the male has a black head with a black crest; the females have no crest, or only some elongated feathers are present. It feeds both in rivers and in the sea, plucking thickets of pondweed and other hydrophytes. Nesting takes place in March, colonies are located on islands in river deltas. This bird species does not undertake long migrations, often wintering simply on the southern shore of the Fourseas.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

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.

Ciconianser (Ciconianser gracilis)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: North America, Mishe-Nama Lake and surroundings.
In the Neocene, anserine birds are a diverse group, including species of both familiar appearance and atypical, including very large ones. One of the largest representatives of the order is a ciconianser inhabiting the shores of Mishe-Nama Lake. It is a descendant of the white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons).
Ciconianser is a large bird of atypical proportions for geese, with long legs and a neck (hence the name, literally meaning “stork goose”): its height reaches 150-160 cm, the body length is about 1 meter. The wingspan reaches 170 cm: the bird can fly, but does it reluctantly, preferring to walk on the ground. Ciconianser also has a long movable neck with a small head. The legs are long, with a reduced swimming membrane – it forms only scalloped outgrowths on the toes. The beak is up to 17-18 cm long, with denticles characteristic of geese on the corneous cover; the tip of the beak is expanded. The back, upper neck and wings are light brown with fine black ripples; the shoulders, chest and belly are white, the tail is glaucous. A bright crimson beak stands out against the background of the plumage; the legs are orange. The eyes of mature individuals are light green, sometimes yellowish; the chicks have black eyes. Sexual dimorphism is not pronounced.
These birds communicate with the help of a ringing cackle and usually behave very noisily. They have well-developed eyesight and hearing; during feeding, birds behave cautiously and raise the alarm when a predator approaches.
Ciconiansers inhabit the shallow waters of Mishe-Nama Lake and are found on the swampy shores of rivers flowing into it. These birds swim poorly, so they are found only in coastal shallow waters, at a depth not exceeding the length of the bird’s legs. They are social, usually live in groups of up to 20 individuals. With the exception of the nesting period, groups of ciconiansers are not tied to a specific territory and wander through the shallow waters of the lake. They live in places where there are many filamentous algae and long-stemmed aquatic plants with soft foliage, which they feed on: large birds lower their heads to the water and cut and browse plants with their beaks. Together with them, the bird catches and swallows small animals. Also, the diet of the ciconianser includes leaves of terrestrial plants, grass and berries. In the water, this anserine bird also eats worms and other invertebrates, small fish and amphibians, their eggs. Other anserine birds, as well as rails and grebes, often feed together with groups of ciconiansers, since some species that are dangerous to smaller birds do not attack ciconiansers. The enemies of this species are large predatory mammals and birds, from which long-legged geese try to run or fly away. Chicks have more enemies: these are birds of prey and small predatory mammals, as well as various predatory fish.
The ciconianser is monogamous, pairs are kept for life. In early spring, the female lays up to 6 eggs. These birds do not build nests and simply lay eggs in a hole in the ground, lining it with their own down. At this time, the male keeps not far from the nest and drives away small predators and birds, ravaging the clutches, from the incubating female. For safety, ciconiansers nest in colonies on islets – among swamps or located at some distance from the shores of the lake. After the hatching of offspring, all birds leave the nesting grounds and continue to roam along the shores of the lake. Interestingly, the chicks do not have such long legs as adults, and they swim on the water like ordinary geese. Adult birds at this time surround the offspring to keep predators away from it. Often several families unite and jointly guard their broods.
By autumn, young birds reach about 75% of the weight of an adult, their plumage is fully formed, and they are preparing for migration. Ciconiansers winter on the Gulf of Mexico coast, at Cuba and Great Antigua. A significant part of the population winters in Central America. For wintering, birds prefer grassy swamps and lakes.
Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 2 years, life expectancy is up to 36 years.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

Hemiswan (Xenolor borealis)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: tundra and taiga of Eurasia, rivers and lakes.
Anserine birds, despite hunting, habitat pollution and climate change, survived the human era relatively successfully, although with noticeable losses, especially among narrow-range and small-numbered species. After the disappearance of humankind, they quickly restored the range and species diversity of the order. Most of the anserines are birds of a familiar appearance; the exception is specialized island forms. In Eurasia, a large representative of the duck family is a hemiswan, a descendant of the taiga bean goose (Anser fabalis), which survived in small numbers in the Urals and the Far East.
The body length of this bird is about 1.1 m, wingspan up to 2 m, weight about 5.5 kg. The coloration is not bright, which is typical for geese; two color morphs are known – gray with a silvery tint and bluish wings, back and back of the neck, and white with a mesh pattern of darker edges of feathers, while the neck seems darker due to a thicker scaly pattern. Outwardly, the hemiswan resembles a cross between geese and swans: a goose’s head on a long flexible neck and a body relatively longer than at geese. Hemiswans feed on plants – both terrestrial grasses and soft aquatic vegetation.
Usually birds settle, nest and feed in colonies, behave noisily and actively communicate with cackle; aggression is expressed by hissing with an arched neck. Birds migrate for the wintering in mid-October, spending winter mainly on the coast of Fourseas and on the ocean coast of Southeast Asia. The Scandinavian population migrates to the Atlantic coasts of Western Europe, Gibraltar Isthmus and north-west Africa.
The nesting season begins in April, soon after the return to the nesting sites. Sometimes hemiswans nest near the eyries of large birds of prey – they do not hunt near the house, but perceive attempts of other animals to attack geese as an encroachment on their own eyrie. Away from colonies, birds defend themselves from small-sized predators by beating their wings. Pairs are formed during the winter; partners are strongly attached to each other. Usually, the male returns from the wintering grounds to the native land of the female.
The nest is simple, ground-based – a shallow hole lined with the down of the hemiswan itself, mainly of the female. In a clutch there are 5-6 eggs with a creamy shell. After 28 days, the chicks hatch. After drying out under the wings of the female, they leave the nest, and in the future they are led and protected by both parents. After 2 days, the adult geese lead the chicks to the water, where they learn to search for food. At 50 days, young birds take to the wing, but they become completely independent after the first autumn migration – the bond between young and adult birds is broken already in the wintering areas, sometimes only shortly before the spring return to the nesting sites. Sexual maturity occurs at 3 years of age. Life expectancy is up to 25 years or more.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Antarctic ruddy-headed goose (Chloephaga pratensis)
Order: Anserine birds (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)

Habitat: nesting in grass-sedge meadows of Antarctica, wintering in South America.
In the Neocene, due to the general warming of the Earth’s climate, the surface of Antarctica was mostly freed from ice. In open areas, a soil layer appeared and productive ecosystems were formed: thickets of low-growing evergreen shrubs and grass-sedge meadows. Numerous herds of herbivorous birds graze on these meadows. The smallest herbivorous birds are herbivorous Antarctic chicken seedsnipes, descendants of South American seedsnipes, the largest are Antarctic meadow swans. But meadow swans are not the only anserine birds that functionally replace herbivorous mammals in the meadows of Antarctica.
A characteristic species of Antarctic herbivorous anserine birds is the Antarctic ruddy-headed goose, a large but flying goose of the genus Chloephaga, a descendant of the South American ruddy-headed goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps). Huge flocks of these geese, migrating for the summer from South America, graze on the grass-sedge meadows of Antarctica, eating not only grass, but also numerous small invertebrates: Antarctic springtails, tardigrades, nematodes, larvae of crane flies, as well as small mole woodlice.
The body length of the Antarctic ruddy-headed goose is 75-100 cm. The constitution of birds is robust; they have a relatively short neck and a large head with a wide beak. The plumage color of the male and female is similar, but males are usually slightly larger than females. The body weight is about 3.5-6.8 kg. There is a distinct difference in voices between birds of different sexes. Females honk in a low voice, while males have a higher one.
The color of the head is variable - from ochre-yellow to brownish-red, the wide ring around the eye is white. The belly is brown with a thin ripple, the chest has an intense red-brown color, and the back and tail are brown. On the wings there are large coverts of shining green color – during threatening displays, birds open their wings, and these colored spots become clearly visible. The color of the primary flight feathers is beige with black transverse strokes. The blows of strong wings are one of the main means of protection of these geese, and the aggressor remembers such a noticeable color. The legs are thick, yellow-orange, the palama is reduced a little bit – birds spend a significant part of their time on the ground. Young birds look similar to adults, but their juvenile plumage is slightly duller than adult feathering and lacks metallic shine. The belly of young birds is yellow-brown, the large coverts are matte and dark gray. The coloration of the legs is also slightly paler than that of mature birds.
The nesting areas are located on the grass-sedge meadows of Antarctica. This is a monogamous bird species; pairs are formed for life and remain faithful to each other. During the breeding season, males become very aggressive, vigorously defending their large nesting area. The nest is built in October on dry ground in deepenings dug under bushes, in tall grass or just in an open area. The lining for the nest is plant material and down of the incubating female. In a clutch of 4 to 11 eggs, incubation lasts from 30 to 32 days; occasionally birds lay eggs in the nests of relatives, and on average 1-2 eggs out of 10 are laid by neighbors. Only the female incubates, but both adult birds take care of the chicks. At this time, the birds are molting and they are unable to fly, but they show increased aggressiveness to possible enemies. Chicks become independent in the period from January to February; at this time they actively feed and fledge. The chicks are hunted by local birds of prey, skuas and gulls. Adult birds actively protect their offspring by striking predators with their wings. Their primary feathers are very strong, and birds that have changed their feather coat use them as beaters. Closer to the time of migration, the birds feed in large common herds, sometimes plucking grass by the root. Herds of this species can feed on sea coasts, eating seaweed and marine invertebrates, especially shortly before migration for the winter.
Antarctic ruddy-headed geese winter in Tierra del Fuego, but a significant part of the population flies further north, bypassing the Andes, and winters in Chile and Argentina. Some flocks fly to the Falkland Islands.
Birds of this species develop quite slowly. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 2 years, life expectancy reaches 40-45 years.

This bird species was discovered by Wovoka, the forum member.

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

Australian false hawk (Neoclanga accipiteroides)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: Meganesia, areas of savanna with thickets of trees or rocks.
For birds of prey, the age of man proved to be a serious test of survival. The destruction and pollution of the habitat, the human persecution and the undermining of the food supply have destroyed many large species. Outside Eurasia, the role of the largest feathered predators could be occupied by the descendants of small birds of prey, which were relatively diverse even in the epoch of ecological crisis. The exception was Meganesia, where the niche of the top predators is still occupied by eagles. But, as in the Holocene, next to large predators there are smaller ones that occupy their own ecological niche. One of these species is the Australian false hawk, a descendant of the swamp harrier (Circus approximans).
It is a relatively large bird species: body length is up to 66 cm, weight is about 2.5 kg, wingspan is up to 1.8 m. The coloration is very variable and varies from bluish-gray to black, with a lighter underside of the body. The legs are always dark, the beak and claws are yellow. The false hawk feeds on mammals ranging in size from a mouse to a rabbit and ground birds. Occasionally, this predator attacks even well-protected marsupial spiketails, although it happens mainly in case of hunger. From time to time, it watches large animals, following their herds and waiting for them to scare off its prey while moving. The false hawk leads a sedentary lifestyle and, as a rule, adheres to the same territory throughout its life. Birds jealously guard the territory from their relatives, arranging a real aerial battle with them, while making false attacks, scaring each other.
Outside of nesting time, birds stay alone, although a pair of this species is formed for life – the territories of mates are adjacent, and birds usually fly into each other’s territory. As a sign of trust in the partner, both birds touch each other’s feathers and can rest together on a tree, although the male usually behaves more cautiously – the female is slightly larger than him. Nesting time comes at the end of the dry season. Lonely birds actively call each other, uttering a series of monotonous calls, and when forming a pair, males bring a gift – prey – to the females. The formed pair repairs the old nest of another bird, or builds a new one – a cup of twigs and green shoots about a meter in diameter. There are 2-3 eggs in the clutch, which are laid not at the same time. The clutch is incubated from the first egg for 40 days. The female hatches mainly, but the male replaces her during hunting. After the hatch of offspring, the female continues to stay in the nest for another 25 days, during which time all the worries about prey for the female and offspring fall on the male. The youngest chick, hatched from an egg laid by the second, is subjected to aggression from the older one and often dies in the first two weeks of life. At the age of 8 weeks, the young bird is fully feathered and take wing, and at 4 months it is completely independent. At the same time, parents expel offspring from their territory. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 1 year, and life expectancy is up to 35 years.
A related species, marine false hawk (Neoclanga maritimus) with a length of 60 cm, lives on the islands of Melanesia. This bird with lighter (gray) plumage lives in coastal forests, feeds on fish, and can even catch cephalopods in the tidal strip. In New Zealand, a lesser false hawk (Neoclanga minor) with a length of 50 cm lives. This bird inhabits the lowland forests of the archipelago and feeds on small terrestrial vertebrates.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

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

Faitiri (Ornitovenator vitiensis)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: Fiji, forests and thickets of shrubs.
Birds of prey in the human era have lost a significant part of large species, as well as vulnerable species sensitive to the anxiety factor. By the Neocene in Eurasia, they were replaced by predatory corvids and some shrikes, and in North Africa, woodpeckers and parrots also appeared among carnivorous birds. In other places, small birds of prey have survived and managed to occupy the vacant niches of their large relatives. One such bird is the faitiri, a descendant of the Fiji goshawk (Accipiter rufitorques), named after the Maori god of lightning.
Faitiri belongs to the number of large species of feathered predators – the body length is 80-100 cm, the wingspan is over 1.5 m, the weight is up to 3 kg; the male is smaller than the female. The constitution is gracile, the main color of the plumage is gray with a darker loin; the top of the head and the back of the neck are brown, the mature male has a tuft of rusty-red feathers on his head. The underside of the body is colored lighter than the top side. The eyes are large, with a yellow iris. This long-legged bird feeds on reptiles and rodents, trampling them to death. Despite the normally developed wings, sternum and musculature, faitiri flies rarely and reluctantly. Most often, young birds do this, settling between the islands. Due to the peculiarities of the way of life, the claws of this bird are shortened – it is more convenient to move on the ground this way. Prey is killed with the help of a beak, on which there is a small jag near the tip, convergently similar to the “tooth” of noble falcons of the human epoch. Adult birds hunt alone, startling prey by stomping and flapping their wings. However, breeding partners rarely move out of earshot of each other, from time to time calling to each other with voices similar to cawing. After catching up with the prey, the bird tries to press it to the ground with its foot and bite into the skull or spine.
The mating season is not timed to a specific time, and displaying birds are found at any time of the year. The leading role in courtship belongs to the male. Displaying itself to the female, he stomps, nods and raises his tuft in a mating dance. The most spectacular dance is performed by young and widowed birds seeking to win the favor of the female. The dancing male holds his body almost vertically, intensively tapping his feet on the ground or a tree trunk lying on the ground. At the same time, he fluffs the feathers on the sides of his head, acquiring a bizarre appearance. Interrupting the dance, the male flaps his wings and walks in front of the female for a while, watching her reaction.
The nest is built on top of a bush, at its base a large pile of branches and twigs lies. The female lays from one to three bluish-white eggs, which she incubates for 45 days. At this time, the male supplies her with food and guards the nest. Hatched chicks are covered with gray down with white spots. At the sight of their parents, they vociferate loudly, and the brought prey usually goes to the most vociferous one among them. If there is a shortage of food, the weakest of the chicks in the brood is simply eaten by a sibling. At 2 months, young birds fully fledge and take wing, and at one year of age they already become sexually mature. Life expectancy is over 25 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Yellow-crested hawk (Fandraokibo dexter)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: forests of Eastern Madagascar.
The human epoch is marked by the extinction of a significant number of species of large birds of prey due to the destruction of habitats and the impoverishment of the food supply. At the same time, many small hawkbirds kept a fairly high number and retained viable populations by the Neocene. In the Holarctic, they did not manage to become large – this niche was occupied faster by corvid birds. But in other regions, especially in tropical areas, they thrive, and many of their representatives have reached large sizes. One of these species is the yellow-crested hawk, a resident of the Madagascar jungle and a descendant of the France’s sparrowhawk (Accipiter francesiae). It is a large forest-dwelling bird of prey, a hunter from the upper levels of the forest.
The body length of the yellow-crested hawk is up to 1 meter, the wingspan is about 2 meters. It is a bird with a long tail, shortened legs and large claws, a small head and a rather large beak. The wings are wide, with rounded ends, suitable for fast and maneuverable flight among branches and clever aerial tricks. The color of the upper side of the body and wings is light brown, the lower part of the body is white; there are dark brown cross stripes on the primary feathers and tail, and longitudinal short gray strokes on the belly – some feathers have a dark middle. Legs are yellow, the claws are black. Beak is dark gray with a yellow cere, the eyes are red. A mobile golden crest grows on the nape, more developed in males, which is why the birds partly resemble huge parrots. The female is larger than the male and weighs about 20% more.
Yellow-crested hawks nest on a huge tree, on the uppermost branches, preferring trees with a broken top, branched in the upper part of the crown. The feathered predator lives in pairs that last for life. A pair of birds controls an area of about 50 square kilometers. The activity is daytime, at night the birds sleep in the nest, huddled together. The pair is remarkable by the attachment of partners to each other: birds periodically reinforce the relationship by mutual preening, especially near the eyes.
The yellow-crested hawk’s diet includes mainly large arboreal vertebrates: reptiles, birds and mammals. It is noteworthy that very large animals are also present in the diet, including terrestrial ones: forest numidornis, large species of lemurs and tenreks. When attacking large animals, the bird tries to pierce vital organs with its claws and inflicts deep wounds with its beak. Often the bird pursues wounded prey. The yellow-crested hawk can also hunt from ambush, hiding in a tree among epiphytes and attacking with a short, quick rush. A bird can easily snatch a hanging lemur from a branch, turning upside down with its paws in flight. Having caught numidornis, the hawk eats the prey on the spot, gorging itself to satiety, and leaves a significant part of the carcass to local predators and scavengers. Only felimalagasia is dangerous for the adult yellow-crested hawk.
The breeding season is not pronounced, nesting can occur at any time of the year. The female lays 2-3 eggs in the nest and begins to incubate them, while the male at this time supplies her with prey, and most often with a small one. The chicks hatch in a month. At first, the whole family is fed exclusively by the male, and the female takes care of the chicks. But after two weeks, the female also joins him, since young birds become very voracious by this time. Usually they coexist relatively peacefully, but sometimes a stronger chick eats a weaker one. In the fourth month of life, their plumage fully develops, although the crest at this time is represented only by slightly elongated feathers of background color. Young birds leave the nest and live on the territory of their parents for a while, but then begin a completely independent life.
Sexual maturity in young birds occurs in the third year of life, but they manage to occupy a suitable territory, create a pair and get offspring only around the fifth year of life. Life expectancy is up to 60-70 years.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, 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.

Fish kite (Dolichomilvus piscivorus)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: freshwater reservoirs of Europe north of the Alps.
Many birds of prey of the Holocene epoch became extinct as a result of the destruction of their habitat by people, giving way to corvids and other birds that showed a predatory tendency. Populations of many species of small birds of prey turned out to be too sparse for them to recover, and gradually faded away, unable to withstand competition with representatives of competing groups of birds. A serious blow to their populations was caused by the ice age: in particular, the number of osprey (Pandion haliaetus) has greatly decreased, and this species has completely disappeared in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere. Its ecological niche was immediately occupied by other animals. In tropical Asia, a fishing warbler appeared, and in Europe this place was occupied by a descendant of the black kite (Milvus migrans). Seprate populations of this species were able to survive the ice age in the subtropics, and its descendants returned to the forests of the temperate zone, where competition with large carnivorous corvids forced them to choose a way of deeper specialization. In the Neocene, one of the descendants of this species is the fish kite.
This species is a large, well-flying bird, partly an ecological analogue of sea eagles (Haliaeetus). The body length is from 63 to 67 cm, the wingspan is from 175 to 210 cm; females are slightly larger than males. Wings have wide rounded tips, and tail is forked. The male and female do not differ from each other in color: the back is brown, the wings have a pronounced reddish tinge, the belly is gray with mottling. Cheeks have a pronounced ochre tinge, and the beak is dark gray. These birds have unusual legs – relatively long, helping to snatch fish out of the water. Like at the osprey, the underside of the toes is covered with numerous corneous spikes that help to hold smooth slippery prey. The claws are hooked, the claw on the hind toe is especially large.
Fish kite feeds mainly on fish, rarely eats frogs or snakes, sometimes feeds on carrion. In the temperate zone, these birds migrate to the south with the beginning of winter, in the southern areas of the range, where the water does not freeze, they lead a sedentary life. Birds from the northern and eastern regions of Europe migrate to the shores of the Fourseas and its islands shortly before the beginning of autumn frosts. A small population keeps on the shores of Wenedian Lake. Fish kites look out for prey, hovering in the sky, and grab animals that are close to the surface of the water. During the breeding season, they prefer to hunt larger fish species. In spring, birds often switch almost completely to catching frogs.
It is a monogamous species, the pair persists until the death of one of the partners. A pair of fish kites owns a territory covering a section of a riverbed or the shore of some large body of water. There is competition between the couples, but it is usually limited to display in the air. The beginning of the breeding season varies somewhat depending on latitude, but in general nesting occurs once a year, in mid-January – March. Sedentary populations nest early, migrating ones do it almost immediately after returning to their territory. The male brings fish to the female during courtship; often both birds preen each other's feathers. The male regularly has to drive away young competitors from his female. Serious battles for a female occur only between bachelors or widowed males, but in most cases they are reduced to a force display, and a fight occurs only in the case of fierce competition.
The nest is located on a tall tree, less often in bushes (this happens on islands where terrestrial predators cannot reach), but always near water. This is a large building up to 80 cm in diameter, consisting of branches and stems of reeds and cattails. There are 1-3 (usually 2) whitish eggs in the clutch. Chicks show aggression towards each other with age, often quarrel over food, and usually only one of them survives before leaving the nest. They are covered with dark down, the first feathers appear at the age of 10 days, and they fully fledge in 8-9 weeks. At the same time, they leave the nest and learn to fly, but are still under the care of their parents. After another 3-4 weeks, the young birds are completely independent, and at the same time their parents expel them from their territory. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 1 year, life expectancy reaches 27-30 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Riverbank kite (Pezomilvus unipes)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: freshwater reservoirs of southern Europe and North Africa – the basin of the Saharan Nile.
In ecosystems of the Neocene, birds of prey most often occupy a subordinate position: in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, they are forced to compete with carnivorous corvids and survive due to specialization. One of the specialized species of feathered predators is the fish kite (Dolichomilvus piscivorus) from Europe. South of the Alps mountain range, along the outskirts of the Mediterranean hollow and in North Africa, its closest relative, a representative of the genus of pedestrian kites (Pezomilvus), lives – the riverbank kite, also a large bird species that feeds on fish. It is similar in outline to its relative, but differs in a more graceful build, which is associated with life in a hotter area. It is a long-legged bird of prey with wide wings (wingspan up to 170 cm), flying well. The color of the plumage is dominated by light tones: the plumage on the body is light gray, the wings are bluish on top, and the belly is white with separate mottling on the throat. The light color prevents overheating; for the same purpose, a thick downy tuft develops on the head and back of the neck. The male is slightly smaller than the female, but does not differ from her in color.
This species has a different tactic of foraging compared to its European relative: the riverbank kite hunts in the coastal zone of rivers and lakes. This bird can stand patiently in shallow water for a long time on one leg, and grabs the approaching fish with the toes of another leg, which was raised while waiting. Hence the specific name of the bird, meaning “one-legged one”. Sometimes, to lure fish with a shadow, this kite opens its wings like a black heron. In addition to fish, this species readily eats crabs, as well as frogs and baby water turtles. The competitors of these birds are herons, which the riverbank kite tries to expel from its territory. The claws of this species are very large and hooked; rows of sharp corneous spikes develop on the tips of the toes from the underside, helping to hold prey. When walking, special tendons on the upper side of the toes lift the claws, and their tips do not touch the ground.
Living in a fairly stable climate, when reservoirs are free of ice all year round, this species is sedentary. Riverbank kites nest in pairs, which can persist for quite a long time: if nesting is successful from year to year, the pair remains faithful to each other throughout their lives. Each couple owns a territory that includes about a kilometer of coastline. This species nests in trees, often remaking a heron nest for itself, including expelling its rightful owners. Riverbank kites do not form colonies and treat their relatives rather intolerantly, attacking them within the boundaries of their own territory. Nevertheless, there are peculiar neutral territories in the population of coastal kites that are not occupied by breeding pairs. Being in such places, adult birds show tolerance towards their relatives, rest together, look for a mate and even hunt next to each other.
In the clutch of this species there are usually 2 eggs with a gray shell. The chicks are covered with white down; they fledge at the age of about 2 months. Juvenile plumage is darker than adult one: the wings are dark gray. Young birds leave the nest and start hunting with their parents. Even in the nest, they arrange peculiar games, “looking out” for pieces of branches for a long time, after which they “catch” them. They also actively hunt insects flying by. At the age of 6 months, their plumage changes to adult one, and they become sexually mature. Life expectancy reaches 20 years.

Locust-eater (Pezomilvus locustivorus)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: savannas of North Africa, the Middle East, Zinj Land.
The genus of pedestrian kites (Pezomilvus) includes several species of birds of prey that have adapted to forage on the ground. They have not lost the ability to fly, but due to their long legs they can run fast. A fish-eating riverbank kite (Pezomilvus unipes) lives on the coasts of reservoirs in northern Africa and in Europe south of the Alps. More arid areas of Africa, the Middle East and Zinj Land were mastered by another species of this genus, leading a completely different way of life – a locust-eater adapted to feeding on large insects. Compared to the riverbank kite, it is a bird of lighter build, with a small head, elongated neck and long thin legs. The wingspan is about 1 meter, the height of the bird is up to 80 cm, mainly due to long legs. The claws are pointed, and beards grow on the sides of the toes, pointing to the sides and helping to knock down and hold prey. The coloration of the locust-eater’s plumage is camouflage: the background color is grayish-yellow, with thin cross stripes on the back, neck and wings. The belly is white, the tips of the tail feathers are black with a white border – when attacking this bird, the predator focuses its attention mainly on them, which saves the bird from death at the cost of several plucked feathers. The eyes are masked by a longitudinal smear of black on each side of the head.
This bird species hunts on the ground. Its main prey is insects, which the locust-eater grabs with its paws and brings to its beak. This bird is especially active in hunting locusts and other orthopterans. When hunting them, the locust-eater is able to make high jumps into the air and picks up insects right during their jumps. In addition, the locust-eater can catch the orthopterans by ear, determining the location of the insect by its chirping. Outside of the breeding season, these birds migrate in small groups behind swarms of locusts, providing themselves with an uninterrupted and abundant food source. In addition to insects, locust-eaters eat reptiles, rodents and chicks of ground-nesting birds.
This species migrates widely within its range, occurring in foci, but abundantly. Locust-eater’s nesting sites are associated with the main locust breeding sites, and birds feed on these insects while they are at the nymphal stage and cannot fly. There are up to 10 nests in the colony; birds treat each other quite peacefully and even jointly defend the nesting site from predators. Nests are arranged on the tops of trees.
There are up to 3 eggs in a white shell with a few brown specks in the clutch, but only 2 chicks usually survive until leaving the nest. Juvenile down is light gray; the plumage of young birds differs from the adult one in a slightly more saturated color. Young birds leave the nest at the age of about 40 days and stay together with their parents for up to 15 days. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 7 months; life expectancy is up to 15 years.

Vulture kite (Paragyps afroaustralis)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: South Africa, deserts and semi-deserts.
The mass extinction of the end of the Holocene destroyed most of the large animals, including predators. Vultures were among the disappeared creatures. They perished because of initially low numbers and a sharp reduction in the food supply – a decrease in the number of carcasses of large animals. In Neocene, during the restoration of ecosystem productivity, the niches of these birds were occupied by representatives of other bird groups. In North Africa, parrots and even woodpeckers did it, and in South Africa these are descendants of the black kite (Milvus migrans).
The South African vulture kite is a very large bird: body length is 150 cm, wingspan is up to 310 cm, and weight is about 13 kg. The plumage is brown and creamy; adult birds are lighter than young ones. There are no feathers on the head and neck. The skin on the front and upper part of the head is light orange; a skin fold like a wattle hangs on the neck. The skin of this fold is penetrated with blood vessels and in the heat it noticeably lengthens and turns red from the rushing of blood. The beak is long and quite powerful.
For soaring, a heavy bird uses streams of heated air rising from the bare ground, so the vulture kite lives in open areas, most often with rock outcrops, and avoids forest areas. This species is most often found in the Karoo and Kalahari, although it also breeds in eastern South Africa. The vulture kite feeds on carrion – mainly on carcasses of large animals. But, unlike its Holocene analogues, the vulture kite is still able to catch small animals. Up to 20 birds can gather on the carcass of a large animal. With its strong beak, the vulture kite can tear the skin of an antelope and even a moosehorn, although it more often prefers to pick up the remains of prey from predators like marafils. Each couple controls a territory of several tens of square kilometers.
The breeding season lasts throughout the year, but most often the offspring can be found in the nests from April to December. Pairs are formed for life, and birds are very careful about choosing a mate. A great role in this is played by personal sympathy – often almost formed couples break up without starting nesting, and are looking for new partners. Courtship is a chase in the air and joint flights and feeding. Formed pairs hover together for a long time; birds in forming pairs often chase each other.
The nest with a diameter of 2 meters is located on a rock or a high single tree and is used for several years in a row. Birds decorate their nests with pieces of skins or long dry leaves, including palm leaves. Sometimes in the “collections” there are horns or skulls, and even branches of aloe with leaves, rooting then in the cracks of rocks and blooming. The stronger the bird, the more decorations; the weakest birds have a simple nest. Often birds come to another bird’s territory precisely for the sake of stealing unusual objects from neighbors’ nests.
The rate of reproduction is slow. There are 1-2 eggs in the clutch, which the female incubates for 55 days. The chick hatches with opened eyes and covered with down; it grows for a long time and takes wing at the age of 126 days. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 2 years, but in fact young birds take part in reproduction at the age of 3-4 years; life expectancy is up to 75 years. Chicks can be stolen by agogwes and lezas, but adult birds have no enemies. Occasionally, birds become victims of predators, if they are caught off guard on the ground, having eaten too much carrion – they hardly take off, and prefer perch on a tree for a long time while the food is digested.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Subahu (Paraharpia ferox)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: endemic to Hindustan, forests of various types.
Almost all large birds of prey of the Holocene became extinct in the human epoch, unable to withstand persecution and destruction of habitats. The remaining populations of the few surviving species gradually degraded and disappeared shortly after the end of the human era. The fate of small species of hawk-like birds has developed in different ways. In both Americas and partly in Africa, they managed to regain their dominant position, and in Eurasia, with rare exceptions, they remained on the sidelines, giving place of dominant feathered predators to predatory corvids. The kites, who were originally “scavengers”, were barely able to break out into other ecological niches. The black-winged kite (Elanus caeruleus) turned out to be one of the few Eurasian birds of prey that successfully tried to break out into a large-sized class. Its descendant was subahu (it is the name of one of the rakshasas) from the forests of India.
Subahu is a large feathered predator: body length is up to 1 m, wingspan about 2.2 m, and weight up to 8 kg. It is a forest-dwelling species; relatively short wings with rounded tips and a long tail allow the subahu to maneuver in the forest. A remarkable feature of the bird’s appearance is the beak – very large and tall, ivory-colored. The color of the plumage is not bright, gray or light brown; the male and female do not differ in color. The eyes are red.
Subahu feeds mainly on arboreal animals – small monkeys, large birds and snakes. This bird also attacks predators hunting in the crowns, including other birds of prey, and sometimes attacks large prey like the calves of forest trumpeters.
The mating season is not pronounced, reproduction occurs at any time of the year. A pair of birds is formed for life and builds a nest at a height of at least 45 meters above the ground. The nest is renewed throughout the whole life of the birds together and is used for many years in succession. The male is ready to fight for the female; the rivals arrange an air fight, performing aerobatics and arrange false attacks in the air. Usually the established pair easily drives rivals away.
The rate of reproduction of the species is very slow. There is usually one white egg in the clutch, less often 2, but almost always one of two chicks kills the second one. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 40 days. The chick gets on the wing on the 100th day of life, for another 4 months it learns to hunt with its parents. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 3 years, life expectancy is significant, sometimes reaching 75 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Antarctic buzzard (Notobuteo ornithivorus)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Hawks (Accipitridae)

Habitat: Antarctica and Subantarctic Islands, wintering in South America.

Picture by Tony Johnes

Birds of prey of Antarctica are not numerous, which is due to the relative poverty of the continent’s ecosystems. The niche of small predators here is occupied by peculiar representatives of the grackles, and the “profession” of scavengers and gatherers was mastered by the caracaras. The top predator of the ecosystem is an endemic species of buzzard, a descendant of one of the South American species of these birds of prey.
Antarctic buzzard is a large bird of stocky build, whose weight can reach 2.5 kg, and the wingspan is 170 cm. Females are noticeably larger than males. The wings are wide; the tail is quite short and slightly rounded. The tarsometatarsus is feathered.
The main color of the Antarctic buzzard is light gray, almost white, with a dark gray wavy pattern on the chest and belly. The wings are dark gray, the primary feathers are black. The back and tail are dark brown, with a wide black stripe at the edge of the tail. In the population, individuals with a coloration different from the typical one are quite common: in such birds, the entire body is colored either light gray or brown. The legs of Antarctic buzzards are yellowish, and the beak is light gray, with a black tip. The eyes are light brown. Males and females do not differ in color, and young birds are distinguished by numerous speckles in plumage and a generally lighter color tone.
The voice of Antarctic buzzards is a loud nasal call.
Unlike other buzzards, which are often adapted to feeding on mouse-like rodents, the Antarctic species is a specialized ornithophagus. It usually hunts medium-sized birds: ducks, plovers and large passerines. Small passerines and insects are hunted only by young birds during training in hunting skills. Antarctic buzzards look out for prey by hovering above the ground for a long time or perching on rocks. In the wind, these birds are able to hover in the air for a while, almost without moving their wings.
A favorite nesting place for Antarctic buzzards is rocks, but where there are no rocks, they nest among bushes or just on the ground on dry hills. The nest is a building of shrub branches and (on the coast) dry algae, with a lining of moss and dry grass. The size and design of the nest directly depend on the availability of building material and vary from huge structures with a diameter of more than a meter, existing for decades, to grass-lined holes in the ground surrounded by several twigs. Adult birds often bring herbaceous plants and green twigs of shrubs to the nest, which serve for disinfection. Antarctic buzzards are monogamous and form pairs for several seasons, and sometimes for life, which is more related to the attachment of birds to the nesting site than to each other.
Buzzards return from wintering soon after fresh water bodies are released from the ice and the bulk of Antarctic birds – their prey – flies to the continent. Buzzard males, who have returned to the nesting sites, perform courtship flights with calls. After the formation of pairs (or their reunion), the birds begin to build and repair nests.
Antarctic buzzard females usually lay from two to seven eggs, and they begin to incubate from the first laid egg. Incubation of each egg lasts about 35 days. The male brings food to the female, and participates in incubation only occasionally. After the chicks appear, the female also begins to hunt. Both parents fiercely protect their offspring from nest destroyers, such as gulls, skuas and caracaras. This is used by some small passerines that arrange their nests in the immediate vicinity of the buzzards’ nest.
Chicks leave the nest at the age of about 7 weeks. Not all chicks live up to this point: the youngest ones usually do not have enough food and they die, or are eaten by older siblings. In general, the breeding success of Antarctic buzzards is closely related to weather conditions that directly affect the amount of food – in cold years, all offspring may die. Sometimes cold springs force buzzards to completely abandon nesting.
The migration of Antarctic buzzards begins in early autumn, when they move to the coast of the mainland, where they spend several weeks. Then the birds go on to South America. Antarctic buzzards spend the winter on the plains of Patagonia. However, populations on some Subantarctic islands lead a sedentary lifestyle, hunting seabirds in winter.

This bird species was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

American fishing eagle-hawk (Aetopiscator americanus)
Order: Hawk birds (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 birds (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 acatu (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.

Safat (Seraphimornis safatus)
Order: Hawk birds (Accipitriformes)
Family: Ethereal kites or Seraphims (Seraphimornithidae)

Habitat: mountains in north-west and north Africa, south and south-west Europe.
In the Holocene, many species of hawk birds falled victims of mass extinction and disappeared, yielding their ecological niches to other predators – American vultures, corvids, shrikes, etc. The descendants of the few surviving species often acquired new skills and specializations; ethereal kites or seraphims are one of such specialized forms of hawk birds of the Neocene. They have adapted to a continuous flight and are quite capable of even crossing the oceans, traveling between islands.
Safat is one of such beautiful flyers. Named after a mythical bird that has never landed, this ethereal kite is, of course, connected with the ground, and even more than its related species – it perches for the rest on tree branches or on mountain cliffs. It has well-developed and strong claws and legs, but safat prefers to grab and even eat its main prey – various insects, small birds and other small animals – on the fly.
Safat is a medium-sized bird, 50-70 cm in length, including a long forked tail. It is covered with light gray plumage, only the tail is darker. The color of the beak is also dark; it is relatively short, but wide: safat swallows smaller prey, such as flying locusts, grasshoppers or dragonflies in flight. Safat knocks down larger prey, usually birds, with beak impacts due to a mobile and strong neck. It also grabs prey with its feet and eats it, bringing it to the beak and tearing pieces from it.
Safat hunts with the help of vision, and its nictitating membrane has evolved into special glasses that allow it not to go blind in bright sunlight, including one reflected from the salt desert of the former Mediterranean Sea – like other seraphim kites, safat can not drink for several days and freely flies into these inhospitable lands in search of prey – small birds or flock of orthopterans migrating between Africa and Southern Europe. Sometimes it falls prey of local hawks, but it happens more often with young and inexperienced, or with too old birds. A healthy individual of this species can fly away from almost any other bird, as well as escape from a salt storm, or fly over it, and wait until it ends. Similarly, safat avoids dust storms in Africa and Europe, and then returns to these places in search of animals killed by the disaster.
This ethereal kite nests in the mountains – on cliffs or in trees, in places inaccessible to terrestrial mammals. The mating period in safat is not pronounced. The nest arrangement is typical for birds of prey – it is a massive structure of piled up thin branches topped with a loose nesting platform. In a clutch there are 2-3, less often 4 eggs with a pale brown shell. Both parents hatch – sexual dimorphism is absent in this species, males and females look the same and have the same size.
The chicks hatch in a month. Covered with down, they are initially completely helpless and depend on their parents. At this time, they are especially vulnerable, and they are saved from predators only by the inaccessibility of the nest. They grow fast enough, and at one and a half to two months old they are already fully fledged, and at the age of three months they are able to fly. For the first time after leaving the nest, they stay on the parental territory, but after six months they leave their parents forever.
This bird does not show much intelligence or complexity of behavior; however, it has a very good memory, which allows safat not to get lost even among the monotonous landscape of the salt desert. Also, like swifts, safat can sleep in the air for a while, which he does quite often when it is not busy in taking care of chicks. Safat flies especially spectacularly when the male of this species courts the female: he flies around her in circles, and then displays more complex aerobatics, showing his force and endurance; if the female likes him, then she joins him. It happens that birds catch small prey or just grab a piece of a branch or a dry leaf, and start playing, throwing it to each other in flight. These birds are strict monogamous, and couples often stay with each other for life.
The average life expectancy of this species is 15-20 years, rarely more. Sexual maturity in young birds occurs at the age of 2 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Cuauhtli (Caracara cuauhtli)
Order: Falcon birds (Falconiformes)
Family: Falcons (Falconidae)

Habitat: Central America, Cuba, Greater Antigua.
Birds of prey of the order Falconiformes, like specialized carnivorous mammals, were experiencing a serious crisis by the beginning of the Neocene: large species disappeared due to habitat destruction, disturbing and direct persecution by humans. However, a number of smaller and less specialized species survived, and their descendants managed to restore the number and keep the niche of feathered predators for themselves. The crested caracara (Caracara plancus) turned out to be one of the largest successful feathered predators. Widespread and feeding on a variety of prey, it not only survived the anthropogenic crisis and the beginning of the ice Age: its descendants gave a range of new species, even conquering Antarctica. In Central America, having crossed the Panama Strait, cuauhtli – a large descendant of this species – settled.
The body length of an adult is 71-96 centimeters (the female is larger than the male; the species name means “eagle” in Nahuatl language of Aztecs), the wingspan is about 168-224 centimeters, the weight is up to 4.5-5.5 kg. The bird has a recognizable appearance, preserving the features of the ancestor’s anatomy. A very characteristic feature of the species is a crest of elongated feathers growing on its head, which the bird raises when displaying aggression. The background color of the plumage is brown with faint ripples on the wings; the feathers on the head are almost black with a greenish tint. There is no plumage on the face and around the eyes; the naked skin is dark red. The legs are elongated, with bare tarsometatarsus and toes, covered with bright yellow skin.
Cuauhtli is a quite widespread species – from Florida in the north to the Panama Strait in the south, as well as on the large islands of the Caribbean. This species inhabits a variety of landscapes – from open spaces to mountains and tropical forests. Perhaps only in the Mexican Plateau these birds appear only occasionally – it is too arid climate for them there and they “bypass” it along the mountain ridges. It feeds on large birds and rodents; sometimes it can kill a sick or old deermara or steal its cub. Birds fly well, but they can chase small prey on the ground.
This is a territorial species that controls a feeding area of considerable size: up to 100 square kilometers per pair. Detected rivals are immediately expelled; an exception is made only for the breeding partner – the pair owns a more extensive territory than a single bird. If one of the individuals in a pair dies and the second bird does not find a mate, neighboring pairs of birds can expand their possessions at the expense of a widowed bird.
The mating season begins early – in January-February. During courtship, birds perform aerobatics in the air; the most characteristic among them is a “somersault” with geared claws – during a somersault in the air, one bird holds another. For an emerging pair, this is a test of the partner’s physical condition, for an established pair, it is a strengthening of the bonds between the birds in the pair.
A cup-shaped nest is built of large branches and twigs on top of a tall living tree or on a rock, usually with a good view of the surroundings. One pair can keep several nests on its territory, usually 3-4, nesting in them alternately. In this way, birds get rid of the excess of parasites that settle in the nest. There are 1-3 (most often 2) eggs in the clutch, which the female lays at intervals of 2-3 days. In years rich in food, the female feeds all the chicks, although more often one of them kills the others. Aggression is provoked by hunger and the absence of adults in the nest for too long. Incubation lasts 40-45 days; this is mainly done by the female, although the male can occasionally replace her on the nest. The growth period is about 60 days. In May, young birds are already flying, foraging with their parents. In October-November, they are already completely independent and their parents expel them from the territory. By the age of 2, the young cuauhtli already owns its territory, but many young birds do not survive the first months of independent life – they become victims of predators and aggression of adult relatives defending their feeding territories. A significant part of young birds die of starvation. Birds begin breeding from the age of four or five years; life expectancy is 35-40 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, 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.

Caracaraptor (Caracaraptor inexpectatus)
Order: Falcon birds (Falconiformes)
Family: Falcons (Falconidae)

Habitat: California Island.
The evolution of certain groups of living organisms on islands often makes unexpected moves and may go in a different direction than on the continents. In the Neocene, the evolution of island animals demonstrates the same patterns as in the era before human colonization. A characteristic feature of the fauna of the islands is a presence of flightless birds, and even birds of prey, represented on the continents by well-flying forms, became flightless there. In the Pleistocene, a large Jamaican caracara (Caracara tellustris), which was larger than other species of these birds and had small wings, lived in Jamaica. Perhaps it has completely lost the ability to fly. On the California island, evolution repeated this experiment, and its result was a species of terrestrial birds of prey resembling a small dinosaur.
In the arid landscapes of California island, favorable conditions are developing for the dominance of birds that are less demanding of the availability of water compared to mammals. That is why mammals are represented on this island by relatively small herbivores, and the role of the top predator of the local ecosystem is occupied by a large flightless carnivorous bird, caracaraptor.
Compared to the flightless predatory birds of the Cenozoic, this species is a dwarf: the weight of an adult is about 5 kg; the female is larger than the male. A notable feature of caracaraptor is its long legs with sharp claws, which make the bird look bigger than it really is. It also has a relatively large head compared to related flying species, and the wings have not completely disappeared, but have become small and can no longer lift the bird into the air. Caracaraptor is able to run fast, catching up with prey. The tail helps to maneuver during the chase – it is long, and with sharp turns it opens like a fan, helping to keep the balance.
The head of this bird is elongated, with a powerful hooked beak of gray color. The tip of the beak is stretched down and slightly bent – it is an adaptation for catching small mobile prey. The throat and sides of the head are featherless and covered with smooth pinkish skin that helps radiate an excess of body heat. The feathers on the crown are black, slightly elongated and resemble the crest of an ancestral species. The plumage on the body is of light shades: yellowish-gray in color, on the back and wings the feathers are covered with thin dark gray ripples. This coloring helps to avoid overheating during daytime hunting. Occasionally individuals of a light-colored morph with a grayish-white background color may be seen. Chicks of both color morphs can be found quite often in the brood.
The main food of this bird species includes terrestrial mammals, reptiles and birds. Caracaraptor often ravages nests of seabirds. These birds live in pairs and singly, each individual occupies a certain hunting territory, which it protects from the encroachments of relatives. After a storm, birds of this species can often be seen on the shores of the island: they dig in the algae cast ashore and eat the corpses of marine animals. At such moments, birds pay little attention to their relatives and can feed together quite peacefully. When there is a lack of food, caracaraptors treat each other aggressively and can even attack each other, expelling strangers from their territories. At this time, the caracaraptors utter loud screeches and snap their beaks. During an attack on a relative, birds fight with their feet without using their beaks.
The pair of this species persists for several seasons in a row. The mating ritual includes bouncing and flapping of wings. Also, the male walks around the selected female, opening his tail like a fan and raising his legs ceremoniously with each step. When a couple has formed, partners often hunt and eat prey together. These birds nest on the ground, most often in the shade of cactus plants or among bushes. The base of the nest is a depression dug in the ground and lined with grass and thin twigs. In a clutch there are 2-3 eggs equal in the size to goose egg, with a mottled shell: brown specks on a yellowish-white background. Incubation is mainly done by the female, and the male feeds her on the nest. Incubation lasts 44-45 days, the chicks are covered with down and have eyes opened, but they stay in the nest for a long time. The parents feed the offspring together for 4 months, and for about six months the offspring learn to hunt on the parental territory. Usually a pair of birds manages to raise one chick per season. The young bird is expelled from the territory of the couple shortly before the mating season at the parents. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 3 years; life expectancy is up to 40 years.

Genupillan (Barocaracara aquiliforma)
Order: Falcon birds (Falconiformes)
Family: Falcons (Falconidae)

Habitat: pampas of South America.
Changes in nature at the end of the human epoch had a negative impact on the number and species diversity of large birds of prey. Large species of birds of prey disappeared in many places due to habitat destruction and the disappearance of prey, but some smaller species survived and gave rise to new species of the Neocene epoch. In South America, there is a genupillan – a large bird of prey species (named after the Araucanian sky god), which is a descendant of the crested caracara (Caracara plancus), one of the species that successfully survived the human era. Caracaras, very common birds, survived the ice age and evolved to several species of birds of prey in the mountains and grasslands of both continents of the New World.
Genupillan is an ecological analogue of eagles and hunts medium-sized mammals, especially rodents, and ground birds. If there is an opportunity, this bird can steal a cub of some ground predator. The physique of this species is similar to eagles – it has wide wings and long legs with strong toes and pointed claws. The color of the bird is not bright: the wing coverts are brown-black, the wings are brown. The feathers on the chest and the front of the neck are straw yellow. The head is light brown, with a large black beak and bright pink bare skin at its base. In adult birds, white spots – “epaulettes” – can often appear on the shoulders. The female is larger than the male; the birds form a close-knit monogamous family and raise offspring together.
Adult body length is 72-84 cm, wingspan 180-215 cm, weight 2.4-4.5 kg. Due to the wide wings rounded at the tips, these birds hover for a long time in ascending air currents, looking for prey on the ground. At the same time, the voice of this bird is heard – a ringing meowing cry. In case of alarm, birds utter a sharp croaking sound. A formed pair of birds often hunts together: birds watch each other and eat prey together. Genupillan rarely quarrels with relatives outside the breeding season, if they do not approach the central part of the territory of the pair and keep a distance of at least half a kilometer from hunting birds. The only exception is the appearance of a lone akatu (Sciopterornis acatou) – genupillans cruelly mob it, gathering in a flock and forgetting at this time even about the boundaries of their own territories. This is especially violent in the vicinity of the nest, if the birds already have a clutch or chicks. After the attack, the birds quickly leave neighbour’s territory.
The mating season begins in late spring (in the southern hemisphere – in November). The male and female fly together for a long time, performing tricks in the air – somersaults and dives. Sometimes they even fly, clutching claws. At this time, males expel rivals of their own sex, and females – of their own. The nest is arranged on rocks in a niche or on the top of a tree with a wide and flat top. Their clutch numbers 1-3, more often 2 white eggs. Incubation lasts 39-45 days; the birds take turns on the nest. The chicks are covered with gray down; their feeding lasts about 75 days. In hungry years, a stronger chick can eat a weaker one, but this does not happen so often. By the time of leaving the nest, the young bird is covered with light brown feathers; the chest and throat are reddish. The young bird stays with its parents almost until the next mating season, learning hunting techniques, but then it is expelled from the territory. At the age of 4-5 years, a young bird acquires the plumage color characteristic for adults and begins breeding. Life expectancy is 30-32 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Laughing seriema (Barocariama patagonica)
Order: Cariamiformes (Cariamiformes)
Family: Cariamidae (Cariamidae)

Habitat: Southern Patagonia, pampas.
South American seriemas were able to survive the epoch of human domination, losing only part of their range, but retaining a sufficiently high number necessary for survival. It was much more difficult for them during the ice age, when cold and glaciation caused the displacement of vegetation zones, and pushed them to lower latitudes. But part of the seriemas managed to adapt to the more severe conditions of the ice age; after the retreat of the glaciers, these birds migrated south to the conditions of the habitual climate. This is how the laughing seriema appeared, a migratory species of the south of Patagonia, a descendant of the red-legged seriema (Cariama cristata). The spread of this species to the north is hindered by the presence of large flightless hunting herons in the pampas, which are partly food competitors of this species.
In the appearance, laughing seriema resembles a bustard. The bird reaches 120 cm in length (including tail) with a weight of about 13-15 kg. But at the same time, laughing seriema looks quite fleshy and stocky compared to the ancestors of the Holocene epoch. The plumage color is brown with mottled spots, more numerous on the back and wings. A tuft of narrow cream feathers grows on the head, in males it is larger – it is the only feature of sexual dimorphism. The head is elongated; the beak is more powerful than that of the ancestral species, reddish-brown in color.
This bird species is omnivorous with a predatory bias. The bird eats seeds and tubers of herbaceous plants, which make up about a quarter of the diet by weight. All other food is of animal origin: it prefers rodents, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Occasionally, the laughing seriema preys on young ungulates and cursorial rodents, striking them with its feet and beak. At this time, the bird is careful and attacks only when the adult animal has gone too far, and the attack is relatively safe. It is wary of kicks from adult animals that can damage its bones. Laughing seriema is able to fly, but does it poorly and reluctantly. It flies up on a separate tree or termite mound, only if the predator persistently pursues it; usually it moves on the ground. In mid-autumn, laughing seriema flies north to Grand Chaco.
The breeding season begins shortly after the completion of the spring migration of these birds – in October-early November. At this time, the males’ call is audible through the pampas – a loud frequent call similar to laughter. Males first choose several places in the bush, where they build the bases of the nests. Females, in their turn, very carefully inspect the place and the nest base. At this time, the male walks next to the female, stamps his feet and raises his crest, displaying his physical condition. If two males claim the same female, they can engage in a duel, during which they vocalize, stamp their feet and jump on each other, pushing with their breasts. The female usually goes to the winner, although she can leave his territory if she does not like the place for the nest. The male can also continue his display, having arranged a new base for the nest.
There are usually 2 elongated eggs in the clutch, covered with chocolate spots and reddish-brown markings. The female incubates; the male guards the nest and the territory around. After 25-26 days, the chicks hatch. In case of danger, the female covers the nest until the last, then suddenly jumps out to meet the enemy, loudly flapping her wings. Sometimes she attacks the enemy by kicking and clinging to him with her beak. If she leads the chicks, then in case of danger they hide, huddling to the ground. Sometimes the female simulates the wound, pretending to have a sore leg, and leads the enemy away from the nest. At the same time, the bird constantly changes the direction of movement, takes off and flies low above the ground. After 2 weeks, the chicks leave the nest and roam with their parents. In case of danger, the parents take the predator away or attack him, and the chick at this time sits, pressed to the ground, and does not move until the mother calls it. The feeding of chicks by adults continues for about a month, and then the young bird just stays close to its parents, searching for food independently. Young birds get adult plumage at the age of 4 months, after another month they are completely independent. By this time, a pair of adult birds breaks. At the age of 2, the laughing seriema reaches sexual maturity. Life expectancy is about 40 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Motley fossorrallus, digging rail (Fossorrallus guttatus)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Rails (Rallidae)

Habitat: Antarctica; tundra, swamps, meadows, crooked forests, coastal thickets.
In the Holocene, Antarctica virtually lacked any terrestrial life. In the Neocene, the climate has warmed, and the biodiversity of the polar continent has increased, but it is still a harsh land where it is extremely difficult to survive. Terrestrial vertebrates are extremely few there and limited to birds; many of them are migratory and winter in South America, Africa, Meganesia or New Zealand. The few flightless species are mostly small. Most often in various habitats of the continent there are mousebirds, small burrowing passerines. Apart from them, few birds remain to winter on the continent. One of them is the spotted fossorrallus – a burrowing rail, a descendant of one of the Gallirallus species (most likely the buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis)).
Fossorrallus is a stocky, heavy-built bird with a muscular body, large head, rather massive long beak, as well as wide, powerful legs resembling legs of gallinaceous birds. The wings are greatly reduced and hidden in the plumage, and the feathers are soft (much like the feathers of paleognaths) and at the same time thick. The eyes are relatively small; eyesight is poor by the standards of birds. The nostrils are shifted closer to the tip of the beak; the sense of smell is very good, which compensates for the vision deficiency. There are also long feathers around the beak, functioning like the vibrissae, like in kiwi (Apteryx). The down is very dense and provides protection from the cold. Feathers cover the bird’s legs to toes. The underside of the toes is covered with thick keratinized skin. The feathers are light brown with small specks. Males have 2 black stripes on each side of the head, stretching from the beak to the throat. The beak and toes are reddish-brown. There is no tail made of feathers – the tail feathers resemble contour feathers in texture. The size of the bird is quite large by Antarctic standards – the body length is about 37 cm, the weight is up to 550-800 g. Females and males are about the same size.
Spotted fossorralluses are omnivorous birds: they eat rhizomes, berries, shoots and leaves of plants, lichens, invertebrates, small birds and carrion. In summer, these birds usually feed in dense thickets of plants, where they are difficult to spot by flying predators. Fossorralluses run well, although while running they waddle from side to side and shake the vegetation – a massive physique and adaptation to life in burrows has an effect. During the polar day, birds are active around the clock with sleep breaks. During the change of day and night (autumn and spring), fossorralluses prefer to feed at night.
Birds spend a significant part of their time in burrows, which represent complex systems of passages and chambers, vaguely similar to badger’s hole.
In late summer and autumn, fossorralluses feed especially actively in order to store enough fat for the winter, when it is more difficult to get food. At the same time, they store food in burrows, bringing there the rhizomes and tubers of plants, as well as killed small animals (more often mousebirds). In winter, these birds almost do not leave underground and undersnow galleries, feeding on food stocks, as well as lichens, plant rhizomes, underground invertebrates and sometimes live mousebirds. Around the settlements of these birds, whole systems of tunnels appear under the snow on the surface of the ground. In especially severe cold, fossorralluses fall into a winter sleep, and at this time even their body temperature decreases by several degrees.
With the arrival of spring, the breeding season begins – at this time snow cover often is still on the ground. Fossorrallus males display, inflating their chests, raising underdeveloped wings and uttering throaty, muffled calls “uuuummmmmmm-khhhh”. Such calls are audible from afar. After mating, the pair usually moves into the female’s burrow, where she lays light pink speckled eggs in a nest of plant debris, quite large in size, in the amount of 3-5 ones. During the season, the birds make only one clutch, both parents incubate alternately. Chicks covered with black down hatch in a month. They are semi-precocial, which is typical for rails – during the first 3 months they are fed by their parents, although young birds begin to look for food themselves very early. Young birds spend the whole winter in the parent burrow, and by spring they leave it. The parent pair does not break up after that – the fossorralluses are monogamous and dig and renovate the burrow together. They often use the tunnels of neighboring pairs, uniting them into systems stretching for hundreds of meters.
The natural enemies of fossorralluses are primarily flying birds of prey, from which these rails hide in dense vegetation and in their burrows. Young birds often die in winter from starvation.
Young birds become sexually mature at 2 years old, and fossorralluses live up to 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Dohlozavr, the forum member.

Kiwi tinihanga (Vermirallus sylvanus)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Rails (Rallidae)

Habitat: Heavily forested areas and woodland, both mountainous and lowland, North and South Island of New Zealand.
The iconic Kiwi (Apteryx), was a pugnacious bird, but one of the first to succumb to the depredations of the introduced predators and their descendants, in late Holocene New Zealand. However, the niche of an adaptable, pugnacious worm-eating bird was not one lacking viability, and it was soon filled again.
Descended from the Buff Banded Rail (Hypotaenidia philippensis), the New Zealand False Kiwi is a fair sized bird, similar in size to a standard rooster, with a long, slightly curved bill greatly resembling that of the true kiwi (hence the name: “Fraud Kiwi” in Maori). Similarly, this bird finds its food by probing the forest floor in search of earthworms, though it will also opportunistically eat grubs and insects. The bill is covered with lines of mechanoreceptors inside and out, especially at the tip, and it finds its prey mainly by touch, unlike the kiwi which also used its sense of smell.
Though this bird can fly well in short bursts to escape predators, it vaguely resembles the Weka (Gallirallus australis) in shape and coloration, with overall dark brown feathers that contain some lighter and darker longitudinal streaks. Feet are large and bear big claws, sometimes when foraging it will turn over the ground as a chicken does with its feet. This bird is generally solitary, and they may antagonize their own kind outside of the breeding season. Like the true kiwi, it is nocturnal, but also similarly, its behaviour is flexible and it may be seen by day or at dusk.
Breeding occurs from August to October, and females may produce more than one clutch, to separate males in one year. Courtship is brief and consists of the male attracting females with a loud piping call from far away, females will judge males based on the strength of their call. Up to 4 eggs are laid, chicks are mature by six months, the nest is a deep scrape made in lee of a large tree or even sometimes dug some way into the ground. Non-mating call is a series of chirping whistles or a rasping chirr when annoyed. Able to run quickly in order to escape mammalian predators, it will defend itself by pecking and kicking if cornered. Lifespan is up to 15 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Morris, Adelaide, Australia.

Black-chested rail (Pseudogallirallus nigrothorax)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Rails (Rallidae)

Habitat: Antarctica, coastal areas.
Rails are birds that paradoxically combine limited flight qualities and the ability to colonize the most remote oceanic islands. They were among the first permanent inhabitants of Antarctica, and among them several species capable of living in harsh Antarctic conditions all year round evolved. The black-chested rail is one of the largest Antarctic rail species. It reaches a length of 70 cm with a weight of about 2.8-3 kg. In the constitution this species resembles gallinaceous birds: it has strong moderately long legs with thick toes and powerful claws. The beak is moderately long, with a hooked tip.
Black-chested rails are not capable of flight, and even their wings have turned into useless rudiments, almost invisible from the outside; they can run at speeds up to 35-40 km/h. The wool-like feathers are long (up to 8 cm), especially on the neck and back, grey-colored with blurred cross striation; there is a black spot on the chest, three longitudinal black stripes stretch on the back, and there is a black “cap” on the head. Beak and legs are grayish-yellow. Eyes are relatively large, equipped with bristle-like “eyelash” feathers.
Black-chested rails are carnivorous birds, feed on insects, nymphs of insectfishes, false jabbies, ravage the nests of seabirds, peck carrion, often ambush mousebirds at burrows and kill with a well-aimed peck in the neck. Quite often they attack the nests of sea swans and steal eggs, often even kill and eat the chicks. Less often, they feed on seeds and tubers of plants.
By winter, birds grow very fat and shed; winter plumage is lighter and thicker than summer one.
The nesting behavior of birds is very interesting. The male, using his beak and paws, digs a burrow up to 2 m deep and up to 90 cm wide. He lines the bottom of the nest chamber with dry plant stems, fern fronds, feathers and moss. The male’s display is accompanied by dull cracking sounds and a demonstration of a ready burrow. To strengthen the relationship, birds eat prey together. The female lays 3-4 large brownish-green eggs in a burrow and incubates them for about 26 days. The chicks are black and fluffy, like at all rails. Young birds spend the first winter together with their parents, learning to search for food.
This species is rarely found far from the shores of the continent, because in winter these birds look for food mainly by the sea. In the case of blizzards or strong winds, they hide in their own burrow, or use other natural shelters in which they huddle together and heat each other. In winter, they feed mainly on the corpses of marine animals washed ashore, littoral mollusks and crustaceans, and can also attack seabirds. In winter, kleptoparasitism is also characteristic for them – they often terrorize penguigulls and kaveskars coming out of the sea, beating them and forcing them to regurgitate part of the catch.

This bird species was discovered by Corvus, the forum member.

Rantakana, Finnish diving rail (Natanorallus rantakana)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Rails (Rallidae)

Habitat: Europe, wetlands, lakes, slow-flowing rivers and other calm bodies of water. Wintering along the shores of Fourseas, populations in places with a mild climate are sedentary.
In the Holocene, rails were common on all continents (except Antarctica) and on many islands. These poorly flying (and in many cases completely flightless) birds suffered greatly from humans, but quite numerous species managed to survive and in the Neocene they gave a new radiation of species, including large crane-like, Phorusracus-like and ostrich-like forms. At the same time, many Neocene rails are small, often even tiny birds. One such example is the rantakana, or Finnish diving rail (“rantakana” – rail in Finnish), a descendant of one of the species of Porzana genus.
This bird is widespread in Europe, from the taiga in the north to the subtropics in the south. Nevertheless, in all places of its range, rantakana keeps to the water – after all, this bird is even more aquatic than its ancestor. Outwardly, rantakana resembles a spotted crake, but has visible differences – for example, the body is more elongated and massive, the toes are equipped with leathery fringes, like at coots, beak is thicker and more powerful. The coloration of rantakana is typical for secretive near-water birds – brown with darker small spots on the back. In both sexes, the front part of the head, chest and belly have a dull blue-lilac color, in males somewhat brighter than in females. Beak and legs are icterinous; eyes are red. Rantakana is somewhat larger in size than spotted crake – about 29-35 cm long, weighing 180-300 g. Several similar species live in other regions of Eurasia.
Rantakana swims longer and more actively than spotted crake, and spends more time in the water. The bird is omnivorous, but more carnivorous than most other small rails, and due to its stronger beak is able to attack and kill fairly large prey, such as small birds and mammals (for example, various shrews). Rantakana also feeds on invertebrates, small fish, amphibian larvae and plant food. This bird feeds like spotted crake, but swims more actively and walks less along the shore. Activity is mainly nocturnal, during the day the bird keeps hidden.
The mating period of the rantakana is from early April to mid-May in different parts of the range. The mating call of the male is the call “u-ki, u-ki, u-kiii”, clearly distinguishable from afar (the rest of the time, the rantakans usually utter a low “gurgling” or “buzzing”). It is a monogamous species; birds make nests in thickets of coastal plants, from dry stems and leaves. The clutch consists of 6-10 marsh-colored eggs with speckles; both parents incubate. The chicks are covered with black down (which is typical for rails), are of semi-precocial, after hatching they can walk and follow their parents, but they still cannot regulate their body temperature themselves, and in the first few days they can’t search for food. The chicks begin to feed themselves after 16-22 days; they take wing at the age of about 50 days.
Migration for wintering occurs from the end of August to the first half of October, depending on the climatic zone; some populations do not migrate. Rantakana winters in the subtropics of Fourseas, usually on the southern shore of the reservoir. The return to the nesting sites occurs in late spring.
The life expectancy of the Finnish swimming rail is up to 8 years.

This bird species was discovered by a Dohlozavr, the forum member.

Striped False Woodhen (Ralligallina paludiphila)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Rails (Rallidae)

Habitat: Swamps, swamp-forest and mangroves surrounding Arafura and Carpentary Lakes.
Rails are a very successful widespread group of birds, able to colonize islands with ease, and having an almost global distribution. The genus Hypotaenidia was notable in giving rise to many flightless and some oversized forms.
In northern Meganesia, in the swamps and mangroves surrounding Arafura and Carpentary sea lakes, lives the Striped False Woodhen, a descendant of the Banded Rail (genus Hypotaenidia). This is a large rail similar in size to a chicken, with long legs and toes, and an elongated, conical beak. Bird slightly resembles the New Zealand Weka (Gallirallus) but is fully able to fly, being mainly diurnal. The bird is dark brown above, with the wing feathers scalloped with black, underside is barred in contrasting black and white, face is pale and there is a dark stripe through the eye. Bill and feet are bright red. Generally reluctant to fly, it only does so when pursued by a predator. Spending most of its time on the ground, it stalks and wades about on marshy ground and mudflats, in search of prey, which consists of insects, small fish, crabs, worms, lizards and occasionally small snails. The beak is relatively long for a rail and serves to aid it in snatching or selecting prey, though it can be used to kill larger prey with a sharp peck.
Breeding occurs all year round, and females may produce up to 10 clutches per year. Courting consists of overtures made to the female including gifts of food, male displays by bowing head and fanning out the tail and wing tips. The nest is a shallow cup of woven leaves and reeds usually made in the crook of a low tree. Up to 4 eggs are laid, chicks are mature by six months, and young are expelled from the pair’s territory once fully grown. Birds pair for life and forage by ranging a small distance from one another, pairs have distinct territories, and fights will break out over territory, which involve pecking, leaping and flapping. The call is a loud series of whistles and is made to maintain contact within the group, individuals invariably respond to calls in case of territorial interlopers. They are generally shy and secretive, fleeing by running for cover at the slightest sign of danger. These birds are frequently preyed upon by crocodiles, large monitors, pythons and other reptiles, raptorial birds and carnivorous marsupials, rats and other birds may consume their eggs. Lifespan is up to 15 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Donald Morris, Adelaida, Australia.

Takahe ki te mere (Deinonotornis socialis)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Rails (Rallidae)

Habitat: Upland and mountain slopes where tussock grass and other grasses grow, South Island, New Zealand.
The effects upon native New Zealand birds by Holocene invasive predators is best exemplified by the plight of Takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri). This flightless rail was a slow-moving specialist, eating the stems of grasses, and had no defences against introduced mustelids. However, its ancestor and near neighbour, the Pukeko (Porphyrio melanotus) was extremely common and prosperous all over New Zealand and Australia.
Subsequently, the Pukeko served to evolve a replacement for the Takahe in the Neocene. Indeed, it had already given rise to both the North Island and South Island Takahes on separate occasions during the early Holocene.
The False Takahe, however, differs from its Holocene counterpart in being more formidable, in the face of both marsupial and placental predators, and it some ways resembles Australian Native Hens (Tribonyx) habitually. This bird is about the size of a large domestic hen, coloration is indeed similar to both of its relatives, with a bright green back, and a head and chest which is dark purplish blue, turning to navy on the face, bill and feet are bright candy red. Its bill is deep and triangular in profile, suited to shear off the bases of mountain grasses, which makes up the majority of its diet, but also includes insects and sedges. Feet are large and prehensile, it will often hold food using its feet. Unlike the true Takahe, it is flighted, able to retreat in short bursts of flight much like a grouse. Exceedingly aggressive towards predators, in a similar way to a hen or rooster, it lives in loose flocks of up to 10, which actively patrol their territory. When confronted with a predator, it brings to bear its sizeable bill, and also large, blunt spur-like growths on the ends of the wings (hence the name, meaning “takahe with war club”, in Maori, referring to the wings), opponents are beaten over the head with wings and pecked. False Takahe is diurnal, but also most active in the morning and afternoon. These birds are generally silent, relying on visual signals within the flock, though they will make a puffing hiss when angry.
Breeding season runs from July to September, depending on the lushness and availability of grasses on which it feeds and amongst which it nests. Social groups are led by an alpha pair, with the female also mating with other males in the group. The nest is a shallow, round grassy mattress in which is laid up to 8 eggs. Young are attended by the female, but are able to forage and follow their mother on their own a few days after hatching, initially feeding on insects but switching to grasses after they reach half adult size. Lifespan is up to 10 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Morris, Adelaide, Australia.

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.

Lesser crail (Rallogeranus minor)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Crails (Neogruidae)

Habitat: North America – woodlands, deciduous forests, prairie areas in the east of the continent.
The Neocene epoch is characterized by changes in the structure of the fauna – large and vulnerable representatives of various groups of animals died out as a result of human activity, leaving no descendants. One of the extinct groups were the true cranes (Gruidae). In the Neocene, their ecological niches were occupied by other birds – usually by unrelated stork birds (storks, herons, ibises, etc.), as well as representatives of a new branch of large gruiform birds – representatives of the crail family, descendants of small rails (Rallidae). Crails are common in Eurasia and North America, and one of their species is the lesser crail.
Lesser crail is a relatively large bird: its height is about 90 cm; wingspan is no more than 140 cm. It is a bird of a more robust constitution than other species of the genus, with shorter and thicker legs, neck and beak. It is a bird with relatively bright plumage of green and rust-brown color with a light beak. The color of the wings and body is brown with thin cross stripes. Head, neck and chest are dark green with a metallic sheen. The legs are dark gray. This species, unlike other, larger crail species, does not have a throat sac. Instead, this species has a mobile fiery-red crest, which birds can raise and lower, giving each other alarms, warnings and threats, as well as using it during courtship.
The coloration and small size of the lesser crail are associated with a lifestyle atypical for these birds: it avoids wetland areas and prefers dry places – undergrowth of deciduous forests, woodlands, prairies, rarely forests at the foothills, especially in the Appalachian region. Like other crails, lesser crail feeds on animal food – usually insects and other invertebrates, less often small vertebrates. This bird does not eat carrion.
Lesser crail usually nests in a secluded place on the ground. In the forest zone, birds can occupy empty nests of large birds nesting in trees. Near the nest, the birds are very quiet and secretive. There are 2-3 speckled eggs in the clutch; both parents incubate them alternately for 5 weeks. The chicks hatch covered with down and having eyes opened, and after 2-3 days they leave their nest together with their parents forever. To do it, the chicks fearlessly jump off the tree and land safely in the bushes due to their low weight. Their color is brown with a black longitudinal stripe from the crown to the tip of the tail and black spots on the sides of the head, which allows them to disguise themselves in the undergrowth when enemies appear.
Lesser crail forms permanent pairs, often remaining until the death of one of the mates, but the couple does not have a permanent nest, so every year bird couples either build new nests, or find and renovate abandoned ones – of relatives or some other birds. By winter, the chicks of lesser crail become independent. In the south of the range, birds lead a sedentary lifestyle; in the north they are migratory. Northern populations winter in the south, in the Mississippi Delta, on the Gulf of Mexico coast and in Florida. Separate birds fly to Cuba.
Sexual maturity in this species occurs only at the age of 2-3 years. Lesser crail can live for several decades.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Steppe crail (Rallogeranus aridophilus)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Crails (Neogruidae)

Habitat: Central Asia, steppes and shrub thickets.
Among the groups of terrestrial animals that became extinct at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, there were true cranes (family Gruidae). The main reason for their disappearance was the decline in numbers associated with the disappearance of habitual places of living and the increased level of disturbance due to human activity. The number of these birds has greatly decreased, the range has been fragmented, and separate populations have disappeared one by one. Their ecological niches were occupied mainly by stork birds, as well as by crails – large descendants of rails (Rallidae), a characteristic group of birds of the Holarctic. Most of the species of these birds live in wetlands, but there are species that prefer forests and dry open areas. Steppe crail is one of the steppe species of this genus.
Steppe crail is not the largest representative of the genus: about a meter long, it weighs about 3.5 kg and has a relatively large wingspan – about 1.8 m. The basic color of the plumage is gray with large cross ripples formed of the cross-striped coloring of the feathers. On the head there is a movable crest of darker, coal-black feathers with a greenish and blue metallic shine. On the cheeks of the bird there are large red-and-white spots – areas of red feathers with white tips forming a spotted pattern. At the base of the neck there is an outgrowth of the trachea – an elastic resonator sac covered with gray skin; using it, steppe crails can communicate to each other at a distance of several kilometers. During the call, this outgrowth is greatly inflated. The voice of this species is a high-pitched acute whistle.
Beak at this species is proportionally shorter than that of its semi-aquatic relatives, since this bird species forages mainly on land, eating small vertebrates, insects, grass tubers. This bird is especially fond of cereals; in autumn, when the young birds have already left the nest, the families of these birds roam the steppes and peck the ears of cereals.
Despite living in steppe areas, steppe crail prefers to nest not on the ground, but on steppe trees or among tall shrub thickets in order to be safer from predators. In addition, this bird is more territorial and aggressive than other species of the genus, and drives away from the vicinity of its nest not only relatives, but also other large birds, and even mammals, including medium-sized predators. It happens that a pair of nesting birds even jumps on large saigochenias, and tries to peck them in the head, driving them away from the nest.
The mating season of the steppe crail comes in the spring, after the return from wintering grounds: adult males renew or rebuild nests and call females to them, and younger bachelors try to drive them away from the territory or take over the nest. At such moments, serious fights arise between the males of the steppe crail: the birds fight, kicking and striking each other with their wings. When a female appears, the male invites her to the nest, inflating the resonator and uttering sounds similar to cooing.
The nest is a large platform on a tree or in the crown of a tall shrub. Birds throw a large pile of branches into the crown, on top of which there is a flat nest of branches and grass laid with a thick layer. Usually there are 2 eggs in a clutch, less often 1 or 3. Both parents incubate for 5 weeks; at the daily age, the chick leaves the nest and wanders the steppe with its parents. Large reptiles can eat a chick; adult birds are attacked by eagleravens and other predators. At about 10 weeks old, steppe crail chicks are fully fledged and can already fly, and at 18 weeks they become independent and are expelled from the parent territory. Birds fly for the winter to the high-altitude plateaus of the Himalayas, where they winter in a cold climate in snowless valleys.
Sexual maturity occurs in 2-3 years, in females earlier than in males. Steppe crail can live for several decades.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Central European crail, willia (Rallogeranus willia)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Crails (Neogruidae)

Habitat: Central and Eastern Europe, riverbanks, lake coasts.
The true cranes died out shortly after the end of the human era. Their evolutionary decline was superimposed by habitat destruction, which fragmented and reduced the ranges of these birds, which accelerated their extinction. Their place in the Neocene was taken by related birds, rails. Their descendants, cranils, are convergently similar to cranes and are their ecological counterparts in the Holarctic.
Willia is a large crail inhabiting central and eastern Europe. The stature of an adult bird is about 140 cm, the wingspan is 2.25 m, the weight is up to 6 kg; the male is slightly larger than the female. The plumage of most of the body in adult birds is dark gray or brown with mottling on the back and wings – there are two color morphs, the frequency of which varies from one population to another. The underside of the wings is always white, which, along with the large size, allows recognizing these birds in flight. Unlike other crails, willia prefers to live near rivers and flowing lakes, or other bodies of water with clean water, although it regularly hunts in wetlands.
The main food of birds of this species is small aquatic and terrestrial animals: from small fish and large invertebrates to rodents, reptiles and amphibians. Occasionally a bird eats berries, usually in autumn. This is a migratory species: willia winters in the savannas of North Africa and in the valley of Saharan Nile, where young river vipers (Potamobitis planiceps) become part of its prey. Outside of the nesting season, birds keep in pairs, sometimes in harems of three birds: a male can mate with two females.
The breeding season is at the end of April – May, when the willias return from wintering. At this time, males grow thin and long white feathers on the wings (wing coverts) and on the breast; females have a tuft of feathers. In this way they resemble their mythological prototypes – rusalkas (vilas, willias, from Russian mythology). In the established family, birds claim the territory with a series of prolonged calls and beak clicks – a signal that the nesting place is occupied. In addition, the action is accompanied by characteristic male and female dances, which include bouncing, flapping wings, tossing twigs and bowing. In single or widowed birds, such “dances” are much longer and more intense, and are usually not accompanied by vocalization.
The nest is arranged on a hill in a swampy area, or on an island in the middle of a reservoir, but more often in bushes on the shore. There are two or three eggs in the clutch of these birds, which are incubated only by the female. The male guards the borders of the territory of the pair and drives away small predators. Incubation lasts 30 days. Chicks appear well developed, sighted and covered with down. After drying out, they quickly learn to walk and leave the nest. Young birds fully fledge after about 70-75 days. By this time they are already beginning to learn to fly. The bond between parents and offspring persists for a long time: young birds fly to winter with their parents, becoming completely independent already in Africa, from where they return to their homeland on their own. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 3 years, life expectancy is up to 25-30 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Perkele, horned crail (Rallogeranus perkele)
Order: Gruiform birds (Gruiformes)
Family: Crails (Neogruidae)

Habitat: tundra and forests of Northern Europe from Scandinavia to the Urals.
Crails represent a young group of birds that evolved after humans. They are descended from small rails, but are ecological analogues of cranes that died out at the end of the human epoch. These birds are a very characteristic element of the Holarctic fauna and are widespread across the Northern Hemisphere – from Greenland to Siberia, and from the northern tundra to the south of the taiga zone. The north of Europe is inhabited by perkele, a relative of the northern crail (Rallogeranus borealis).
The height of this bird is about 1.25 m, the wingspan is up to 1.95 m, and the weight is about 5.5 kg. The appearance is very characteristic: two narrow tufts of elongated feathers grow on the head behind the eyes, resembling horns (hence the name meaning “evil spirit” in Finnish). The color of the back and wings is gray with red and brown mottling, like fire under ashes. The belly is white. Sexual dimorphism in coloration is not pronounced. Perkeles live in small groups – male, female and juveniles of the last year. Birds strictly guard the territory from their relatives, driving them away with wing beats and chest pushes. The bird defends itself from predators with beak blows, inflicting deep wounds, and often tries to peck the enemy in the eyes or nose. Birds prefer to live in impassable areas of swampy forest surrounded by deep marshy areas. Perkeles feed mainly on small vertebrates – fish, amphibians, chicks of wading birds – and crustaceans, less often snails. At the end of summer, a significant part of the birds’ diet consists of seeds and berries of marsh plants. Outside of the breeding season, birds are usually silent, but chicks are called by rumbling.
Birds return from wintering grounds by the time the snow melts on reservoirs, and in the first days after the flight they eat off. The mating season begins at the end of April, when relatively stable warm weather is established. Pairs are formed only for one breeding season. Males call females with screeches resembling woman screaming, uttering them many times in a row during the morning hours. Each of the males has a different timbre. When a pair of perkele has formed, the birds already vocalize together, claiming the territory; a couple can even slightly expand the boundaries of their own possessions, especially at the expense of solitary birds. These birds nest on islands in the swamp and in thickets of reeds; the nest is a pile of grass based on broken reed stalks. There are 3-4 eggs in the clutch, which are incubated by both parents; the incubation period is 25 days. The chicks hatch sighted and covered with down, the next day they leave the nest and follow their parents. At first, the parents feed them, then from about the 2nd week of life, the chicks get food themselves, and the parents only protect them and take them to places rich in food. Young birds treat each other relatively peacefully, showing aggression only when there is a lack of food. From about 52 days of age, young birds are already able to fly, but they are completely independent only from the autumn migration. Horned crails winter on the shores of Fourseas and on the Iberian Peninsula. Females take part in reproduction at the age of 2 years, males at 3 years; life expectancy is up to 26-30 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

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.

Dusky grebe (Podilymbus columbianus)
Order: Grebes (Podicipediformes)
Family: Grebes (Podicipedidae)

Habitat: North America, Miche-Nama Lake, freshwater reservoirs.

Picture by Tony Johnes

Among the overall diversity of birds, grebes are a relatively modestly represented group – they are not numerous and often small in size. Like loons, they are almost unable to walk on land and live almost exclusively in water – some of them even nest on floating islets of vegetation. Despite the relatively beautiful plumage, people almost never hunted these birds, and their specialization in the aquatic lifestyle helped them survive natural disasters at the turn of the Holocene and Neocene. Many local species of these birds became extinct in the human era, but in the Neocene, the active speciation of the surviving species compensated for this damage.
In Neocene, grebes live all over the world; there are flightless species among them, but this is an exception to the rule – most of them are relatively good flyers, although they feel more confident on the water and under water. Dusky grebe, a descendant of the pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) is one such bird.
Compared to its ancestor, it is really large bird, reaching up to 1.3 m in length, mainly due to its elongated neck and long beak. It has retained the proportions of a diving bird and is covered with water-repellent plumage of a soft pale brown color. Sometimes, especially in northern populations, there are also lighter “roan” birds. The beak, like that of the ancestral species, is brighter than the plumage – yellow with a black vertical stripe stretching along the upper and lower mandibles.
Dusky grebe is an exclusively zoophagous bird feeding on fish, amphibians, less often crayfish and other large aquatic invertebrates. Its enemies are predatory fish, less often birds and water snakes; on Mishe-Nama Lake, it sometimes comes into conflict with the dwarf gannetwhale, but it rarely happens. Dusky grebe is not a territorial bird and prefers to retreat in such conflicts, losing also to the dwarf gannetwhale in weight; in addition, it prefers to live alone in the coastal area of the lake, and therefore is not a competitor to the flocking gannetwhale living in the deep middle part of the lake. The attacked bird, however, is quite a serious opponent and strikes the enemy hard with its wings and beak. Therefore, predators prefer to attack young birds, grabbing them from under the water or attacking from the air. Adult grebes are attacked by feathered predators during migrations.
Like related species, dusky grebe makes a floating nest by throwing a large amount of twigs and grass into the water. During the nesting season, it usually avoids appearing on Mishe-Nama Lake, and nests in shallower and overgrown reservoirs, where it is easier for it to find both food and nest material. This bird also avoids swamps, preferring to settle on large lakes and rivers with a large expanse of open water. These birds usually avoid each other’s company and live quietly – only in spring, during the courtship season, they resound North American reservoirs with a loud high-pitched whistle: these are the males calling the females to them. The females came at their call join the males and the birds begin to whistle in a duet. But by the time the nest is built, the birds stop vocalizing.
Dusky grebe forms families for only one season; both birds build a nest and hatch eggs, numbering from three to eight. The chicks hatch in a month, and at the age of one and a half weeks they are already able to dive as well as their parents, and by the beginning of autumn they take wing and migrate.
Dusky grebe is a migratory bird, and flies to the south of the continent for the winter; families fly together at this time, but they usually break up at the wintering site, and in the spring young birds already form new pairs. The average life expectancy of this bird is up to 15 years, but many birds die in the first years of their life.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, 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.

Miru (Pezolarus miru)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Gulls (Laridae)

Habitat: Eonesia, Burotu Archipelago.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

Burotu Archipelago is located in the southern part of the chain of Eonesia islands. Formed after the human disappearance, this archipelago was settled exclusively in a natural way, so there are no representatives of many terrestrial groups of animals on the Burotu Islands that do not have the ability to fly, with the exception of lizards. Due to the humid climate, the Burotu Islands are a favorable place for forest growth. The productivity of the ecosystems that have developed on the islands is sufficient to maintain the existence of a population of a peculiar predator – a very large representative of seagulls, which is called miru (the name of Polynesian god of the dead).
Since the time of settlement on these islands, the ancestors of this species gradually switched to hunting for land prey, since they had no competitors on the islands. This bird species is much larger than other seagulls – the height of an adult bird reaches 70 cm, of which half is the height of the legs. The weight of an adult bird reaches 5 kg; the male is smaller than the female. The webbing between the toes is reduced to a barely noticeable skin fold. Despite its large size, miru retains the ability to fly. This bird takes to the air rarely and reluctantly, so its wings are relatively shorter than those of smaller gulls. But from time to time individuals of this species move within the archipelago from one island to another: this feature makes it possible to preserve the genetic unity of the population and to avoid degeneration, and at the same time makes it possible for small island subpopulations to exist.
The plumage of this seagull is gray with mottled spots on its back, a little like the juvenile plumage of ordinary seagulls. The beak of an adult bird is yellow; the female has a pink spot on the tip of the beak, turning red by the time the chicks are hatched. The wing tips and tail are black. Miru usually hunts alone or in pairs. These are monogamous birds that form a pair for life. Each pair has its own territory, which both birds protect from competitors. Usually the territories of forest birds are larger, and their borders are not strictly observed. Couples living on the shores gather animals cast ashore and ravage colonies of seabirds; their territory borders are strictly guarded, although the territory itself is smaller in area.
Miru often attacks forest birds, slaughtering even larger individuals. Migratory birds from South America wintering on the islands often become prey of miru. Miru also willingly eats terrestrial crustaceans and is able to dig their burrows with its beak. When hunting alone, the bird sneaks up to the prey, and then attacks, inflicting dangerous wounds with its beak. When hunting in pairs (outside the breeding season), one of the birds can drive the prey to the other one.
Miru nests in burrows, choosing the most elevated areas of the territory, which are not reached by the highest tides. The mating season begins in October. At this time, the pair renovates the nest hole or digs a new one. The male takes care of the female, preening the feathers on her head. Sometimes birds start “nodding” to each other and flapping their wings together. During the mating season, fights often occur with young males trying to challenge the right to a female and a burrow from an older male. Young males present the female with an edible gift – a dead fish, a piece of meat, a lizard or a crab. If the female has accepted the offering, the male opens his wings and begins to stamp and nod, standing near the female. If the female accepts it, she repeats this “dance”. Some of its elements are kept in the existing pair, but the male can limit himself to a symbolic “gift” in the form of a tree leaf or twig. The female lays 2-3 eggs, measuring (65-81) × (41-54) mm, with a white or grayish shell right on the ground. Incubation lasts 35 days. Usually parents manage to feed successfully only one chick, less often two. The chicks are colored darker than their parents: the downy dress is gray with spots and a white “mask”, the juvenile plumage is dark gray, the beak is brownish yellow. The development of young birds is slow. In the first 2 to 2.5 months of life, crabs are dangerous for chicks, and even ants are dangerous before the age of one month. Young birds reach sexual maturity and acquire adult coloration in the third year of life. Life expectancy is 40-45 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Satrap, giant seagull (Larus satrapes)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Gulls (Laridae)

Habitat: the Arctic coast of Eurasia and North America, as well as islands.
Despite the serious competition with the auks and the “plankton catastrophe”, the seagulls survived not only the era of human domination, but also the ice age. Some species survived due to their ability to coexist with humans, and some due to the relatively small impact that human activity had on the coastal polar waters in comparison with the seas of lower latitudes. In the Neocene in the Northern Hemisphere, these omnivorous birds hold an honorable second place among feathered hunters for ocean fish. The largest of the seagulls of the northern seas is satrap, or giant seagull. This species is a descendant of the glaucous gull, or burgomaster (Larus hyperboreus). The range of the species covers the Arctic Ocean coast as a ring, and birds from the populations of Wrangel Island and Beringia do not interbreed with each other – when representatives of this species inhabited these areas from different directions, they accumulated differences at the species level, although there are no such sharp morphological differences between neighboring populations throughout the rest of the range.
Satrap is a large species of seagulls: body length up to 70 cm, wingspan 1.6 m. The color is characteristic for the “herring gulls” group of species – gray back and wings, white primary and secondary feathers, head and belly; beak and legs are yellow. The female has a vertical red stripe on her beak. This species differs from its ancestors by a deeper and laterally compressed beak, the tip of which is hooked, suitable for tearing meat and holding slippery prey. Populations from Eurasia are distinguished by a lighter leg color and a short series of calls, including no more than four “syllables”. Populations from Iceland, North America and Beringia have darker legs (orange in color), an orange iris and a “polysyllabic” call – up to six “syllables”. They also have gray secondary feathers.
This seagull is exclusively zoophagous, feeding on fish, squid and small auks. It often pecks carrion and after a storm wanders along the coast, looking for dead marine animals. Satrap nests near colonies of seabirds, regularly stealing their eggs and chicks, and sometimes forcing to regurgitate the caught fish. Satrap is wary only of gannetwhales, which can easily kill and peck an unwary seagull, but satraps regularly feed on the corpses of these birds. A competitor of this species is the sea eagleraven (Aquillorax maritimus), which also feeds on carrion and marine animals. Usually these two species coexist in a kind of “armed neutrality”, not attacking each other, but avoiding the neighborhood. Quarrels with eagleravens arise only because of the place for the nest, or when both birds try to steal eggs from the same nest. Because of the fish, both species do not quarrel, because the prey of satrap swims in deep water, where the eagleraven flies quite rarely. However, birds of both species try to rob each other after the luck in fishing.
The nesting period of satrap begins in April; pairs are formed for one nesting season. Before the start of nesting, males and females perform complex and long mating dances, during which they bow and rub their beaks against each other. A special figure of the dance is walking with wings stretched wide towards each other. The culmination of the mating ritual is beaks raised to the sky and a loud synchronous call. Nests are most often arranged on rocks near cliffs. Birds pay little attention to the nest arrangement – this is an ordinary deepening in a stone or soil, lined with down and dry algae. Birds nest in separate pairs or small colonies, numbering up to 3-4 breeding pairs. In a clutch there are usually 2-3 eggs with a yellowish spotted shell. The clutch is incubated by both parents for 27-28 days. Chicks are hatched covered with brown down with black spots on the back. Young birds become independent at the age of 45-50 days. Juvenile plumage is white with a brownish tinge, darker on the wings and back. The bird reaches sexual maturity at the age of 2 years; life expectancy is up to 27 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Antarctic kaveskar (Kaveskar australis)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Penguigulls (Sphenicilariidae)

Habitat: Antarctic Peninsula and nearby islands.
In the Neocene, in the cold waters of the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth, fish and invertebrates are caught by penguigulls, representatives of a family convergently similar to puffins and penguins. True penguins in the Neocene are relics inhabiting cold freshwater reservoirs. The family of penguigulls includes several genera that differ in behavior and details of anatomy. Its most spectacular representatives belong to the kaveskar genus (Kaveskar), inhabiting the south of South America, West Antarctica and nearby islands. This genus of birds is named after an Indian tribe of hunters of marine animals and fishermen from the shores of the Strait of Magellan.
The Antarctic kaveskar is the largest species of the genus; the adult bird reaches 80 cm in height. Its appearance shows a deep adaptability to underwater fishing: the wings have turned into flippers, the toes are connected by palamas. The relatively long and thick beak is used for catching prey. These birds feed on fish, crustaceans and squid, which are caught underwater. When moving underwater, they flap their wings, as when flying – in this way they are convergently similar to penguins that lived in these places in the human era. Kaveskars prefer to escape from predators on land: there are no land animals in Antarctica that can be dangerous to them, but large predatory fish threaten them underwater.
The plumage of kaveskar is dense and at first glance resembles scales. Its coloration is typical for aquatic animals: the back, head and wings are black, the neck and belly are white. In mating plumage, both males and females are very beautiful: a bunch of curved white feathers grows over the beak; the cheeks are also colored white. During the mating season, the beak of kaveskars acquires a very bright color: red cross stripes appear on a yellow background. At the tip of the mandible there is a bright red spot, which serves as a signal for the beginning of feeding for the chicks. In the non-breeding season, after molting, the bright feathers above the beak shed, the cheeks turn black, and the beak is uniformly yellow.
Antarctic kaveskars live all year round on the coast of Antarctica and in Subantarctic area. Their mating season begins in October. Birds form pairs, arranging spectacular displays accompanied by loud trumpet calls. Kaveskars are monogamous, but the “bonds of marriage” connect a male and a female for only one season. Kaveskars nest in colonies numbering from several dozen to several hundred individuals. These birds nest in burrows up to 2 m deep, with a nest chamber without litter at the end. The newly formed pair either digs a new hole, or occupies one of the old ones. Burrows often cause serious conflicts between family couples. In the nest chamber, the female lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated alternately by both parents. After the chicks hatch, the male and female alternately go to the sea for food for them. The remaining parent protects the nest from predators. Although kaveskar chicks are of precocial type, they become independent only by the end of the Antarctic summer. At this time, they leave their parents. The young bird looks like an adult in non-nest plumage.
In addition to the Antarctic species, the genus also includes several species living further north:
Patagonian kaveskar (Kaveskar patagonensis) inhabits the eastern coast of South America, from Tierra del Fuego north to La Plata. It is slightly smaller than its Antarctic relative and reaches a height of 70 cm. The hair-like feathers above the beak are yellow in color.
Chilean kaveskar (Kaveskar pacificus) lives on the Pacific coast of South America, north to Peru of human epoch and reaches the same size as the previous species. The feathers above the beak of the Chilean kaveskar are orange, and the beak itself is red with black stripes.
Falkland kaveskar (Kaveskar nanus) is endemic to the Falkland Islands and the smallest species of the genus, up to 60 cm tall. Dark tones dominate in coloration of its plumage: the feathers above the beak are black with a violet metallic sheen, and a black cross stripe stretches across the throat. The cheeks are not colored white, but there is a thin ring of small white feathers around the eyes.
The ranges of the four species of the genus sometimes overlap, but due to strong differences in mating coloration, cases of interspecific hybridization are very rare.

These bird species were discovered by Simon, the forum member.

“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). Some individuals reach Great Antigua.

Hakoakoa (Sarcoscopus hakoakoa)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Skuas (Stercorariidae)

Habitat: New Zealand, mountains and woodlands.
In the New Zealand of the human era, there were no specialized scavengers from among vertebrates. But in the Neocene, when the archipelago acquired a megafauna originating from introduced marsupials and ungulates, the situation changed. Various New Zealand birds, such as corvids and parrots, began to feed sometimes on the corpses of large herbivores. But the most specialized type of scavengers Ao-Tea-Roa does not belong to them, but comes from the skua famiy. It is called hakoakoa – after the Maori name of the brown skua (Stercorarius antarcticus), one of the possible ancestors of this bird.
Hakoakoa is a relatively large bird, comparable in size to an ordinary vulture: the wingspan reaches 180 cm, and the weight is 2-2.5 kg. The limited resources of the islands on which it lives do not allow this species to become larger. The entire appearance of hakoakoa shows its deep specialization in feeding on carrion: so, wide wings and a fan-shaped tail allow it to hover in the sky for a long time, looking for food. The head and elongated neck are covered with short gray down, and around the eyes and beak the skin is bare, colored light gray – it is an adaptation that prevents the plumage from getting dirty when the bird is feeding. The beak, colored black, is disproportionately large and thick, with a sharp hook at the tip – due to it hakoakoa is able to cut open the corpses of animals even with a thick skin. The plumage is colored brown, with a scaly pattern on the back and wing coverts and a lighter area on the belly; the iris of the eye is black. The legs are dark gray in color – they lack palamas, because the bird (unlike another descendant of the skua, the griffon skua from the Northern Hemisphere) has completely interrupted its connection with water. The coloration of young individuals is distinguished by light mottling all over the body.
Hakoakoas inhabit various landscapes of New Zealand, avoiding only dense forests. They are most numerous in woodlands and in the mountains. These birds settle where there are sufficiently large populations of herbivores that can provide them with food. These birds search for food by soaring in the sky and carefully studying the landscape. In part, the sense of smell helps in the search for carrion – in hakoakoa it is somewhat better developed than in birds in general. At the carcass of the dead animal, these birds gather in large groups, whose members periodically arrange fights for a place in the hierarchy and the right to feed first. In addition to their relatives, hakoakoa compete for food with false ravens and eagle keas, as well as with mammals – but thanks to their quarrelsome nature and courage, they are able to defend the carrion found and even drive away competitors. The gastric juice of hakoakoa is very corrosive, which allows it to digest carrion without harm to health. After feeding, these birds sit in the sun rays for a long time, spreading their wings – ultraviolet radiation kills pathogens. Mountain populations have invented several additional ways of obtaining food – they can drop young mountain herbivores from rocks and throw bones from a great height, then peck out the marrow from them (like Holocene lammergeiers).
The transition to land life has led to changes in nesting behavior – due to their size and the presence of predatory mammals in the fauna of Ao-Tea-Roa, hakoakoas cannot afford to nest on flat ground. Populations from mountainous areas build lax nests of dry grass and down on ledges of rocks. Birds from the plains are forced to nest in trees – they either occupy old nests of large birds such as false ravens and herons, or build lax structures of branches on tree tops. The nesting season of hakoakoa is timed to the spring of the Southern Hemisphere – the time when ungulates give birth to cubs. In the nest of these birds there is one olive egg (sometimes two), which is incubated by both parents. The male and female also feed the chick together. Hakoakoas jealously guard their nests from predators and ravagers, as well as from peaceful herbivores that happen to be nearby. After the juvenile takes wing (after about 2-3 months), the couple breaks up – these birds become attached to each other and to the nesting site for only one season, although it is highly likely that the next year the same birds can form breeding pairs.
Young birds become ready to breed at the age of two years, and the total life expectancy can be up to 35 years.

This bird species was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

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.

Imperial, or wingless murre (Ampluria breviptera)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Auks (Alcidae)

Habitat: North Pacific Ocean, islands off the coast of Beringia to the north of the Big Kurils.

Picture by Lambert

Murres, which easily survived the human epoch, suffered seriously at the boundary of the Holocene and Neocene, before the beginning of the ice Age. Their food supply was undermined by the “planktonic catastrophe”, and only few populations of both murre species, known in the human epoch, survived in the estuaries of rivers south of the edge of the glacier. Over time, murres restored their number again and managed to regain the lost territories. In due course of evolution, a whole bunch of diverse species, inhabiting various territories of the Pacific and Arctic Oceans, have emerged among them. The largest of them is imperial murre, a descendant of the thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia).
This species is convergently similar to penguins and great auks of the human era. The body length of an adult is 75-85 cm, and weight is up to 8 kg. Because of such a large size, birds of this species have lost the ability to fly; their wings have turned into flippers used for swimming. Legs are strong: birds easily walk a distance of several tens of meters from the nest to the sea and climb steep banks, keeping the body in an upright position. The color of the plumage has retained the combination of colors characteristic for auks: the plumage on the head, back and sides is black, and the chest is white, which makes the bird less noticeable to enemies in the water. The skin on the legs is dark gray, almost black; the palamas are well developed.
The beak of this species is massive, pointed and elongated; the edges of the beak are finely serrated. The corneous cover of the beak is black with a large white spot at the tip and a yellowish vertical stripe at the base. The upper mandible is slightly curved downwards.
Imperial murre feeds on small fish and crustaceans, preferring to look for prey in the water at the bottom, usually at a depth of up to 10 meters, although it is capable of diving 20 meters or more. The manner of movement of these birds under water is “flight”, characteristic of penguins of the human epoch.
This species, like its ancestor, lives in colonies, only migrating to the south by winter: Asian populations – on the coast from the southern islands of Japan to Taiwan, and American ones – on the coast of the continent to the latitude of California Island, as well as on this island itself. Outside of the nesting season, birds are found on the coast of the continent. They are quite aggressive towards small predators: when they approach, birds start screeching loudly, and if the predator does not retreat, they counterattack it and bite hard. Birds can protect themselves from large predators by purposefully regurgitating half-digested food into them, although they prefer to hide in the water.
Nesting of these birds takes place on rocky islands where there are no terrestrial predators. The mating season begins in early May. Established couples that persist for life jointly arrange a nest and give each other signs of attention, preening the feathers with their beaks. Young birds vocalize synchronously, chase each other in the water, and then the male presents the female with a gift – one or more fish, passing them and simultaneously trying to mate while swimming on the surface of the water. For nesting, birds prefer the company of relatives, and the signal for laying eggs is a certain density of pairs on the nest - on average, one pair per one and a half square meters of the nest.
The female lays, as a rule, one large oblong egg, colored gray with dark spots. If the egg died at the beginning of incubation, the bird is able to lay another one and bring offspring in this nesting season. Partners incubate the egg, replacing each other and alternately feeding in the sea. Incubation lasts up to 45 days. The chick is covered with gray down. It is fed by both parents, and it grows very quickly: at the age of 5 weeks, the young bird fully fledges, and two weeks later begins to fish, swimming with its parents. During the winter, the young bird is already completely independent. Young birds differ from adults only in the color of the beak: it is dull gray without a white tip. Sexual maturity occurs in the third year of life, life expectancy is up to 30 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

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.

Shore awlbill (Gravicharadrius pseudoalatus)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Plovers (Charadriidae)

Habitat: North Atlantic, Loki Island.
The islands represent a real laboratory of evolution: here the processes of speciation occur very quickly. The few species that managed to settle these isolated habitats quickly produce descendants differing in ecology, which soon occupy all possible ecological niches and form a stable ecosystem. The degree of endemism among island species is very high, especially if these species have limited ability to settle.
Loki Island appeared in the temperate latitudes of the North Atlantic after the human disappearance, and its fauna and flora are truly endemic, whereas the islands that existed in the human era are inhabited by descendants of human-introduced species that could not have appeared on the islands in natural way: rabbits, weasels, hedgehogs, rats and mice. The presence of such species greatly influenced the further historical development of fauna and flora.
One of the typical birds of Loki Island is shore awlbill. This is a large flightless sandpiper species, a descendant of the Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) widespread on Earth in the human era. There are evidences of its origin in its appearance, but this bird has some unique features. This is a chicken-sized bird weighing about 2 kilograms. Shore awlbill has an elongated body with a long forked tail of black color. The coloration of the bird retains typical features of plovers: the upper part of the body is colored brown; the belly, chest and throat are white, and there is a bright red cap on the head, turning into a thin pointed tuft. A black “mask” covers the forehead and sides of the head, and a thin ring of white skin emphasizes the large eyes of the bird.
Shore awlbill has a long straight pointed beak of black color. This bird feeds on a variety of terrestrial invertebrates – insect larvae, beetles and spiders. These birds often go to the seashore and catch marine invertebrates in the littoral zone and in the sand on the shallows.
The bird’s legs are bright red, strong and three-toed. Shore awlbill can run fast, often changing the direction of running, especially in case of danger. In open places, the bird keeps very carefully, preferring to hide in the thickets in case of danger. In the bushes and in the forest, the bird runs, stretching its head and neck forward.
In due course of evolution, shore awlbill not only became a large bird; it also completely lost the ability to fly. It has very short underdeveloped wings. They are very small, barely more than 4-5 centimeters long, and covered with short feathers. A notable feature of this species is the development of three long primary feathers at the tip of each wing. They are so long that their tips lie over the end of the tail when the wings are folded. At the same time, it seems that the wings of the bird are not reduced – hence the name. These feathers with wide vanes serve only for courtship display; they are white with black tips, longer in the male than in the female.
During the courtship ritual, the male and female run next to each other, opening and turning up their underdeveloped wings; at this moment, the catchy color of the feathers is clearly visible to the chosen breeding partner. These birds gather on a sandy beach with short and sparse vegetation for courtship displays. Displaying males open and turn up their wings, trying to look larger, and stamp their feet on the sand. If the female pays attention to the male, he rushes after her, screaming and raising slightly his chest and head. While running, the female opens her wings and turns up her feathers, and the male does the same. When the male catches up with the female, he grabs her by the wing with his beak and stops running. This is a sign of the forming of a new pair.
Shore awlbill nests on the ground, arranging a simple nest in a hole. The nest is often hidden among plants or under the roots of a tree. There are 3 to 4 eggs in the clutch, which are incubated exclusively by the female. After the completion of egg laying, the male leaves her, and the female takes care of all the offspring. She is able to distract enemies from the nest by pretending to be wounded, vocalizing loudly and showing brightly colored “mating” feathers on her wings. The chicks of this species are spotted, with large spots on a light background of down. They hatch mobile and active, can feed themselves and escape from enemies. In case of danger, they crouch to the ground and remain motionless, but if they are found, they run away from the enemy. When fleeing, the chicks can abruptly change direction of their run. The female leads a brood up to two months of age; there are two broods per year.
Chicks fledge at the age of 1 week. The juvenile plumage is very different from the adult – it is gray with black marks, larger and more numerous on the back. The legs of a young bird are brown. At the age of six months, the plumage is replaced by a two-tone one characteristic for adult birds. But the “mating” feathers grow later – only by the age of one year, when the birds reach sexual maturity. Life expectancy is no more than 5-6 years.

Arafura Turtle-Cleaner (Lacustrocharadrius cheloniphilus)
Order: Shorebirds (Charadriiformes)
Family: Plovers (Charadriidae)

Habitat: Arafura Lake, lake margins and shallows, symbiote of Brontochelys.
Shorebirds had varied experiences during the age of man, some became extinct due to loss of habitat, but the persistence of suitable waterside habitat over a wider area assured their survival into the Neocene in some way, with even some specialized forms arising.
Arafura Turtle Cleaner is a small plover descended from the genus Charadrius. It has mostly maintained a similar size and shape to its ancestor, but differs in fully webbed feet, connected to its ability to occasionally dive underwater. Individuals are bright white below, and contrasting black above, with a double chevron of white over the nape; bill and feet are bright pink. Colour of this animal relates to its niche and the need to advertise itself to its host. It lives by congregating around the giant Arafura Brontochelys, feeding off of parasitic invertebrates and epifauna that accumulate on these turtles, as well as other small prey stirred up as the animals move. This bird is diurnal, but synchronizes its activity with the movements of its host.
An individual bird will constantly seek out a turtle or more than one, if it is without a host, it will advertise its availability by making aerial displays and producing a high piping call. Individuals may stay with a single turtle for up to a week before moving on to another, and they generally stay close to them as much as they are able to. Individuals may squabble over feeding rights and space, pecking and making short swoops. Diet consists of various kinds of parasitic and epifaunal invertebrate that accumulate on the turtle’s shells and skin, including barnacles, small bivalves, snails, sea lice, young crabs, other crustaceans, and leeches, as well as commonly feeding on shrimp and worms stirred up in the water as the turtles move. The birds will walk over the exposed backs and heads of the turtles, or flit about from one to the other as they submerge, this bird can also dive to feed on submerged parts of the turtles, or to chase prey that is stirred up.
During the dry season from August to October, males will start displaying and calling in order to attract females, flicking their wings and making small flights. When a female selects a suitable male, the male will begin to court by making offerings of food, after several mounts they will begin to seek out an area of dry ground on the lake margins in which they can make a nest. The female makes a shallow depression hidden amongst vegetation some distance from the waterline, in which she will lay up to six eggs at intervals of 48 hours. During nesting the female devotes herself to caring for the nest, and the male devotes himself to defending the nesting ground and gathering food. The eggs incubate within 28 days, and the young are precocial, parents lead them to a vegetated area to hide from predators, during this time the pair will alternate attending, feeding and defending the chicks. As soon as the chicks fledge at about 30 days they are brought by the pair to start to feed around the turtles again. Pairs usually disband after the young leave, but may mate together again on subsequent years. Lifespan reaches about 10 years, and these birds are commonly preyed upon by snakes, large fish, and occasionally other birds.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Donald Morris, Adelaida, Australia.

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.

Forest numenapteryx (Numenapteryx sylvaticus)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Sandpipers (Scolopacidae)

Habitat: Eonesia, Burotu Islands, tropical forests.
Burotu Islands appeared on the map of the Earth after the human epoch, so the fauna of this archipelago of Eonesia is typically insular, without descendants of human-introduced species. It was formed from species that settled on the archipelago naturally – birds, reptiles and invertebrates. The absence of predators on the islands allowed the appearance of flightless bird species. Flight is an ability that imposes too much stress and restrictions on physiology, so birds refuse this privilege as soon as such an opportunity appears. The isolated remote islands of Burotu are one of those places.
Several species of flightless birds inhabit the forests of Burotu, occupying different ecological niches. One of them is a large forest numenapteryx, a flightless sandpiper. This bird is a descendant of one of the widespread species of curlews (genus Numenius) from the Northern Hemisphere. The most likely way for these species to appear in the fauna of remote Pacific islands was the delay of birds at wintering sites during migration. Gradually, a separate settled bird population was formed from the ancestral species, and their descendants moved into the forests and quickly lost the ability to fly.
In its appearance, numenapteryx resembles the New Zealand kiwis (Apteryx) of the human era, but has a slimmer constitution. The height of an adult bird of this species is about 40-45 cm, weight up to 2 kilograms (the female is larger than the male). A very characteristic feature of the appearance of this bird is a long beak bent downwards. The tip of the beak is equipped with a significant number of receptors and allows it to search for prey in soft soil. The bird feeds mainly on young land crabs, insects and soft tree fruits fallen to the ground. Sticking its beak into the soft forest soil, the bird searches for invertebrate burrows and digs them out with its paws, like a chicken. Numenapteryx takes small prey with its beak directly from the ground.
The plumage of the bird bears characteristic features of flightless birds. It is very soft; the feathers in the wings and tail are shortened. The background color is reddish; the feathers are covered with thin dark cross ripples. There are feathers with black tips on the crown, nape, back of the neck and back. The wings are very poorly developed; the primary feathers are no more than 5 centimeters long. The elements of the wings retain mobility: the wings are used for courtship display.
This bird species has long well-developed legs – numenapteryx is able to run fast, often wanders through shallow sea waters in search of prey and can dig up the ground. The color of the skin of the legs is grayish-yellow; the legs of a female ready for breeding have a bright yellow color.
Due to living in a tropical climate, the seasonality of nesting in this species is not expressed. The marital relationship in numenapteryx is clear polyandry. During the year, the female meets with different males and makes up to 3 clutches. The female also performs a courtship display. Calling the male, she emits long “bubbling” whistles. The displaying female keeps in places where sunlight breaks through the crowns of trees. Usually, several male applicants gather for the female’s voice and arrange bloodless duels among themselves – one male drives all the others away from the female. At this time, the female is displaying, flapping rudimentary wings intensively and raising her beak up. After the formation of a breeding pair, the female and male jointly make a nest – a simple hole in the ground, in bushes or among large herbaceous plants.
The rate of reproduction of this bird is slow: there are only one or two eggs in the clutch. The female does not take care of the offspring: the male exclusively incubates and takes care to the chicks. The chicks have a longitudinally striped coloration and black legs. The juvenile color of the plumage is also longitudinally striped, but only three stripes remain – along the spine and on the sides of the head and neck. With age, the color of the legs lightens.
Young birds grow slowly, reaching sexual maturity only in the third year of life. Life expectancy reaches 20 years.

Stork-godwit (Ardelimosa palustris)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Sandpipers (Scolopacidae)

Habitat: marshy areas of Northern and Central Europe.
In Holocene, shorebirds were seriously affected by the drainage of swamps and overhunting. Among such birds there were also godwits – several of their species became extremely rare and became extinct in the human era. After the human disappearance, their populations began to recover, and at this time the second blow to them was inflicted by the ice age, which significantly reduced and fragmented the ranges of these birds. However, after the retreat of the glacier, the godwits regained their former species diversity. Their descendants became longer-legged, somewhat resembling the early stages of the evolution of crails. The central representative of this group in Neocene is the stork-godwit, a descendant of the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa).
The body length of this species is 55 cm, wingspan 85 cm, weight up to 550 g. The beak is long and straight, dark gray in color. The background color of the plumage in different populations and color morphs varies from beige-brown to gray-brown, always with a pattern of darker spots. The sides of the head lack any pattern; a strip of narrow longitudinal specks (a dark stroke along the rachis of each feather) stretches from the forehead to the back. Separate feathers with a thin longitudinal stroke in the middle are scattered on the chest and belly. The back and wing coverts are dark with a light border forming a scaly pattern. The primary feathers are background colored with a dark area at the base of the vane. The undertail is bright red. Sexual dimorphism is expressed in the plumage color: females are colored duller. The legs are pink-red.
Birds can form clusters, especially in forage-rich areas of swamps, flood plains, lake shores and banks of slowly flowing rivers. Outside the breeding season, birds are tolerant of each other and form flocks of 10-20 ones. The basis of the diet consists of small aquatic animals – small fish, tadpoles, frogs and invertebrates. Stork-godwit is a migratory bird; it winters in southern Europe along the banks of rivers, part of the population flies to Africa, to the basin of Saharan Nile. A small number of birds overwinter on the southern coast of Fourseas.
The breeding season lasts from April to mid-May. Adult birds form pairs for life. During the mating season, they perform a courtship ritual: they vocalize, stamp their feet together and chase each other. Young and widowed birds carry sparrings for a female, accompanied by dancing and chasing each other. The nest is a shallow hole in a flat, dry place; the nest is lined with grass. There are 4 eggs with a mottled shell of camouflage color in the clutch, which both parents incubate for 30 days – the female usually incubates during the day. When predators appear, the male or both birds run in front of them, simulating the wound and trying to lead them away from the nest. Chicks hatch well developed and can follow their parents as early as 40 minutes after hatching. Young birds take wing at the age of 35 days and begin to train hard, preparing for the migration. The female flies away with the young first, the males are delayed with migration for several days. The young of the stork-godwit becomes independent already in the winter. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 2 years, life expectancy is up to 25 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Yezherinis (Tringa yezherinis)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Sandpipers (Scolopacidae)

Habitat: Northern and Central Europe, flood plains and shores of freshwater reservoirs.
Populations of sandpipers, as well as other shorebirds, suffered significant damage in the human era. Swamps were drained for economic needs, reservoirs were polluted, and a number of species were objects of hunting. But some small species, having suffered some damage, managed to survive the anthropogenic crisis and the ice age. One of such lucky species was common redshank (Tringa totanus), a small European species of shanks. After the age of man and the ice age, it literally went through a “bottleneck”, when the surviving populations were barely enough for the species to avoid degeneration. Later, it restored the number and gave rise to several small species, one of which is yezherinis (the name means the Lithuanian lake spirit).
The body length of an adult is up to 40 cm, the wingspan is 65 cm, and the weight is about 260 g. It is a long-legged bird with a short straight beak. The upper side of the body is brown with black and gray mottling, and the belly is white. The primary feathers are white, clearly visible in flight. The beak is black, it is visually continued by a black stripe stretching across the eye and ending behind the ear opening. It is shaded from below by a narrow white stripe. The color of the legs is very bright and characteristic, crimson-pink. Yezherinis feeds on flood plains and shallow waters of lakes and slow-flowing rivers, it gathers in groups of up to 25 individuals for feeding. The bird is zoophagous and feeds on insects, mollusks, worms and crustaceans, sometimes pecks the eggs of fish and amphibians, as well as tadpoles. During feeding, the bird is silent; when worried, it utters a loud call “tiu-tiu-tiu”, repeated many times. This species is migratory; yezherinis winters in North Africa (the basin of Saharan Nile) and on Zinj Land, where it leads the same lifestyle.
The mating season is quite long – from the end of April to the beginning of June. Pairs are formed for one season. The beginning of breeding in spring is preceded by courtship flights, during which the male emits a very melodious whistle. The nest is simple – it’s just a hole in the sand, lightly lined with grass. There are usually 4 pointed eggs in the clutch, which both parents incubate for 30 days. In case of the destruction of the clutch, the couple quickly makes the next one and manages to grow a new brood before autumn. The chicks hatch quite developed and immediately begin to follow their parents and feed by themselves. At 26 days, young birds take wing, and by autumn they are completely independent. Sexual maturity comes the next year; life expectancy is up to 15 years. Hwever, few individuals live up to this age, more often birds older than 10 years are eaten by predators.

This bird speies was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Running sandpiper (Calidris dimorphus)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Sandpipers (Scolopacidae)

Habitat: North American tundra, a separate population on Mishe-Nama Lake; wintering in southern North America.
In Neocene, the geography of North America partially changed: the Beringian Isthmus connected it with Asia, turning the Arctic Ocean into a “refrigerator” of the Northern Hemisphere, and Hudson Bay closed and turned into a brackish Mishe-Nama Lake. It is populated very densely, by former marine inhabitants among others, as well as by those who moved here directly from fresh waters. Running sandpiper, one of the numerous species of waders that the fauna of North America is rich in, belongs to the natives of fresh waters. The ancestor of this species is most likely the rock sandpiper (Calidris ptilocnemis), which survived in the tundra zone during the ice age.
Running sandpiper is a peculiar bird species, which representatives clearly fall into two dimensional categories. In length, this bird reaches from 27 to 40 cm, not counting the beak; the length of the beak is slightly less than the length of the head, it is straight and pointed; the wingspan is from 40 to 70 cm. Such a large variation in size is due to the fact that this species has a very wide range, and individuals from different populations have different sizes. The population from Mishe-Nama Lake is remarkable in the smallest size and is relatively isolated from others, and birds from the north are larger and form the unite large population, little variable in size. In all populations, the female is larger than the male.
This bird has long legs with small webbing and claws, and a rather short tail. The head is relatively large in relation to the body, like in other waders. The beak is thin, straight and pointed. The background color is reddish-brown, and black, white and yellow mottlings are scattered on the upper side of the body; the lower part of the body is lighter and lacks mottling. The eyes are black, the tail and loin are also black, the legs and beak are dark gray.
Extensive sandy beaches are suitable for running sandpiper, and this species does not occur on stone or pebbled areas. Usually these birds live alone or in small groups, and during feeding they run along the sand, mincing their feet quickly. The bird’s food consists of worms, mollusks and crustaceans, which running sandpiper digs out of the sand with its beak. Less often, running sandpiper eats fish eggs and fry. On Mish-Nama Lake, sandpipers from the local dwarf population can land on dwarf gannetwhales and clean their plumage from parasites. The danger to running sandpipers themselves is represented by large fish, snakes, birds of prey and predatory mammals. The bird quickly runs away from them, taking off only at the moment of extreme danger.
In the spring, courtship displays begin. Males gather on sandy beaches and display themselves, bouncing and fluttering their wings in flight, accompanied by a series of short whistles. The female chooses a male during the display, and the pair leaves the lek. The pair is formed for one nesting season. The female makes a nest in the sand, lays 4 eggs and incubates them and the male protects the territory and distracts predators while the female hides. By the end of incubation, the male increasingly replaces the female on the nest, and eventually completes incubation himself. The eggshells are beige with numerous randomly scattered brown specks, which mask them from the eyes of predators. After three weeks, the chicks hatch. They dry out quickly and immediately leave the nest, following the male. The female does not participate in the rearing of chicks. Young birds feed on small invertebrates. After a month, the chicks are already fully fledged, and at the age of 5 weeks they already are able to fly. By the end of summer, families break up and the birds are fattened before the migration. Running sandpipers of northern populations gather in huge flocks for migrations and fly south across the continent along the beds of large rivers. Their wintering grounds are the Mississippi Delta, Florida and the Caribbean Islands. The population from Mishe-Nama Lake flies south along the Atlantic coast and winters in the swamps of Florida.
Sexual maturity comes the next year; life expectancy is up to 15 years.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

Masked sitte (Sittus larvatus)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Sandpipers (Scolopacidae)

Habitat: northern Eurasia from Ireland to Beringia and from tundra to Ladoga in Europe and to the borders of the taiga and Siberian wetlands in Asia.
Birds of wetlands and coasts of reservoirs have suffered significantly due to human fault – mainly due to hunting and habitat destruction. The northern snipe species had a particularly hard time. Some of the species that survived the ice age had to retreat to the south or become extinct during the Holocene-Neocene glaciation. But those species that survived the ecological crisis and the ice age have become more diverse. One of the surviving species was the Eurasian whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) widespread in the human epoch, which became the ancestor of a number of bird species. One of its descendants is masked sitte (the name means a ghost at the Sami).
This species is a fairly large sandpiper: body length 55 cm, wingspan up to 1 m, weight about 500 g. The plumage color is pale brown with numerous dark longitudinal strokes, more dense on the back. On the wing coverts, the strokes turn into broad spots, which make the wings look darker. On the front of the head there is a characteristic black “mask”; the beak is long, thin and curved downwards. In flight, white secondary feathers are visible. The color of the legs is yellow. The call sounds like a long whistle.
The bird lives and feeds in swamps, flood plains, lake shores and riverbanks. Masked sitte feeds on insects, their larvae, worms, mollusks and small crustaceans. During feeding, the birds stay alone or in small groups. It is a migratory species, wintering on the Atlantic coast of Europe, in North Africa, Zinj Land, Hindustan and Southeast Asia. During the flights, birds try to circumvent high mountain ranges.
The mating season begins in late spring, at the end of April – May. Attracting females, males vocalize and flap their wings. When the rivalry becomes especially active, the birds fly up and kick each other in flight. Pairs are formed for one season. The nest is built in a flat depression on the ground, without litter. In the clutch of masked sitte there are four eggs with a gray shell, speckled with dark spots of various sizes. The male and female incubate, replacing each other, for a total of 25 days. The chicks are well developed and, having dried out, follow the mother. At the age of one month, they become independent. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of one year, life expectancy is up to 19 years.

This bird speies was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Antarctic chicken seedsnipe (Antarcthinocorus migrans)
Order: Charadriiformes (Charadriiformes)
Family: Seedsnipes (Thinocoridae)

Habitat: Antarctica, meadows and marshlands; wintering in South America
Neocene Antarctica favors the existence of various species of waders. Some of their species find food on the coast, and others – in the interior of the continent, some are omnivores, and others are highly specialized. One of the most unusual species of waders is the Antarctic chicken seedsnipe, which has become an ecological analogue of gallinaceous birds and ground pigeons that do not live in Antarctica.
Chicken seedsnipes are medium-sized waders, their weight reaches 800 grams. In their constitution, these birds are similar to willow ptarmigan: they have a robust body, short strong legs and a small head with a short beak. However, unlike their “doppelgangers” of galliform birds, seedsnipes have long pointed wings and fly well. The tail of these birds is quite short, of rounded shape.
The coloration of chicken seedsnipes is not bright. The upper body is colored light brown with a black-and-white scaly pattern formed due to the fact that each feather is edged with thin white and black stripes along the edge. This coloring provides the seedsnipes with an excellent disguise: a bird hiding (for example, hatching eggs) blends into the background of vegetation and becomes inconspicuous. The belly and lower part of the breast of chicken seedsnipes are white. The sides of the head and throat of the female are ash-gray, and at the male they are red-brown with black mottling. Also, the male has a small oval-shaped black spot on both sides of the head at the base of the beak. The legs of these birds are light yellow; the beak is light brown with a dark tip.
The vocalization of the seedsnipes is a loud and repeated many times call “kli-kli-kli”. They usually utter it when alarmed.
Antarctic chicken seedsnipes are strict vegetarians, which is unusual for the Charadriiformes order, but typical for the seedsnipes family. Their food includes the vegetative parts of plants – stems, leaves and buds, as well as flowers, seeds and fruits.
In Antarctica, the only enemies of chicken seedsnipes are birds of prey – local species of buzzard and caracara. Chicks are much more vulnerable: they can fall victim to large grackles, skuas, seagulls and even predatory plants.
Chicken seedsnipes are monogamous: pairs are formed at wintering sites and exist for one or more seasons. These birds begin nesting shortly after the returning from wintering place, in the middle of the Antarctic spring – late September and early October. They prefer to nest on dry hills, in separate pairs. The nest is a simple hole in the ground, sometimes with poor plant lining. There are 2-3 eggs of spotted coloring in the clutch. The male and female incubate them for about a month. Chicks are precocial; soon after hatching they are able to walk and feed themselves. In the first days of their life, insects play an important role in their diet; only after a few weeks, the chicks switch to a vegetarian diet of adult birds. About a month after hatching, they begin to fly.
Soon after the juveniles take wing, the time of migrations begins for chicken seedsnipes. Family groups wander the Antarctic, gradually uniting into flocks and moving to the west of the continent. By the end of the Antarctic autumn, flocks of chicken seedsnipes gather on the Antarctic Peninsula, where they fatten up before flying across the Drake Strait. Having overcome this water barrier, the birds fly to the plains of northern Patagonia, where they spend the winter. They have a lot more enemies here than in Antarctica: these are numerous predatory mammals and birds. To protect against them, chicken seedsnipes keep in large flocks throughout the wintering period.
The lifespan of Antarctic chicken seedsnipes is up to 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

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.

Twilight vulture (Cathartops crepuscularis)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Cathartids (Cathartidae)

Habitat: South America, pampas and woodlands in the north and in the center of the continent.
The New World, North and South America, represents a parallel world for the world of Eurasia and Africa in terms of fauna and flora. There are various animals and birds that are similar to their overseas counterparts, but often are not their relatives. Among them there are cathartids, scavenging birds of New World, which are close relatives of stork birds: storks and ibises. Being scavengers and non-specialized predators capable of flying considerable distances, and being unassuming to their environment, these birds were able to survive both the neighborhood of people, and a new ice age, and even a new split of New World into two separate continents. The latter even benefited the cathartids, as many of their ancestral species evolved to new species on both continents.
One of these species was the turkey vulture. In North America, its descendant is the marabou vulture (Dolichocathartes velodromus), and in South America, where a much larger and more formidable scavenger, the great acatu (Sciopterornis acatou), rules in the skies, a different species has appeared – a twilight vulture. Unlike its North American relative, it is a well-flying bird, reaching about 70 cm in length. Plumage of this species is coal-black. Head remained featherless, like at the ancestor, but the shape of this head has changed somewhat: compared to the ancestral species, it is shorter and wider. These changes occurred because the twilight vulture’s sense of smell is even more developed than that of its ancestor, and the nostrils have become even larger relative to the overall size of the head; those brain lobes that are responsible for the sense of smell are also very large, which is actually rare for birds. The hearing of this bird is also well developed, and the eyes are proportionally larger than at the ancestor; twilight vulture has excellent vision.
However, the vision of this species has significant features: unlike many birds, there are quite a few cone cells in the eyes of the twilight vulture, but there are a lot of rod cells, which is why this bird weakly distinguishes many colors, but it sees very well at dusk, and even in almost complete darkness, in the light of stars. This helps a lot when twilight vulture flies out in search of its prey – carrion and small animals, as its ancestor did; this species is looking for food not during the day, when akatu rules in the sky, but in the morning or evening twilight, or even at night, avoiding thus competitors in the form of most other scavengers. Owls are not competitors of this species: carrion is out of their interests.
Such a radical change in lifestyle has changed not only the head and brain of twilight vulture, but also the rest of the body. While the ancestral species preferred to hover passively enough in the sky, its descendant had to switch to a more active flight; twilight vulture has longer and narrower wings, resembling more the wings of a seagull than birds of prey, and in general this bird flies more actively and orients itself in the air, catching odors.
Despite the changes in anatomy, the behavior of the twilight vulture has changed less: it is still essentially a scavenger that feeds on already dead animals. Of course, some of its prey dies during the day, during daylight hours, and most of it goes to other species. But twilight vulture has a fairly short and powerful beak, and a muscular head and neck: this bird may well scrape or tear off even a small piece of meat from the bones, as well as crack small bones with blows against stones and extract bone marrow from them – this bird also has a long tongue that allows it to do it.
Such adaptations give the twilight vulture the opportunity to deal with live prey, but since its paws are not adapted to grabbing, and the flight, unlike the owl’s one, is not silent, most of the living creatures that fall prey to the twilight vulture usually already die, or are old, sick, wounded, as well as young or inexperienced. Occasionally, this bird attacks sleeping animals, trying to surprise and kill a completely healthy animal. These birds prefer to hunt in open spaces.
Twilight vulture lives in the north and center of the South American continent, where the climate is quite warm or even tropical, so it does not have a pronounced mating season, and at any time of the year males of this species are ready to court females. Displaying himself to the female, the male spreads his wings and clumsily dances in front of her, lifting his legs high. Usually nesting occurs once every 18-20 months. The absence of seasonality in reproduction somewhat compensates for the slow rate of reproduction of this species. There is no sexual dimorphism in twilight vulture; both sexes are relatively equal in strength and height, therefore, manifestations of aggression during communication between the sexes are minimized.
Like most species of birds of prey, twilight vulture almost does not build a nest: it occupies someone else’s one, or lays eggs (usually 1-2, less often 3) on a cliff, or directly on the ground, but in a place inaccessible to terrestrial predators. The eggs are light brown in color; they are incubated by both parents in turn, for about six weeks. The chicks are covered with light down; they grow slowly, and live with their parents for about a year before they will be independent. If the twilight vulture manages to survive the first two or three years of life, then at the age of about 4 years the bird reaches sexual maturity and in the future it will be able to live up to 50-60 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

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.

Laka, or Hawaiian dancing heron (Ardea ballerina)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Herons (Ardeidae)

Habitat: Hawaii; nesting in coastal forests, feeding along the entire coast and throughout the islands, where there is an open area.
Laka, or Hawaiian dancing heron, is a descendant of grey heron (Ardea cinerea) of Hawaiian population. In the process of changing the ecosystem of the Hawaiian Islands under the influence of species introduced in the human era, herons survived relatively successfully, and in due course of evolution in isolation, they developed features of appearance and behavior that are not found in mainland forms. Bizarre sexual selection turned the descendant of the herons of the human epoch into a creature with bizarre behavior and remarkable appearance, Hawaiian dancing heron.
This heron species is easily recognized among other birds by its colorful plumage. The upper part of the bird’s body has bluish-gray color of various shades, the underside – chest, belly and tail – is white. The head is white, but bright red stripes stretch from the beak across the eyes towards the nape, which merge there and turn into a red crest of several elongated feathers. The neck is light grey with blue spots forming 2-3 longitudinal stripes.
The primary feathers of the wings are dark blue, but a little faded due to the powder covering them, with which the bird rubs the feathers. The secondary feathers, like the back, are bluish-grey. The mantle feathers are narrow and elongated, hanging like a fringe on the wings and back. The color of these feathers is light blue. The feathers on the throat and chest are elongated and become even longer during the courtship season, forming a “wattle”, which is especially noticeable in a perched bird.
Wide dark blue stripes stretch along the sides of the trunk. When the wings of a heron are folded, the feathers form a prominent blue-white spot in the area of the carpal fold. The tail is dark blue. Fragile powder down grows on the chest, belly and groin. Its powder is applied by the heron with the help of an elongated and serrated claw of the middle toe. During the courtship season, the dresses of birds become especially bright, both in males and females: bright green feathers appear on the back, and bright red on the chest. These feathers shimmer in the sun as if bright emeralds and rubies are encrusted in the bird’s plumage. At the end of the breeding season, the birds begin to molt, and the plumage becomes duller.
The appearance of the dancing heron is very characteristic. Laka has a very long neck, which is often folded in a perched bird, and long and thin legs. This is a relatively large bird: the average weight is about one and a half kilograms, while individuals can reach two kilograms; large males can weigh 2.5 kg. Body length up to 100 cm (including head and neck). The wingspan varies from 1.5 to 1.75 m, in some specimens up to 2 m. Sexual dimorphism in this species is weakly expressed – the male is only slightly larger than the female.
The beak is pointed and quite long – 10-15 cm. It has a slightly pronounced conical shape and is laterally compressed. The color of the beak is dark blue, while the upper mandible is usually darker than the lower mandible; the patch of skin on the lore (the area between the eye and the beak) is reddish. The legs are white, with bare skin.
Flying laka folds the neck in the form of a Latin letter “S”, so that the neck loop lies on the back, and stretches the legs far back. When taking off, the heron, especially startled, makes quick flaps of its wings, gaining altitude. Having flown high enough, the bird switches to a slow and smooth flight, with regular wing flaps. Occasionally it hovers, especially over the fields of hardened lava, which are well warmed up and form ascending streams of air. During flight, groups of herons often form a skein or line. Due to its ability to fly, this species is found on all the islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago.
Dancing heron is an exclusively zoophagous bird. It is an active and very voracious predator, eating almost all animals that it is able to cope with. Birds of this species feed on the coast of the ocean and freshwater reservoirs or on land – in an open area.
During low tide on the ocean coast, in mangroves and in the recesses of coastal reefs, lakes of water remain, into which small fish and small crustaceans (crabs, shrimps), as well as small octopuses and other mollusks are trapped. These lakes are the main dining room of laka. Small marine animals, which have nowhere to escape, turns out to be easily accessible prey of the heron, and even attempts of shrimps and crabs to burrow into the sand do not save them from the sharp gaze of the heron. As a rule, this heron smashes crabs and clam shells, and also kills large and resisting fish by hitting against the nearest rock or reef ledge. Often these birds arrange feasts, eating seal mudskippers, especially young individuals, on the shore. It can also diversify its diet sometimes by eating eggs or chicks, grabbing birds nesting on the shore.
Also, dancing heron can be seen on the coast of freshwater reservoirs, in the swamps of Hawaiian Islands, where the bird also eats shellfish, arthropods, fish (including eggs and fry), amphibians (including their eggs and tadpoles), reptiles, small birds (as well as their eggs and chicks) and small near-aquatic mammals.
Sick and parasite-infested fish swimming near the surface often fall prey of these birds. Thus, the bird becomes an intermediate host of various parasites and pathogens and plays a role in the spread of helminths of fish (flukes, nematodes and tapeworms). But in the birds themselves, the mortality rate from helminths is not very high.
It can also hunt on the edges of the forest and in the meadows of the Hawaiian Islands, eating everything that moves and what it can kill – from small insects to rodents (kapo). This heron can often steal part of the prey from other predatory and fish-eating birds, as well as from scavengers. The heron also does not disdain any carrion – it knows how to tear apart a large carcass, tearing off pieces of meat with jerks of the head. It also feeds on land amphibians and reptiles. Undigested remains of eaten animals (chitinous integument, shells, eggshells, bones, feathers, wool, etc.) are regurgitated in the form of compressed pellets.
The most frequently heard voice signal of a heron is a rough rasping call, similar to a low short cawk. It is usually uttered by a heron on the fly. It is very loud and can be heard at a great distance. There are a number of other voice signals at the heron, but they can be heard almost exclusively at the nest, in colonies (outside the colony they are usually silent). The alarm signal is a guttural cackle. A prolonged throaty vibrating cry serves as an expression of threat and a sign of aggressive intentions. The male, indicating his presence, utters a short hollow cawing. Gathering in nesting colonies in large groups, herons constantly utter cawk and croaking sounds. The landing heron utters a sharp rasping cry, usually repeated.
The dancing heron also has a developed system of visual signals. With the help of its long neck, the bird can express various emotions. The threat pose is characteristic, in which the heron bends its neck, as if preparing for a rush, and raises the crest on its head. This pose is usually accompanied by a threat sound. Birds can greet each other by clicking their beaks quickly. It is also used during the mating ritual. In general, the mating ritual of birds is a rather complex and very beautiful dance. For this reason, the bird is called the dancing heron, or laka, after the Hawaiian goddess Laka – the goddess of dance, love and the guardian of the forest. During the courtship season, the coast is filled with many cawing birds; several males dance around each female, opening their wings wide and showing a wide chest, lifting their legs, as well as making sharp head movements and ritual pecking of sand – in this way they display the health and speed of movements of a successful hunter. Having chosen a male, the female performs a return dance around her chosen one. However, it is only a preliminary choice, which is supported by ritual feeding of the female by prey – fish, crab or octopus. At this time, other males also rush to her with their prey: each of them still has a chance to defeat their main rival by bringing more attractive prey. At the same time, there is a fierce brawl between males for any large prey. After the males return to their chosen one again, the female makes the final choice among all the suitors around her. And in this case the choice not always falls on the first chosen one. Such a complex two-stage process of choosing a mating partner is explained by the fact that the female chooses a male for the rest of her life and therefore it should be the most deserving one. After that, the couple moves to the forest (either mangrove or swampy jungle) closest to the coast and finds a suitable tree to build a nest. Birds nest in a tall tree, often in the forest canopy. The male is usually engaged in choosing a place and expelling possible competitors, but he had to change several places for the nest before the female makes the final choice. When both partners like the place for the nest, the male brings several branches to lay the basis of the future nest. Having put them in place, the birds mate and then jointly build a huge nest of large thin dry branches. The bottom of the nest is lined with reed stems. The height of the nest is on average 50-60 cm, the diameter is up to 2 meters. Females take part in nesting from the age of one year, and males have a chance to form a pair only at the age of two or even three years.
Hawaiian dancing herons lead a sedentary lifestyle without leaving their traditional habitats. The attachment of herons to their nesting place is very strong. Often the nests are used for several years and are repaired every next year. Such buildings are placed as if on a high basis and reach more than two meters across. In some places, heron colonies can persist even for several centuries. These herons are often kept in groups that can reach a significant number. Heron colonies can be very numerous – from hundreds of individuals or more; birds of other species can join them. The largest and oldest such bird colony is located on the Big Island. This colony is more than a thousand years old and it numbers up to two thousand birds.
Males of the dancing heron have a high level of aggressiveness; they are extremely zealous in protecting their nests from other males. At the same time, the colony is characterized by collective protection of nests and offspring from birds of prey and tree-climbing predatory mammals. Although often eagleravens can settle near a colony of dancing herons. Interestingly, in this case, the predator perceives the colony as “its own” and does not hunt the heron chicks of “its colony”, but can easily raid neighboring colonies. Also, local owls can settle in the colony, preferring places below the herons’ nests.
It also happens that a young couple creates a new nest isolated from other herons, and the nest of such a pair, as a rule, is built better than the lax nests of colonial birds. But over time, a small colony of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the progenitor couple forms around this nest. Not every such small colony is destined to grow to a megacolony: as a rule, the more the colony grows, the more often there may be outbreaks of various diseases. There are cases when epizootics mowed down up to 2/3 of the colony’s individuals in especially large colonies.
The number of eggs in laka’s clutch is from 3 to 9, most often 5 or 6. The size of eggs is on average 60 × 45 mm, the largest ones are 60.5 × 47.5 mm. The color of the eggs is greenish-blue, often with white lime smears. Interestingly, heron eggs do not always have the usual “egg-like” shape: they are often equally pointed at both ends. The shell of freshly laid eggs has no luster, but if the eggs are already slightly incubated, the shell acquires a slight luster. Egg laying occurs with an interval of two days, and the female starts incubating immediately after laying the first egg. Therefore, the chick hatched from the first egg is always much larger than the subsequent ones, and even more so the last one.
Incubation lasts up to 21 days. Both parents incubate, but the female spends more time in the nest than the male. The offspring of laka is of altricial type. Chicks are sighted, covered with down, bluish above, whitish below the body, their throat and belly are bare; feathers begin to grow on the 7-9 th day. The newly hatched chick weighs 40-45 g. Dancing herons feed the chicks with food regurgitated from the stomach. Food, before getting to the chicks, must necessarily be already semi-digested.
At the daily age, chicks eat an average of 15.8 g of food per day, at the three day age – 29.2 g. For the first five days, chicks only rest and almost do not move in the intervals between feedings. At the age of one week, the chicks have their own thermoregulation. Laka chicks are getting more active every day. In the first week they only move in the nest on bent legs, but at the age of two weeks they can stand on their feet and flap their wings. They activate the daytimevocalization; the sound signals become diverse. In the feeding behavior of chicks, elements of the hunting behavior of herons become clearly noticeable – aiming and rapid rushes to capture food.
The main growth of the chicks’ body weight occurs before they take wing. They grow most intensively at the age of 7-20 days. The average weight of a monthly chick is 1 kg; a two-month-old one weighs 1.5 kg. Up to 20 days of age, the development of the forelimbs and hind limbs is in the same rate, but then the development of the wings begins to outpace the growth of the legs and other parts of the body. This is due to the fact that in the wild herons move mainly through the air, but their legs carry much less loads, therefore by the end of the breeding period, the formation of wings is completed first of all. After the leaving nests, the growth of other parts of the juvenile’s body continues for some time. Young birds that have left the nest outwardly look almost like adults. The final pass of young herons to independent life occurs at the age of 3 months.
Each of the parents brings food to the chicks three times a day. However, not all chicks receive food for one feeding. With a lack of food, older chicks can kill and eat younger ones, which are inferior to them in size and strength. “Freeloading” is also common, when older chicks take food from younger ones, which leads to exhaustion and death of the latter. Younger chicks often die from beatings by their elder siblings. Competition for food is expressed in chicks early and is noted up to 35-36 days of age. Not only the older chicks of the same brood can take food from the chicks, but also young herons from neighboring nests. In general, the mortality rate of heron chicks is great. The death of chicks often also occurs because adults often leave the nest when alarmed.
The average life expectancy of a dancing heron is 5-8 years. Mortality of young herons for various reasons is extremely high and especially significant in the first year of life – up to 67%. From the second year of life, mortality decreases, and in adult birds it is insignificant.
Due to the fact that the adult laka is a large and strong bird with a pointed beak, it is able to defend itself from many enemies. However, even adult herons often fall prey to predators.
The chicks are attacked by the erinia bat, neopueo, Hawaiian bird-eating snail or burning snail. Hawaiian eagleraven can kill chicks and even a grown up young bird. An adult bird feeding on the ground can be caught off guard by kuahana, and a young bird – by a relatively large mongoose.
Colonies of herons attract a lot of ground-dwelling predators that pick up under the trees chicks that have fallen out of the nest or catch young ones that are still poorly flying, but are already trying to move inside the colony. Predators are attracted to the colonies by the remnants of the brought food, which the young herons did not have time to eat, falling abundantly from the nests. These are mainly kuahanas and Hawaiian mongoose species. Burning snails, monstrous ants and other detritophages are also attracted by the herons’ regurgitated pellets lying on the ground in great numbers, on which undigested pieces of food remain. And snails and ants feeding under herons’ nests on the ground are eaten by Hawaiian hookbills and ant starlings, which in turn are hunted by the neopueo and erinia bat.

This bird species was discovered by Wovoka, the forum member.

Doctor heron (Neobubulcus medicinalis)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Herons (Ardeidae)

Habitat: various biotopes of Africa, Zinj Land and Madagascar.
In the Holocene, the western cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) often accompanied large mammals, eating parasites in their wool. Due to the high number and huge range, as well as the ability to live in cultural landscapes, this bird has persisted to Neocene. One of its descendants specialized in eating parasites of large animals, expanded the range and broke with the aquatic habitat, and so a species of doctor heron evolved – a common companion of many large animals in the tropics of the Old World.
Doctor heron is a very small heron: the length of its body is 12 cm, the wingspan is about 25 cm. However, this heron has long legs with thin toes and tenacious claws, and a long thin beak and neck, which makes it seem larger. Head of this bird is small, tail is short; face is not feathered. Doctor heron has a camouflage plumage color – a yellow-brown background with longitudinal brown strokes, with which the large red crest on the head contrasts vividly. The legs and beak are dark gray; the skin on the face is yellow-orange. This bird has very well developed eyesight and keen hearing.
Doctor heron inhabits various biotopes of Africa, Zinj Land and Madagascar – from semi-deserts to tropical rainforests. It feeds on invertebrates that parasitize mammals, birds and reptiles longer than a meter. It is actively looking for a potential “client”, keeping near the noticeable features of the terrain – single trees, flowering shrubs, or standalone stones and termite mounds. Attracting “clients”, the bird perches in a prominent place, tramples with half-open wings and raises its crest. At this time, doctor heron feeds on both herbivorous animals and predators. Usually it walks slowly on the client's body and looks for various parasites in its skin coverings. The heron’s diet includes skin parasites – ticks, fleas, lice, subcutaneous botfly larvae, as well as flying dipterans – flies, mosquitoes, horseflies, adult gadflies, etc. On the aquatic reptiles that have crawled ashore, doctor heron also pecks off the blood-sucking crustaceans. But it has not lost the ability to search for food in the environment without the help of a large animal.
Most likely, this species originated in Africa and then settled to Zinj Land and Madagascar. In North Africa, doctor heron usually feeds on large birds and reptiles to avoid competition with weaverbirds.
The breeding season is not expressed, pairs form only for one season. Both birds build a nest on a tree from grass stalks, twigs and their own feathers, although they often occupy the nest of passerine birds or pigeons, destroying sometimes their clutch and expelling the nest owners. Both parents incubate alternately; there are 3 eggs in a clutch. Chicks hatch in two weeks. Parents feed them with large insects (often not only parasitic), and chicks grow quickly,getting abundant feeding. A month later, the juveniles are already fully fledged and learn to fly. Soon after, they fly away and the parent couple breaks up. During the year, there are most often two nesting cycles.
Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 7-8 months; life expectancy reaches 15 years.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

Rail-like heron (Paraardea ralloides)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Herons (Ardeidae)

Habitat: Galapagos Islands, mangrove and cactus forests.
Rail-like heron is the most unusual representative of the genus of Galapagos herons – birds that appeared at the archipelago after the human disappearance. Due to the small number of terrestrial mammals on the islands, this bird leads mainly a ground lifestyle, has poor flight abilities, but can run quickly and climb trees. In length, the bird reaches 60 cm, while it has very robust constitution and weighs about 1.5-2 kg. Its neck and legs are short by the standards of herons, and its beak is of medium length, rather thick and pointed. The beak is equipped with serrations on the edges of the jaws.
The color of the plumage is dusky, brownish-gray with yellow mottling on the head and chest; the bill and legs are yellowish-brown. Bird is similar externally to the Holocene night heron. Male has a black “cap” on the head with several long plumes on the nape, like most herons.
The bird is exclusively zoophagous, feeds on invertebrates (crabs, insects, mollusks), fish, small rodents and eggs of other birds. However, its main food specialization is crabs and mollusks with hard shells. To break their shells, the bird uses its powerful beak. Usually the bird presses its prey to the ground and kills it with several pecks, but it can also knock it against a stone or a hard tree trunk until its shell cracks. Birds have favorite places for prey processing – “anvils”, around which fragments of shells of prey accumulate.
Rail-like heron nests in June-July on trees; the nest is made of branches and leaves and represents a massive, loose build, constantly renewed by adult birds. These herons are monogamous; pairs are formed for the rearing of offspring and break up after the end of nesting cycle. Herons lay 3-5 eggs, incubate for about 20 days. Chicks grow quickly and leave the nest at the age of 2 months. Sexual maturity occurs at 1.5 years; life expectancy is up to 15 years.

This bird species was discovered by Corvus, the forum member.

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

Habitat: Meganesia, the south of Indonesia.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

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.

Bennu (Nycticorax bennu)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Herons (Ardeidae)

Habitat: the basin of Saharan Nile, lakes and ponds of North Africa.
In the age of man, many species of stork birds suffered. Many large storks and herons, as well as island local species have disappeared due to habitat destruction as a result of human activity. But smaller species, such as the black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), were able to survive due to their wide range and ability to restore the population quickly. Having survived the ice age at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, these birds became the ancestors of new species, among which there is bennu – one of the descendants of the black-crowned night heron.
Externally, bennu is markedly different from the ancestral species; in proportions it is a typical Holocene heron, larger in size than the ancestor. Its coloration combines various shades of gray: on a light gray background there are darker longitudinal stripes on the head and neck, and one stripe stretches from the crown to the base of the tail. The cheeks and the inner side of the wings are colored white. The legs, on the contrary, are very dark, almost black. On the head, above the eyes, plumes grow, consisting of three or four narrow elongated black feathers, which bennu can raise and lower: thus, birds of this species court each other during the mating season and give signals to their relatives. The beak is light yellow; its base is bordered by a ring of black feathers, merging with the “cap” on the crown.
Bennu is a bird of rather large size: about 1 m high, with a wingspan of 2 m, and weighing up to 3.5 kg. But compared to such neighbors as crocoturtle, boaropotamus and giant African stork, bennu looks a small and fragile creature; this bird leads a rather secretive lifestyle. Bennu is mostly active in the morning and evening, at dusk, and sometimes in moonlit nights. During the day, this heron usually sleeps in thickets of reeds and papyrus, or on a tree growing near the water.
The bennu nest is usually located on a tree – it is a loose pile of branches among the large branches of a tree, which can hardly withstand strong gusts of wind. There are 2-4 eggs in the clutch; the shell is white with brown specks. The clutch is incubated by both parents in turn: these birds are monogamous, and although pairs break up after the breeding season, former spouses usually stay close to each other, and last year’s pairs often reunite in the new nesting season.
The breeding season for bennu begins in the second half of the dry season, shortly before the first rains. At this time, the birds remain secretive, but their loud two-syllable call – “ben-nuuu” (hence the name) – is heared quite far in the vicinity of the nest. When a female comes to the displaying male, both birds begin to dance around each other, jumping and showing the partner white feathers on the inside of the wings, as well as displaying their “pigtails” by lifting them and shaking them. At this time, fights between males of this species occur more often – for females and for territory. Males beat each other with their beaks, sometimes quite hard, but without fatal outcome.
Chicks are hatched at the beginning of the winter rainy season. They are covered with white down, and in the first days of life their eyes are closed. At this time, parents regularly replace each other at the nest – while one bird protects the chicks, the second one forages for various fish, crayfish, other invertebrates, frogs and lizards. At the age of about 2 months, young birds begin to fledge, and at 4 months they already pass to independent life. By this time, the parents manage to fatten them so much that the young bird weighs more than an adult one.
The enemies of bennu are various birds of prey that hunt them in the air, and crocoturtles that lie in wait for them in shallow water. Occasionally, monkeys can ravage an unattended nest.
The average life expectancy of a bennu is 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Coal black night heron (Nycticorax niger)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Herons (Ardeidae)

Habitat: freshwater reservoirs of North America in the areas of temperate and subtropical climate.
Although the boundary of Holocene and Neocene was a time of mass extinction and climatic and ecological changes, many orders of living organisms of the human epoch survived, although their species diversity has changed significantly. Some of them have turned into small relict groups; others have increased species diversity and occupied ecological niches of extinct animals.
Sometimes, in due course of evolution, new species changed their way of life compared to their ancestors. Among the birds of freshwater reservoirs of North America in Neocene, there are night herons, birds of a twilight lifestyle. Due to their wide range, they were able to keep viable populations, and after the mass extinction of some larger stork-like birds, as well as cranes, partially occupied their niche of near-water birds. One of the widespread species is coal black night heron, inhabiting reservoirs in the deciduous and mixed forests zone of North America.
Coal black night heron is a fairly large bird: 75 cm in length, weighing about 2.5 kg, with a wingspan of about one and a half meters. Unlike most other stork-like birds, it is covered with monotonous black plumage, which makes it look like a huge crow and noticeable during the day. Therefore, during the day it hides in secluded places – in tree hollows, thickets of reeds, and even in its nests: this heron nests high in trees. As with many related species, the nest of coal black night heron represents a huge “platform” made of several thick branches in the forked crone, on which smaller branches are piled and rammed.
At night, coal black night heron is much more active than its ancestor: it wanders through shallow waters and near water in search of its prey – mainly fish and frogs, less often other small animals. In addition, it does not disdain carrion – its beak is equipped with corneous “teeth” that can hold slippery prey and inflict strong bites even to a large predator. The beak and legs of this bird are black, only the claws are grayish. On the back of the bird’s head during the mating season, several very thin feathers grow, forming a crest.
Coal black night herons are quite social birds, living both alone, in pairs and in congestions numbering several adult breeding pairs and their fully fledged offspring. Although conflicts may arise between separate birds over food, they fight together with predators and competitors, striking them with powerful beaks and screaming shrilly. The main enemies of coal black night heron are local species of mustelids and owls.
The social way of life has another side: while some birds are eating, others are watching the surroundings and may notice the appearance of enemies in time. In the dark, this species of herons sees as good as owls and other nocturnal birds. Eyes of coal black night heron are large, looking like owl’s eyes a little bit. They have a red iris, and they glow orange in the dark.
Coal black night herons are monogamous and form breeding couples for many years; in the south of their range, their mating period falls at the end of winter, in the northern regions they return to nesting grounds early, as soon as the ice disappears on the rivers. The females call the males with signals similar to the crow’s cawing. Displaying males give females a ritual treat from their beaks – fish or even a bunch of algae. At the same time, the male dances a kind of “pas”: it jumps up and steps from one foot to the other. If the female likes the male, she accepts his offering and the pair begins to build a nest together.
After about 2 weeks, the female lays eggs – they are pure white; there are usually 2-3 eggs in the clutch. Incubation begins with the first egg, so the chicks in the brood differ in physical development. Sometimes the older chicks kill the younger ones, but often all the chicks survive until they leave the nest. In the south of the range, birds manage to make two clutches. Young birds of this species grow fast, and by autumn they are ready to migrate to the south, to wintering places. At this time, many coal black night herons die – this bird is not a very fast flier, and during annual migrations it often becomes a prey of birds of prey. The flight takes place mainly at night; in the morning the birds gather in groups in natural shelters – on the branches of tall trees, in rock niches. Wintering of these birds takes place at the islands of the Caribbean Sea and at the coast of Central America. Some birds are found on the coast of South America, where they get after crossing the Panama Strait, or via Great Antigua.
Coal black night heron can live up to 17 years or more, but most of these birds die much earlier.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Sea bittern (Ixobrychus tetramarina)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Herons (Ardeidae)

Habitat: the coast of Fourseas, Crimea and Ustyurt islands, as well as large lakes of Central and Middle Asia.
Holocene bitterns survived the human epoch relatively successfully. Their ranges have significantly decreased due to habitat destruction, and a number of local species have become extinct. During the ice age, due to changes in the boundaries of natural zones, some more species became extinct, but with the retreat of glaciers, the few surviving species began to populate the vacated habitats and evolved actively. But in general, this group of birds has changed little in the Neocene – despite the appearing of new species, the appearance of these birds has remained quite recognizable, and the lifestyle is the same as that of ancestral forms. However, even among these birds, specialized forms have appeared, one of which is sea bittern.
This bird species is a descendant of a common little bittern (Ixobrychus minutus), which has become a relatively large bird: the body length with the head is about 55 cm, the wing length is 30 cm, the weight is up to 500 g. Sea bittern inherited from its ancestor a pronounced sexual dimorphism in the color of the plumage. In the male, the plumage color on the upper part of the body is gray, each feather is covered with thin cross ripples; on the head is a dark gray cap. The lower part of the body is glaucous with longitudinal stripes of pale gray color. The beak and legs are brown, and there is a narrow ring of darker plumage around the eyes. The female has a camouflage brown plumage, each feather also with transverse ripples. It has a darker “cap” on the head, turning into a stripe stretching along the upper part of the neck to the shoulders. The plumage of young birds is similar to the plumage of a female.
Sea bittern feeds mainly on fish, occasionally catching aquatic reptiles and crustaceans, as well as small mammals appeared in the water. Usually this bird hunts by standing in the thickets of water plants near the shore and remaining motionless for a long time. After a storm, these birds often pick up stranded aquatic animals. Outside of hunting, sea bittern hides in thickets of bushes, or in the floodplains at the mouths of rivers. Sea bittern is very cautious and interrupts fishing at the slightest alarm. A pair of adult birds can fish together, but strangers are immediately expelled. The voice of this species outside the breeding season is a characteristic croaking call: an abrupt single cry serves as an alarm signal; a long series of cries serves to define rights to the territory. During a direct conflict with relatives, the bird makes a loud crack with its beak.
It is a strictly monogamous species. The breeding season is from March to May. The clutch consists of 3-5 eggs, both parents take part in incubation and feeding of chicks. This bird builds nests in swamps and reeds, usually in places inaccessible to terrestrial vertebrates. Less often, the nest is arranged on trees near reservoirs – on branches hanging directly over the water. The nest is a rather loose flat platform with a depression in the middle, the base of which is composed, as a rule, of rather thick sticks and branches, on top of which thinner branches and stems of coastal plants are laid. Incubation lasts from 16 to 18 days. After 15 days, the offspring fully fledge and leave the nest. For some time, young birds still return to the nest, where their parents feed them, but gradually move on to independent life and learn to fly independently. A month later, the parental instinct fades in adult birds; at this time, young birds are expelled from the territory of the adult pair and begin to search for their own territory. The next year, the sea bittern reaches sexual maturity. Life expectancy is up to 13-15 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Social hammerkop (Scops socialis)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Hammerkops (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 hammerkop, the descendant of ordinary hammerkop (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 hammerkop 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 hammerkop 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 hammerkops 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 hammerkops 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 hammerkop 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 hammerkop 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 hammerkop (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 hammerkop 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.

Wide-billed takatra (Takatra latirostra)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Hammerkops (Scopidae)

Habitat: Madagascar, seasonal and permanent reservoirs, coastal forests.
After the human disappearance, the relative isolation of the various islands was restored again, but with a new set of inhabitants, appeared there due to human activity. Therefore, the evolution of life on the islands in the Neocene is often the evolution of alien species that displace the endemic flora and fauna of the islands, which in the human era could exist rather successfully due to nature conservation activities. Only a few island species were able to benefit from the changes in nature initiated by the introduction of alien representatives of flora and fauna. In Madagascar, the invasion of exotic fish species has almost completely destroyed the local fauna, and Neocene fish species are descendants of introduced ancestors. And the evolution of fish contributed to the evolution of new species of fish-eating birds. One of these species is wide-billed takatra, a descendant of the local population of the hamerkop (Scopus umbretta). “Takatra” is one of the local names for the hamerkop.
From a relatively small ancestor, a large shorebird with a powerful beak evolved. The weight of an adult one is up to 3 kilograms, the wingspan is about 2 meters. Unlike many species of near-water birds, takatra has a robust constitution, relatively short legs and neck, and a large head with a heavy strong beak. This bird prefers to walk and run on the ground and is distinguished by strong legs with firm thick claws, similar to chicken ones. Nevertheless, takatra has not lost the ability to fly: it takes off hard, but it flies well, and sometimes it can even soar, especially in the dry season, when powerful updrafts rise from the ground. The plumage of an adult bird is gray-blue: each feather is covered with very thin cross ripples of gray color, which gives the impression of a general bluish shade of plumage when viewed from afar. The head and shoulders, as well as the wing coverts, are darker due to denser ripples. The tail feathers are short, with wide tips of gray color. The wings are broad; primary feathers are white with a dark base. Bird’s legs are covered with bluish skin. The male is slightly larger than the female.
In its appearance, takatra has preserved some of the ancestor’s features: a large erectile crest of thread-like feathers grows on the bird’s head. By rising and folding it, the birds display their emotional condition. The takatra’s beak is very remarkable – it is long and wide, like that of the shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) of the human era. The color of the corneous cover of the beak is grayish-yellow. The tip of the beak is bent to a powerful black hook. Numerous “teeth” grow in the bird’s upper jaw: these are strong outgrowths of the cornea of the upper mandible, allowing it to hold prey. In the lower jaw, they are only in the back of the mouth.
This bird species feeds mainly on fish, less often eating frogs and large invertebrates – insects and crustaceans. The fish species introduced by man rapidly evolved in the conditions of island isolation, and the diverse fish population of Neocene reservoirs of the island provided an excellent food base for water birds and takatra in particular. This bird species has adapted to eat large fish, so takatra is found mainly where there are large permanent or seasonal reservoirs. Snakeheads and other fish capable of burrowing into the ground are particularly desirable prey of takatra. The bird searches for them in dried-up reservoirs and digs them out with its beak, shoveling dry mud with its feet. Usually takatras are solitary hunters, but in the wet season, with an abundance of prey, they are tolerant of each other. The relationship between them is greatly complicated in the dry season, when competition for food increases. At this time, males aggressively expel other birds from their territories.
Takatra’s voice resembles a squeaky laugh. Courting the female, the male stretches his neck forward, raises the crest and makes ringing rattling sounds. He “sings”, pacing back and forth in front of the female, interspersing calls with flapping wings. The female, ready for nesting, quietly “responds” to the male.
Takatra is monogamous, but a pair is formed for one nesting cycle only. This species has retained the building skills of its ancestor: the nest of takatra is very large and covered, woven from branches. It consists of two chambers, one of which is a nesting chamber – different females choose different chambers. The nest is located on a tree at a height of up to ten meters, and it is owned by a male who changes females with each new season.
Nesting begins shortly before the rainy season. Males call for females and choose a mate for one breeding cycle. Before nesting, the couple renovates the nest, repairs its walls and drapes it with vines of creeping plants. Epiphytic ferns, specially brought by birds from the forest, often grow on the roof of the nest. They take root well and grow on the roof and walls of the nest, masking it from the air from eyes of birds of prey.
There are 2-3 eggs with a white shell in the clutch. The female incubates them almost exclusively for 35-36 days. The chicks are covered with down and have eyes opened, but remain in the nest for up to 2 months. Parents feed them on small fish and frogs. Young birds fully fledge and leave the nest by the age of 4 months. As a rule, parents manage to raise all the chicks that are not aggressive towards each other. Juvenile plumage is darker than adult one – the feathers of young birds are monotonous gray. At the age of 3 years, birds become sexually mature. Life expectancy can reach 30-35 years.

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.

Haruspex (Haruspex sarcophilus)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Ibises (Threskiornithidae)

Habitat: savannas and woodlands of Meganesia.

Picture by Amplion, colorization by Biolog


Initial image by Amplion

Neocene ibises cannot be called a very successful group. These birds suffered losses during the era of human domination, as they suffered greatly from habitat destruction (in particular, due to land reclamation), hunting and the use of pesticides. The number of many species has decreased catastrophically – in some cases, populations have been reduced to hundreds or even several dozen individuals for several centuries. However, some ibises managed to survive due to the fact that they either lived in places undeveloped by man, or began to adapt to his neighborhood. In Neocene, they continued to develop, although in some areas the niche of ibises was occupied by other birds (for example, by sandpipers).
Haruspex, an inhabitant of the savannahs and woodlands of Meganesia – is one of the most unusual ibises. Unlike related species, it broke the connection with water and switched to a diet atypical for these birds – this species feeds mainly on carrion. The peculiarities of nutrition are reflected in the name of the bird: in ancient Rome, a haruspex was a fortune teller who predicted the future from the entrails of sacrificial animals. In addition to the corpses of dead animals, these birds often feed on live prey: they gather small vertebrates and large insects in the grass, ravage the nests of local social weaverbirds and catch fish in drying reservoirs.
Haruspex is a fairly large bird: its body length reaches a meter, and its weight is up to 4 kg. The constitution of this bird is typical for ibises: it has long legs and a neck. Wide wings allow it to soar in the sky for a long time, looking for carrion. The plumage of the haruspex is black with a metallic blue shimmer. After feeding, the birds disinfect it for a long time, opening their wings in sunlight, getting rid of bacteria with the help of ultraviolet radiation (vultures did the same in the human era). The head and neck of this bird are covered with bare red skin – this is also an adaptation to carrion feeding. Sexual dimorphism is not pronounced in haruspices.
The main tool for obtaining food from this bird is its beak, colored black. Like at most ibises, it is long and curved, but, unlike them, it is much more powerful and resembles rather the beak of hornbill of Bucorvus genus (ground hornbills). Such a beak allows not only to butcher the corpses of animals, but also to protect the bird's share of food from other scavengers when birds of various species gather near the corpse.
The bird’s voice is a very loud hoarse “croak”.
Haruspices nest in colonies, making nests from branches in the crowns of trees. Colonies usually include 10 to 20 breeding pairs of birds; there are also some adult solitary birds in the colony that have lost a breeding partner or have not yet formed a pair. These ibises are monogamous, and pairs sometimes persist for many years and use the same nests; in this case, the nests are repaired and renewed annually. The haruspex nest is cup-shaped, with a diameter of about two meters. In the “foundation” of the nest there are thick branches, on top of which the birds lay a thick layer of twigs; the nest is shallow. There are 2-3 eggs in the clutch at these birds. Both male and female incubate eggs and feed the chicks. The chicks develop quite quickly and fly out of the nest for the first time at the age of two months. Haruspices very actively repel the attacks of predators on the nest: they beat the attacker with their wings and peck it. The defense is accompanied by loud cries that attract birds that have temporarily left the colony. To flying predators, these birds give a “dogfight”, striking with their beaks and feet on the back and wings and grabbing feathers with their beaks. The “collective defense” of several dozen birds is so effective that there are few ones willing to attack the colony of these ibises, and they successfully raise about 70% of the chicks to independence.
During non-breeding time, haruspices do not seek to maintain contacts with each other – colonies break up, and nesting sites become empty. At this time, their nests are used by other birds. Outside of the nesting season, each pair keeps apart from the neighbors and the partners themselves are limited to formal signs of attention to each other. However, haruspices often gather in flocks at the source of food; at this time, conflicts are not uncommon, accompanied by displays of the beak and stretched wings.
These birds have few enemies, so many of them can live to a significant age of 35-40 years.

This bird species was discovered by Simon, 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

Pale ibis (Paraplegadis pallidus)
Order: Stork birds (Ciconiiformes)
Family: Ibises (Threskiornithidae)

Habitat: islands of Melanesia from the Solomon Islands to New Caledonia, separate rookeries in the northeast of Meganesia.
Ibises suffered quite seriously in the human epoch. Hunting, destruction and pollution of habitats have undermined their numbers and caused the extinction of a number of species. After the stabilization of natural conditions in the early Neocene, the surviving species continued to evolve, forming new species. One of the Neocene representatives of the family is pale ibis, a descendant of the glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus).
Body length is 60-70 cm, wingspan is up to 1 m. The bird looks large because of its long legs, neck and beak, although it is only slightly larger than a crow in body size. The species has a wide range; throughout the range the color of the plumage varies: it can be pale brown or greenish-gray in different populations. Pale ibis feeds on any small animals – from aquatic invertebrates to small birds and reptiles. In Meganesia, these birds catch frogs and small mammals. Not as agile a hunter as the heron, pale ibis survives due to less specialization. Groups of these birds, numbering 15-20 individuals, move through shallow waters, lake shores, banks of small rivers, and also check the glades in the jungle. In such groups, birds have no hierarchy and any of them can take prey from a neighbor. However, acting together, they easily drive away herons and detect predators. Their enemies are birds of prey and reptiles that attack individual birds, but a group of pale ibises can repel small predators.
The mating season lasts from January to March. Pale ibises nest in colonies, arranging rookeries on tree branches near the water. In colonies, birds quarrel loudly, sharing convenient nesting sites and competing for females. The nest is a loose construction of twigs on a foundation of large branches; males often steal building material from each other, and sometimes they can simply “take apart” the nest of an unlucky competitor to the foundation. Pairs in this species are formed for one season, with females choosing a male and a nest. The clutch, which is incubated by both parents, consists of 3-4 eggs. Incubation lasts 28 days. 40 days after hatching, young birds take wing. At 8 months, young birds become completely independent and form their own groups. Sexual maturity occurs at 2 years; life expectancy is up to 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

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.

Basan (Gymnocoturnix basan)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: mountain forests of the Japan Islands, undergrowth.
Among gallinaceous birds, not all species managed to survive the mass extinction of the end of Holocene – species from tropical forests and human-developed territories suffered the most. Among them there was the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), from which a large forest species – basan (a giant bird breathing cold fire and similar to a rooster, from Japanese mythology) – originated in Neocene.
This inhabitant of mountain forests is a large bird of Japan Archipelago. The body length is up to 80 centimeters. The plumage of the body and wings is ochre-brown with black spots on the wing coverts. The tail is short, visible only a little from under the folded wings; in the female it is of the same color as the trunk, in the male it is black, and it also has a white undertail. The legs are featherless, red, long and strong; males have spurs. Head and neck are bald, the males have leathery red “eyebrows” and a throat fold of skin – a “beard”. Beak is thick ans deep, with a slightly curved tip, of coal-black color. Basan flies reluctantly and only when necessary, but runs very well. During the take-off, bird flaps its wings very loudly.
Basan feeds on various plants, buds, leaves, herbs, berries, fruits, seeds, taking part in the distribution of seeds of some species of trees and bushes. In addition, the bird eats small vertebrates and various invertebrates.
The bird escapes from large predators in the undergrowth, often running through dense bushes and abruptly changing the direction of run. Birds with a brood can protect their offspring by attacking the enemy and striking with spurs and claws.
Courtship displays at basan begin in March, when the snow melts in the mountains. During the display, males gather in groups, call “vake-vake” loudly and flap their wings, attracting females. Displaying male opens its tail and bends it on the back, showing a fluffed, well-visible undertail. At this time, its “eyebrows” become very bloodshot, becoming like horns, and the throat fold is greatly lengthened. In the displaying pose, the male utters continuous buzzing sounds. Fights often occur between displaying birds; at this time, males peck and beat each other with spurs, but fights usually do not lead to severe damage to rivals. These birds are polygamous; there can be up to 3-4 females in a male’s harem.
The female makes a nest on the ground among bushes, lining it with forest debris and grass. It lays 13-15 light yellow-brown eggs with black spots and an individually variable pattern. The female incubates them for 26 days. Like its ancestor, basan is a precocial bird. Chicks are light brown with a longitudinal stripe on the back and head, with small light and dark spots. In the process of plumage growth, juvenile fluff sheds, and the head and neck become bare, but have a gray color. The female takes care of the chicks for about 2 months. By August, young basans begin to lead an independent life. By the spring of the next year, they become sexually mature and get adult plumage color and skin outgrowths on the head.
Basan males live up to 12 years, and females about 14 years.

This bird species was discovered by Feldwebel, the forum member.

Meganesian Jungle Fowl (Gallus australis)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: Rainforests and forest margins in the north of Meganesia.
Domesticated food animals frequently became feral in the wake of man, island continents such as Australia were badly affected by this. Relatively few kinds of introduced bird left descendants in Neocene Meganesia, with some exceptions.
Meganesian Jungle Fowl is a descendant of run wild domestic chickens initially used by man for meat and eggs. This species greatly resembles the modern Red Jungle Fowl more so than a domestic chicken, sexually dimorphic, males being ornate, and females being a speckled brown. Male of this species differs from the ancestral species in that its tail plumes are bluish iridescent green, the wattle and comb are purplish.
Habits are very similar to the current jungle fowl; these birds only take flight to escape predators or to roost in trees at night. Individuals frequently take dust baths for personal hygiene. Diet includes mainly fallen fruit and grain, as well as insects, spiders, lizards and small rodents, ungulate droppings are sometimes eaten. Dominant males keep small territories which they defend vigorously; method of fighting is with leaping and fierce kicking, as with its ancestor. There is a typical pecking order within a flock, with the dominant male servicing the females fighting off other males. Males crow in the early morning hours to proclaim territory.
Breeding occurs during the dry season mainly, and the male begins courting a female by picking up pieces of food for her and clucking, female accepting the food allows the male to mount. After the laying period begins, the female lays one egg per day, and the eggs incubate within 20 days. Chicks are precocious and follow their mother; they fledge by 5 weeks and reach sexual maturity at 5 months. Lifespan is up to 10 years and predators include carnivorous marsupials, snakes and raptorial birds.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Donald Morris, Adelaida, Australia.

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.

Bornean deinogallus (Deinogallus borneoensis)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: Kalimantan Island, tropical forests.
Man has domesticated a number of animals, and in process of selection has bred a number of breeds that are not adapted to life in nature. Among such animals, most breeds of domestic chickens turned out to be – breeds turned into “egg production machines” with a lost hatching instinct or rapidly gaining weight have become the most widespread in agriculture. After the human disappearance, such breeds were doomed to extinction. But in addition to these breeds, in areas of extensive agriculture, there were various unproductive populations of domestic chickens close to the wild ancestor. After human disappearance, they adapted rather easily to life in the wild. Perhaps in Southeast Asia and Indonesia they mixed with the rests of the wild population of the ancestral species – red junglefowl (Gallus gallus). The genetically heterogeneous population turned out to be quite viable, and in Neocene in Southeast Asia and on the islands of Indonesia there are many species of pheasant-like birds descended from domestic chickens. One of the peculiar species of these birds is deinogallus, a peculiar cassowary analogue.
The body length of this bird is up to 150 cm, the weight is about 30-55 kg (males are larger than females). At this weight, these birds cannot fly, but their wings are not reduced and retain their normal structure. Despite its large size, deinogallus is a bird of light build, slender, agile and strong. In its constitution, it somewhat resembles an ostrich. Sexual dimorphism is pronounced in these birds. The background color of the female’s plumage is brownish, tips of feathers on the neck and back are black, wing coverts are ochre-red. Female’s tail is long and narrow, a bit like a shortened pheasant’s tail. Male has well-developed narrow reddish hackle feathers, the background color of the body is reddish-brown; tail consists of long elastic black feathers with a blue metallic shimmer and white tips. Uppertail coverts are very thin and silky, black, constantly hanging down. Male has a broad fleshy outgrowth on its head, similar to a helmet with slightly raised edges; in females, this outgrowth is weakly expressed – most often it is an outgrowth, similar to a walnut in shape. Large spurs grow on the legs of birds, especially well developed in males. The male’s voice is a long-drawn-out sound, similar to a howl or a buzz.
These birds are omnivorous and indiscriminate in food; they can peck any object that seems edible for them: fruits, mushrooms, many flowers and leaves, large invertebrates and small vertebrates, carrion (clearly preferring fresh one), bones and pieces of skin remaining from the prey of large predators. These birds regularly swallow the stones needed to grind food. Deinogallus lives in groups of 6-8 adult birds: a male and his harem, as well as chicks of the current year. Chicks of the first months of life are able to fly and are able to take off for the night on tree branches 2-3 meters above the ground. Young birds that have not reached maturity gather in herds of up to 20-30 individuals, where the number of males and females is approximately equal. They are very careful: deinogallus is an aggressive bird; the male regularly shows his power to females and juveniles. Sometimes he even attacks local herbivorous animals and drives them away from his harem. The enemies of adult birds are large cats and monitor lizards, the chicks are stolen by snakes and small predators. These birds flee from large enemies: they run at speeds up to 50 km/h, often making sharp turns and changing the direction of run.
The breeding time of deinogallus falls on July-August. At the male by this time feathers on the neck and tail develop in full degree. Displaying male crouches, spreading his wings, and makes grumbling sounds. Usually, females remain faithful to their male, and the male is not required to do more to express his feelings. But this kind of relationship is built exclusively on force demonstration. Young and widowed males display more intensively: from time to time they stretch their bodies almost vertically, open their wings and begin to flap them forcefully for several seconds. The tips of wings clap loudly against each other behind the back and in front of the belly of the bird, and this sound is audible at the great distance in the forest. Such leks of young birds may be recognized from a distance of one kilometer. Sometimes a young and ambitious male tries to recapture a harem from an adult one. This often results in a fight, but sometimes he manages to win one or two females from the harem. More cautious males approach the harem of a mature male without challenge, and they manage to mate quickly with one of his females.
These birds nest on the ground, arranging several nests nearby to each other. This tactic helps to avoid the ravaging of nests by monkeys and small predators. Two or three females lay eggs in each nest; each bird lays up to 7-8 eggs with a dark green speckled shell. They alternately incubate the clutch and jointly protect the nest from enemies. At this time, the male guards the boundaries of the nesting area and attacks trespassers. Incubation lasts 40 days; chicks hatch well developed; they are covered with gray down with black longitudinal stripes. All females of the harem take care of the brood, making no distinction between their own and other’s chicks. At the age of one year, young birds leave the flock, because adults begin to show aggression towards them. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 3 years, upon reaching the average weight of an adult bird. Life expectancy is no more than 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Terpsychornis, “dancing chicken” (Terpsychornis ludio)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: steppe and semi-desert areas of Europe south of the Alps, northern and eastern edges of Mediterranean lowland.
In the human era, domestic chickens were among the most numerous birds on the Earth. However, many of the breeds of these birds depended too much on humans and lost the ability to reproduce independently and defend themselves from enemies. Therefore, the human disappearance of man was accompanied by the mass disappearance of domestic chickens (however, the same fate befell many other domestic animals). Primitive populations of chickens from the Middle East, retained the ability to reproduce independently and search for food, managed to survive and develop new habitats. In arid areas in southern Europe, where forests are found only in the valleys of rivers flowing down from the Alps, one of the descendants of domestic chickens – terpsychornis, a peculiar “dancing chicken” – lives.
This species is a bird of light and slender build: the height of an adult bird is about 70 cm, the wingspan is up to 1.5 m, and the weight is about 10 kg. The legs of terpsychornis are quite long, armed with spurs, which present in both males and females. Unlike some other descendants of chickens, terpsychornis has retained the ability to fly – it escapes from dangerous predators by taking off into the air. But this is rather an extreme, since these birds are able to run fast, and if necessary, they can deftly hide in the grass.
The main color of the plumage is gray-yellow; the male almost does not differ from the female in the color of the plumage. Male is larger than female; wide skin wattles grow on the sides of his beak, but the crest on his head is rather poorly developed. In females, the “wattles” are much smaller. The tail is narrow, straight and elongated. This species lives in small groups: male, 2-3 females and the recent brood of chicks. Terpsychornis feeds mainly on vegetative food, although it does not disdain insects. If it founds other food of animal origin, it feeds on it: bird can peck at the remains of predator’s prey or stillborn cubs of herbivorous animals. For successful digestion, terpsychornis swallows pebbles. It easily beats dead a snake, lizard or rodent with its feet, and also digs out roots with its beak.
Terpsichornis’ natural enemies are cats and large viverrids, foxes and some owls catching adult birds. Young birds have much more enemies: even snakes and large lizards eat them. But parents take care of their offspring selflessly, striking the enemy with spurs.
Mating season takes place in April-May, immediately after the end of spring molting. At this time, in open places far from possible shelters for predators, leks are formed, where dozens of young and single males gather. After sunrise, females gather on the outskirts of the lekking grounds and courtship displays begin: males stamp their feet, jump up, run in zigzags and in a circle around the females, “grumbling” from time to time and greatly inflating their throats. After performing such dance figures, they squat and flap their wings – one by one, then synchronously. Then the flapping of wings can be heard many hundreds of meters away from the lekking ground. These mating dances are especially picturesque and prolonged in young birds that do not have a harem – when they attract females or try to recapture them from an adult male. The “family” male is usually limited to a few “pas”, confirming his primacy. As a rule, females prefer such males, but they can join his younger rival if his dance turns out to be longer and more intricate. A “dance” performed entirely is a tedious competition with a young rival, sometimes ending in a fight.
In the clutch, each female usually has 2-3 eggs laid at intervals of one day. Incubation lasts up to 40 days. The nests of females from the same harem are located nearby and the male additionally digs a “dust bath” for the females, as well as patrols the territory and distracts predators. The chicks hatch out quite developed and do not lag behind their mother within an hour after hatching. Their down color is sandy yellow with several black longitudinal stripes on the back. At first they feed on invertebrates, but in 1.5-2 months they completely pass to an adult diet. Already at the age of one week, they can take off and fly several meters. Young terpsychornises stay with their parents until spring, after which they form groups of individuals of the same age. Being 3-4 years old, birds begin to take part in reproduction. Life expectancy is about 40 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Perfect ayamornis (Ayamornis magnificens)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: Southeast Asia, Jakarta Coast; tropical forests.
The most widespread of the domesticated bird species was red junglefowl (Gallus gallus), eggs and meat of domesticated forms of which people ate. But, as a result of artificial selection, a significant part of the chicken breeds lost the ability to defend themselves from enemies and hatch eggs after the extinction of humans was doomed to death. But primitive breeds from the tropical regions of the Earth, less dependent on man, managed to survive and leave descendants in the Neocene. They achieved the greatest diversity in Southeast Asia, where these birds were domesticated, and where the greatest species diversity of pheasants was observed in the human era. If in Borneo the descendants of feral chickens turned into deinogallus, a peculiar analogue of cassowaries, then on the mainland there lives an equally amazing species – perfect ayamornis (“ayam” in Malay means “chicken”).
For this bird, as well as for arguses or peacocks of the human era, a strongly pronounced sexual dimorphism is characteristic: males of this species, convergently similar to some Japanese breeds of chickens bred by man, can reach up to two and a half meters in length. At the same time, most of the length of the bird falls on the tail; the mass of the male is about four kilograms, which is twice the mass of the female. In addition to larger size, male is distinguished by blue-black plumage on the back, sides, chest and tail, white primary feathers, tail and hackle feathers on the neck, forming a kind of “mane”, as in chickens of the human era. Bright red leather wattles and a comb grow on the head; head skin is featherless and has dark gray coloration. Females look much more modest – their tails do not reach such an impressive size, and the bird itself has dusky brown plumage, which is due to the fact that the female hatching the clutch should not attract the attention of predators. Wings are normally developed, but ayamornis, like most other gallinaceous birds, flies poorly and reluctantly, preferring a terrestrial lifestyle. In case of danger, the bird quickly takes off and flies several tens of meters, but then lands and runs away into the undergrowth. There are spurs on the legs, developed, however, not as well as in the ancestor – sexual selection has led to the fact that the roosters do not fight with each other, limiting themselves only to the displaying of their tails. Only occasionally do they resort to power struggle, but they are limited only to chest blows into the opponent’s body and pecks.
Ayamornis feeds mainly on herbs, seeds, leaves and fruits, less often on food of animal origin: small vertebrates, insects and snails. Birds also swallow the pebbles needed to grind food. These birds live in groups including a male, two or three females and their recent brood, which has not reached maturity.
The breeding season of these birds falls on June and July. Males display, stretching their wings and vocalizing loudly. The voice of ayamornis resembles the first part of a cockcrow, turning into a ringing “stroke”. Usually, displaying males with harems do not approach each other, and only try to protect the harem from young and single males.
After mating, the female lays 8-10 eggs in a nest located on the ground. Each female builds a nest and incubates her own clutch on her own. At this time, the male patrols the territory, and in case of danger leads the predator away from the nests, behaving boldly and not hiding. Incubation lasts about a month, after which fully formed and down-covered chicks hatch from the eggs; they leave the nest after a few hours and follow their parents. The downy dress of chicks is gray with longitudinal black stripes on the back. The juvenile plumage of males and females is the same, brownish in color with black speckles, only the feathers on the wings of males are slightly lighter. During the first year of life, males are similar to females. Ayamornises reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 years; life expectancy reaches about 15 years.

This bird species was discovered by Anonim, the forum member.

Transalpine (Southern European) pheasant (Euphasianus transalpinus)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: southern Europe – Balkans, Apennines and Pyrenees, southern slopes of the Alps; forests, sometimes meadows.
In historical time, the common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) was introduced to Europe, where it got acclimatized and spread widely, including in human-modified habitats. It survived in the epoch of climate change at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, and later evolved into new species. Transalpine or Southern European pheasant is one of its descendants.
Body length of this bird without a tail is 40 cm; the tail feathers are long. The main plumage is brown, darker on the back and upper sides. There are darker thin stripes on the feathers, forming a cross-striped pattern that well masks a bird in the forest. On the belly, the plumage has a yellowish tint. Bright color spots in the male’s coloration are a green neck with a metallic sheen and a red head with a double green tuft in the form of horns. The secondary feathers are dark blue in color with an intense blue metallic shimmer. The male taking off flaps its wings loudly and the reflections of its plumage attract the attention of the inhabitants of the forest, becoming a universal alarm signal. The plumage of the female is much duller – it is brown with transverse ripples. The length of the tail feathers is up to 40-50 cm, they are ribbon-shaped with a blunted tip, brown or reddish in color, and the background color becomes darker towards the tip of the feather. There is a cross-striped pattern on the surface of the vane. Legs of both males and females are pink in color; beak is thick and strong, usually bluish in color; individuals with a yellow or greenish beak are very rare. Males of this species have one of the brightest colors among European birds.
This bird is almost always found in forests and keeps in dense undergrowth, among tall bushes and ferns. Less often, the species occurs in sparse woodlands with areas of high grass. Outside the nesting season, these birds live in flocks of up to 20 individuals, and always keep a close distance from each other – it is easier for them to notice the danger in time together. At night, the birds fly up into the dense crowns of trees – usually conifers – perch in rows on the branches, cling to each other and fall asleep.
The diet of Transalpine pheasant is diverse – leaves and grass, seeds, berries and acorns, mushrooms, invertebrates and small vertebrates. Pheasants often run under the feet of large herbivores, pecking insects they scare away. At such moments, they are relatively safe from small predators. Their enemies are snakes, birds of prey and small predatory mammals. Transalpine pheasants usually run away from enemies, hiding in dense vegetation; in case of extreme danger, they fly away, signaling danger with flapping of their wings and vocalization.
At the beginning of spring, these pheasants arrange bizarre courtship displays: males go out into a well-lit clearing, where they walk on outstretched legs, holding body erect, display bright plumage on their wings, flap them and coo, inflating the goiter, while the females choose their males. These birds are polygamous; male virtually does not take part in the care of offspring. Females build nests on the ground among bushes, lay eggs, which are incubated for 3 weeks. There are up to 10-12 eggs in a clutch. The chicks are well developed, at the age of one week they already are able to fly and fly up to the lower branches of trees for the night. Females of this species often take care to several broods at once together, and the deceased female can be replaced by a foster mother, ensuring high survival rate of the offspring.
Sexual mturity occurs at the age of 2 years, life expectancy is up to 15 years.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

Aotearoan Green Pheasant (Notophasianus viridis)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: New Zealand, North and South Islands, found in woodland, open country, scrubland, bush and wetlands.
The Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) was introduced to New Zealand, as with so many others, to facilitate game shooting, but it left successful descendants there in the Neocene. There are a few rather typical pheasant species in Neocene New Zealand, but the largest and most ornate is the Aotearoan Green Pheasant.
This pheasant is quite large for a game bird, reaching a similar size to a female turkey, but with a much longer tail, males may weigh up to 6.5 kilograms and measure 90 centimetres long without the tail feathers. Females are an all-over chequered tawny brown, and have relatively much shorter tails. Males have a dark red wattle that forms a mask around the face, and the head, neck and front of the chest are a dark iridescent bottle green, dark color continues onto the back where the sheen is a pure blue. Sides are a reflective dark red with each primary feather being striped with yellow so that it shows when wings are folded, and the rump is bright orange. The tail feathers are longer than its ancestor, more than a meter long, and barred with dark, reflective blue and bright orange. As with all game birds, legs are long and strong, and the male’s ankles bear a large spur.
These birds are gregarious and form loose flocks which range over the ground, foraging by day, and sheltering by night. Diet consists of grain, stems, buds, berries, insects, and occasionally small vertebrates. When alarmed, they prefer to run on foot, but when pressed will fly upward suddenly and cruise off in flight to a safe distance. Calls are generally similar to its ancestor, a chuckling recurring cluck when alarmed.
These birds are lek-breeders, males compete viciously to form and defend harems of females, and breeding season runs from September to November. Males will compete by leaping up at each other and kicking with their spurs. In courting the female, the male will make overtures by circling her and fanning his tail in her direction, spreading his wings. The female will make a nest that is a shallow scrape in the ground, lined with leaves, in lee of a bush or small tree. Ten to 12 eggs are laid over a 2 and a half week period, incubation is up to 29 days. Chicks are well developed and able to follow their mother, they start to fly after 20 days, and resemble their parents after a month. Lifespan may be up to 12 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Morris, Adelaide, Australia.

Malac tavus, peacock partridge (Pavotoris malac-tavus)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: The Balkans, the eastern and northeastern edge of the Mediterranean lowland, Asia Minor and the southern coast of Fourseas.
Rock partridges, while remaining common birds for their region, suffered minimal damage in the human era. Their survival was greatly facilitated by life in mountainous areas, which remained a kind of “refuge” for representatives of fauna due to the difficulties of economic activity. Then, climate changes in the Neocene allowed some of their descendants to acquire an appearance significantly different from the usual one for their ancestors. Malac tavus is one of these “deviant” species, a descendant of the chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar).
This species has become much larger than its ancestor: the average body length is about 50 centimeters, the wingspan is up to 1 meter. The appearance of the bird somewhat resembles the short-tailed pheasants of the human era. Body is muscular, rounded, with a wide chest: pectoral muscles are well developed and allow the bird to take off quickly. Beak and legs are dark brown. Plumage of birds is multicolored, but the color is generally unshowy. The upper part of the body is rippled – brown with thin cross stripes on the feathers; sides and tail are ochre-red. There are dark vertical stripes on the sides, characteristic for the ancestral species. There are no spurs on the legs.
A crest grows on the male’s head, representing a bunch of erect black feathers; it also has naked bright red eyelids, which swell strongly during the courtship display. Both male and female have white throat, bordered by a narrow black stripe. Tail feathers of the representatives of this species are greatly elongated: 25 cm long in males and 13 cm in females. Males have bright oval spots on the tips of tail feathers, like peacocks, but much more modest in color: a black spot with a bluish-green metallic luster and a white spot in the middle. In females, dark brown spots without gloss sometimes appear on the uppertail coverts. Also, the female lacks crest – there is only a black spot on the crown – and the ochre-red color in the plumage is replaced by grayish-brown.
Peacock partridge feeds mainly on vegetative food – herbs, berries and leaves – but does not disdain insects; it is especially typical for chicks during the period of active growth. The bird’s favorite food is acorns of low-growing oak species growing on the outskirts of Mediterranean lowland. During seasonal droughts, malac tavus birds live in groups of 15-20 one, and in autumn they split into pairs or threes. Malac tavus flies rarely and reluctantly, preferring to cling to the ground and freeze when a predator appears, or to escape and hide in the bushes. Taking off, the bird loudly flaps its wings; it behaves this way only if the predator is getting close. Such an unexpected take-off often saves the bird’s life, distracting the predator for a few seconds.
The mating season begins in February, along with the winter rains. Males begin attracting females by actively displaying. They gather in open areas in groups of 10-20 birds, and begin courtship displays. Birds utter throaty bubbling sounds, strongly inflating the neck and ruffling the plumage on it, and spread the tail coverts, leaning forward strongly. Demonstrating himself to the female, male turns his head to her and begins to shake his whole body; at the same time, the ocular spots on the tail coverts shine and shimmer in the sun rays. Females walk among males, choosing a suitable mate, and actively compete with each other, driving rivals away from the male they like. A successful male has 5-7 females in the “harem”.
Males do not take part in the rearing of offspring. There are five to eight eggs in the clutch, which the female lays in a shallow hole on the ground, usually among bushes or under the cover of a large stone. The eggs are pale yellow with brown speckles. The incubation period lasts about 25 days. The chicks hatch with eyes opened and covered with down; they leave the nest forever 2 hours after hatching. At the age of 3 months, they can digest the tough grasses and seeds that make up the diet of adult birds. In autumn, young birds are already completely independent, reaching sexual maturity at the age of 18 months. Life expectancy is about 10 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Motley aguna (Aguna colorata)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: northern Europe from Scandinavia to the Urals, mountain forests, taiga.
During the glaciation period at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, many species of temperate latitudes faced a choice: move to the south, become extinct or adapt to new conditions. In such conditions, one of the most common species of Eurasian galliform birds – grey partridge (Perdix perdix) – appeared. In due course of evolution, this species gave rise to a separate genus of birds that spread widely across Eurasia in temperate climates and in the highlands. One of the most common species of this genus is motley aguna (aguna is the name for the partridge among the Uighurs). These birds are much larger than their ancestor, having the size of a large rooster and weighing up to 4-5 kg. This makes it easier for them to tolerate cold, and in a humid climate, precipitation will increase, and birds will be able to find a thick enough layer of snow for most of the winter.
Motley aguna looks like a large partridge: it has a compact body of dense build, short tail and wide rounded wings. Head is relatively small, on a movable neck. Beak is of moderate length, thick, adapted for digging up frozen ground and biting the buds of shrubs.
All species of this genus are distinguished by their specialization to cold climates. They have strong legs with a feather border on their toes, due to which these birds will be able to walk on the snow without falling through, and rake it more successfully – a parallel evolution with grouse birds is seen here. Aguna has no spurs.
In addition, these birds are characterized by dense winter plumage and the absence of bare skin areas on the head and chest, which are often found in tropical pheasant birds – this is an adaptation to life in a cold climate. During the courtship season and when defending the territory, aguna male utters loud cries with the help of a special resonator, which is formed by the easily stretchable anterior wall of the trachea. During the courtship display, a bubble the size of an orange swells under the male’s head.
The color of the plumage of the motley aguna combines sharply delimited spots of different colors. The bird’s head is ochre-red with black “eyebrows” and a spot under the beak. Back, tail and wing coverts are ripply, gray-brown with a thin white pattern. Primary and secondary feathers are fawn with black speckles near the base. Belly and tail are white. In winter, the color of the plumage does not change.
Motley aguna lives in flocks of one male and 6-8 females, which make up its harem and nest on its territory not far from each other. The existence in a harem helps the agunas survive harsh winters – a group of birds simply gathers in a hole dug in the snow and the birds snuggle together, keeping warm. This behavior increases the likelihood of survival in a cold winter. The consequence of this type of family arrangement is expressed sexual dimorphism: the male is larger and weighs about 1 kg more than the female. He drives away strangers from the territory of the flock, and during the courtship season he tries to recapture from the enemy a part of his harem. In spring, the male grows two bands of elongated white feathers on the sides of the neck and chest. This is a feature for courtship display in conditions of a short breeding season. The displaying male inflates the resonator bubble and utters a loud “grunt”, fluffing the feathers on the sides of the chest and neck into a kind of shield. At this moment, it seems much larger, which allows it to establish a dominance relationship without a fight. If aguna males arrange a duel, the fight can be very persistent; opponents seize each other’s plumage with their beaks and strike with their legs. It happens that fighting birds roll on the ground, almost not paying attention to the approach of a predator.
The diet of aguna includes mainly vegetative food – seeds, berries, young shoots of plants. Birds also eat insects and worms, peck small frogs and chicks of birds nesting on the ground.
Nesting begins in spring, when leaves grow on the trees. Females of the same harem arrange nests at a distance of several tens of meters from each other. Near the nest, they behave very cautiously and quietly. The male, on the contrary, behaves deliberately noticeably and, if necessary, distracts predators from the nest. Clutch numbers up to 9 eggs; incubation lasts 25 days. Females from the same harem jointly raise offspring. Young birds become capable of breeding the next year.
Motley aguna and related species in the north of the genus range compete with a larger species of galllinaceous birds, aganak (Gravilagopus aganak). Unlike aganak, agunas prefer more wooded terrain and mountainous areas, so competition between them is minimal.
On the territory of Eurasia and North America, various aguna species successively replace each other. Beyond the Urals, motley aguna is replaced by a close species – barbed aguna (Aguna barbata). It differs from the European species in the features of the courtship dress: the male grows long gray feathers, similar to a beard, on the front of the neck and upper chest. The voice of the displaying male is a rolling monotonous trill. The plumage of this species has a camouflage grayish-brown color with a thin cross-striped pattern on the back, chest and wings. There is a black “mask” on the head of this bird, and the sides under the wings and the underside of the wings are white with separate black feathers. When the bird takes off, these color spots become clearly visible and serve as an alarm signal.
The territory of Kamchatka, Beringia and Alaska is inhabited by Beringian aguna (Aguna beringica). In this species, “beard” is very short and occurs in both males and females. Male in courtship dress grows elongated “epaulettes” of thin fluffy feathers on the shoulders. The main color of birds of this species is dark brown with a white “scaly” pattern on the underside of the body. “Beard” is also brown. Voice of this species represents separate sonorous calls and series of monotonous clicks. At the border of the ranges of barbed and Beringian agunas, hybrid and intermediate populations are found, differing in intermediate shades of body coloration and a gradually decreasing size of the “beard”. “Epaulettes”represent a recessive feature and are characteristic only for pure-blooded Beringian aguna.
For the northern borders of the forest zone of North America Sioux aguna (Aguna sioux) is characteristic – a large species (the weight of an adult bird is up to 5.5 kg), remarkable by a very dark color. The upper part of the body of this bird is dark brown, almost black; the underside of the body is ochre-red. The lower part of head, throat and chest are black; white spots on feather tips form a pattern on the chest. Sometimes a light color morph appears, in which black color is replaced by smoky gray, and red by fawn; in eastern populations it occurs more often – up to 10% of the total number of population. In the male of this species, during the mating season, very developed “epaulettes” of long white fluffy feathers grow on the shoulders. During the courtship display, they open on the sides of the bird, forming two fans. The male shakes them during the dance and utters loud whistling sounds.
Greenland is home to polar aguna (Aguna borealis) – the northernmost species of the genus. In color, it is similar to the light color morph of Sioux aguna: back is bluish-gray, black is only at the tips of the secondary feathers. The belly of this bird is grayish-white. Unlike other species, it lacks the feathery “ornaments” characteristic for males’ courtship dress; courtship displays include a dance with wings opened, accompanied by ringing calls. This bird lives in a harsh polar climate, so it makes annual migrations along the coast of Greenland: in summer it is found at the northernmost edge of the island, and by winter it migrates south to the seashore. Also, this species is omnivorous and can even feed on seaweed and dead fish washed ashore.
Several species of smaller mountain agunas inhabit the mountain ranges of Asia.
Singing aguna (Aguna cantans) inhabits the Altai mountain meadows and differs from the northern species in smaller size: adult bird weighs about 3 kg. Plumage of this species is brightly colored: throat and belly are straw-yellow, undertail is white, and tail feathers are white with red tips. Back and wing coverts of this bird are gray with fine brown ripples, and the primary and secondary feathers are black with a bright purple and green metallic luster. During the courtship season, male of singing aguna grows “sideburns” of short black feathers. He “dances” in front of the female, keeping his body vertically and stretching his wings and tail. At the same time, the male inflates the throat resonator and utters a bubbling melodic whistle.
On the high-altitude plateaus and in the valleys of the vast Himalayan range, there are several close species of aguna with multicolored coloration and dark-colored wings, vaguely similar in color to singing aguna. On the southern slopes of the Himalayas there lives a small pheasant-like aguna (Aguna phasianoides) characterized by a greenish-yellow color with black ripples, turning to “scaly” pattern on the wings. Primary feathers of this species are black with a noticeable blue sheen in males. In females, black color is replaced with dark brown and lacks metallic luster. Male’s throat at this species is black, and in courtship season, thin white feathers grow on the sides of the black spot, fluttering in the wind during the flight of the bird.
The highlands of the Himalayas are inhabited by silverish aguna (Aguna argentea), in which almost all the plumage, except the wings, has a gray color with a distinct metallic luster. At both males and females, elongated plumage on the head forms “eyebrows” for protection from the bright sun. Due to the limited food resources in the mountains, this species often keeps in pairs or families of two females and one male.
On the northern slopes of the Himalayas, black aguna (Aguna tenebrosa) lives, whose plumage is almost entirely black, except for the feathers on the lower back and tail, which are snow-white in color and serve as a signal for relatives. They are clearly visible only during the bird’s take-off. By the courtship season, male of this species grows a “mane” of thin white feathers with a fluffed vane and a flexible soft rachis. During courtship, male fluffs these feathers and shakes them, trembling his whole body and “beating the drum” with his feet.
Limited hybridization takes place between Himalayan aguna species; birds with transitional color and plumage pattern, forming stable populations, are often found in mountain valleys.

Aganak (Gravilagopus aganak)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: Eastern Siberia, Putorana plateau, tundra steppe in the Far North.
Grouse and allies appeared on the Earth during the Pleistocene glaciation. In the Holocene, some species and subspecies of these birds became extinct or became very rare due to human persecution. In the epoch of the biological crisis at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, the central regions of Eurasia with a harsh climate, less susceptible to human activity, became a real “reserve” for these birds. And in early Neocene, many representatives of gallinaceous birds adapted to rather harsh living conditions appeared on the territory of temperate and cold climate regions. The descendants of the willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) have achieved great success in the struggle for existence. In the harsh conditions of the continental climate on the territory of Eurasia, one of these birds lives – aganak (Tuvan name of the willow ptarmigan). This species inhabits open areas where low-growing trees and shrubs do not form a continuous cover. Aganaks willingly feed on the “obda roads”, where grasses and low shrubs grow.
Aganak is a fairly large bird compared to its ancestor: an adult individual weighs up to 6-7 kg, and up to 8 kg in large males. At such a size, the bird has not lost the ability to fly, although it does it with difficulty and only in case of extreme danger. The bird’s wings are short and wide, with rounded tips. The flight of the aganak is fast and straightforward, accompanied by a loud wing flapping, which serves as an alarm signal for relatives. Aganak is able to fly about 200-300 meters, after which it lands on the ground. If the predator has not stopped the pursuit, the aganaks escape by run. On toes of these birds “brushes” of feathers grow, bordering the toes. In summer, they almost completely disappear, but in winter they expand greatly. Due to this feature, aganak does not fall into the snow and can dig it out more efficiently in search of food. Aganak has longer and stronger legs than its ancestor – it allows the bird to run quickly, fleeing from an enemy, and walk long distances in search of food. Legs are feathered up to the toes.
The body of the aganak has rounded outlines and is covered with dense plumage. In winter plumage of the bird, the down part of the feathers is thicker and longer than in the summer one. Bird’s tail is short and fan-shaped. Male has a longer tail than female and uses it during courtship displays. Aganak retained the ability of its ancestor, the willow ptarmigan, to change the color of its plumage depending on the season. The winter plumage of the aganak is snow-white, thick and very warm. Summer plumage is similar to the plumage of many grouse birds: the main background is brown; there are large black ripples on the wings, a black border on the tail, and chest is rusty-red with thin black ripples. Rings of red feathers around the eyes of males are bright spots on this dress. Females have only narrow red “eyebrows” above their eyes.
Aganak is omnivorous, although in winter it is forced to completely switch to vegetative food. The beak of this bird is thick, conical, slightly curved and compressed from the sides. With the help of such a beak, aganak easily bites off the leaves and branches of shrubs and dwarf trees. Small pebbles (gastroliths) are constantly present in the muscular stomach of this bird. In order to replenish their stock in winter, aganaks migrate to places where there are wind-blown rocks and where they can replenish the stock of gastroliths. If possible, aganak catches small rodents and pecks eggs and chicks of small birds nesting on the ground.
In the spring, when the snow finally melts, aganaks begin courtship displays. At this time, the male displays himself to the females: he walks in front of them, turning sideways and opening his wings to the ground. During the courtship displays, he inflates his goiter and grumbles hoarsely. Eyebrows and areas of skin around the eyes are filled with blood, which makes them seem larger. Fights often occur between aganak males on the lekking ground, during which the birds beat each other with their legs, jump on the opponent and try to peck him or grab the feathers on his head.
It is a monogamous bird. The pair is preserved for the entire breeding season and raises offspring together. At this time, the male is very aggressive and often attacks small predators trying to kill his chicks. In the brood, aganak has up to 4-6 chicks, which grow quickly and gain about 5 kg by autumn. Usually about a third of the brood survives until winter.
The life expectancy of aganak is about 15 years.

Eastern steppe hazel-hen (Pavonasia asiatica)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae)

Habitat: Far East, forest-steppe.
The end of Holocene and the beginning of Neocene were marked by another ice age. The giant glacier wall pushed the northern species to the south, making the north of the Earth a very uncomfortable place for life. After the retreat and melting of the glacier, the descendants of the migrated species returned to the north, but some descendants of the northerners continued to live further south, producing new species that adapted to changing conditions. In the swampy forests of Siberia and the Far East, the fantail hazel grouse (Pavonasia paludiphila) lives – a rather large bird that looks like a capercaillie, and a little to the south, where the taiga is replaced by dry woodlands with separate areas of the steppe, a related species lives – eastern steppe hazel-hen.
This bird has typical features of a resident of the steppes, and resembles outwardly not so much its forest relatives as bustards of Holocene epoch. It has a relatively light build, weighs about 1.5-1.8 kg, and has longer legs and neck. Male has a feather tuft growing on the head, which he spreads in front of the females during the courtship display. Sexual dimorphism is clearly expressed. The plumage of the male is darker than that of the ancestor, with a less pronounced pattern: the striped plumage is present, but poorly expressed on black-brown feathers. Red feathers, forming “eyebrows” over the eyes, are characteristic. In a displaying male, feathers of the “eyebrows” fluff, and the skin under them is filled with blood, increasing their visible size. Tail feathers have white tips. The color of the female’s plumage is rippled, yellowish-gray with numerous cross stripes, masking the bird on the nest.
When the eastern steppe hazel-hen is resting, it usually hides its head and neck “under the wing”, bends its legs and resembles a boulder stone among steppe grasses. If disturbed, it takes off with a loud wings flapping, scaring away and stunning the enemy with a lighter, almost white plumage of the inner side of the wings and belly. After flying several tens of meters, bird lands on the ground and runs away. Chicks have a camouflage color with dark stripes and ripples on the light down. Usually, eastern steppe hazel-hen does not like to fly, spending almost all the time on the ground. Only in the forest-steppe and sparsely wooded areas, bird can fly up trees, but usually it runs away from the enemy quite quickly and hides in the bushes or among the grass.
The repertoire of sound signals of these birds is quite diverse – loud prolonged alarm signals, grumbling and squeaking for communication of adult birds with chicks, whistling for signals of adult individuals to each other.
Eastern steppe hazel-hen is a relatively omnivorous bird – it eats both vegetative food, especially seeds of various steppe grasses and cereals (more often in autumn and winter), and animals – mainly various invertebrates, occasionally small vertebrates. The bird falls prey of various predators – predatory birds and mammals catch adult birds, and large reptiles can ravage the clutch or attack the chicks. Younger and older birds sometimes die during winter starvation.
The courtship season begins early, in the first half-mid-spring. Males find a suitable place for lekking ground – usually it is an elevation like a large stone, a hill or a low tree – and begis a courtship display, resounding the surroundings with a loud piercing whistle. Eastern steppe hazel-hen is mainly a solitary bird, it does not form large lekking grounds; usually 3-5 males gather at the lek, and each of them displays independently. Males of this species are monogamous, do not take part in incubation of the clutch, but take care of the chicks and protect the brood. Male can drive away even herbivorous beasts from the nest.
There are 8-10 eggs in a clutch; the female incubates them for 18 days. The nest itself looks rather unremarkable – it is a simple hole in the ground in a secluded place (usually under a bush or among tall grass), lined with grass and feathers of the bird itself. The parents immediately take the chicks out of the nest, and do not return to it anymore. Chicks are able to run already at the age of one day, and after a week they can already fly short distances. They can fly in full degree at about a month of age. By autumn, they have already left their parents, but usually keep in a flock in the first winter before the coming of sexual maturity – it happens already the next year.
The maximum lifespan of eastern steppe hazel-hen is up to 16 years, but most of these birds die much earlier.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Genefal (Acrogallus otidocephalus)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: Guinea fowls (Numididae)

Habitat: Karoo and Cape Province, arid areas.
Due to domestication and partly to a wide range in the Holocene, guinea fowls managed to survive the anthropogenic crisis with relatively small losses. Of course, the forest species of the family have suffered greatly from the economic activity of people. But the helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) bred by humans easily went wild and even spread more widely than in the wild before domestication. Among its descendants there are also large species, for example the Madagascar numidornis. In the south and southwest of Africa, there is a related species – genefal (the name in Afrikaans means “guinea fowl”).
Genefal occupies an ecological niche of large terrestrial birds like bustards. The body length of an adult is 95 cm, the weight is up to 16 kg, and the wingspan is about 2 m. The bird spends almost all the time on the ground and runs fast, escaping from enemies, but takes off only if absolutely necessary and does not fly for long. The plumage color is grayish-red with small white speckles on the wings, back and short tail. Naked head is bluish in color; the shape of the head of the genefal resembles a bustard’s one – it is elongated and flattened. Only pink skin wattles in the corners of the beak and a flat helmet-shaped crest on the back of the head make the origin of the bird clearer.
Genefal is omnivorous: the bird eats seeds, stems and roots and bulbs dug out with its paws, as well as arthropods, small reptiles that it tramples, and even fresh carrion. Genefal is able not to drink for a long time due to the production of metabolic water, but when the opportunity arises, it drinks willingly and to the full. These birds live in flocks of 20 individuals, where there are 2-3 males (one of which is dominant), females and young. A fairly rigid hierarchy is maintained in the flock; the dominant male or the main female seriously shakes the violators with its beak, pinching the featherless skin on neck, and kicks them. Sometimes serious fights break out for rank in the flock when one bird tries to displace the other one.
Courtship season begins at the end of the rain season. At this time, the wattles of males swell and become large and red, and a collar of long white feathers grows on the neck. At this time, males become especially aggressive, spending a lot of energy protecting the harem from young and cheeky rivals. Subdominants usually manage to mate with some females while the leader drives away young birds or is engaged in mating.
These birds nest on the ground, among the bushes. The nest is an ordinary hole in the ground with a litter of grass. The male arranges a “dust bath” for the females near the nesting sites, carefully tearing out the greensward on a small plot of land. There are 3-4 large eggs with a greenish shell in the clutch. Incubation lasts 35 days. Females hatch, and males from the flock are certainly nearby and patrol the boundaries of the nesting site. Only one of them can go further for food, but then returns quickly. The chicks are well developed and follow the mother as soon as they dry off. At 1.5 months they are covered with juvenile plumage, by 3 months they are already flying well. By the age of two years, young genefals are expelled from the parent flock and stay together for a while. They join other groups of relatives, or conquer their own females from a ready-made harem. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 2 years, although males can start breeding a year later. Life expectancy is up to 30 years. The natural enemies of this species are large predatory mammals and birds, as well as monitor lizards.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Fan-tailed Quail-Grouse (Notogalloides specula)
Order: Gallinaceous birds (Galliformes)
Family: New World Quails (Odontophoridae)

Habitat: Open country such as meadows, grassland, scrub, bush and sparse forest, North and South Island, New Zealand.
New Zealand was styled as a “hunters paradise” during human occupation in the Holocene, here, many forms of game were introduced to satisfy a very popular hunting sport. These included deer, feral pig, pheasant and quail. It is the California Quail (Callipela californica) that descended into the most common genus of game birds in Neocene New Zealand, the Quail-Grouse.
Fan-tailed Quail-Grouse appears in many ways a typical game bird, but is very large when you consider that it is a quail, it reaches 55 centimeters long from head to tail, and weighs up to 760 grams. In shape and size, it more resembles a grouse or small pheasant. Males differ in overall colour, bright reddish brown with a bluish breast; feathers along its sides are each striped with black and white, with a black erectile crest on its head, unlike the overhanging crest of its ancestor, the California Quail. Tail feathers are enlarged in the male to form a short, broad fan that is used in mating displays, marked with contrasting thick bars of reflective bright orange. Females lack the ornamental tail fan, and have a body colour resembling a paler, duller version of that of the male. As with all game birds, legs are strong and well developed, and the bird usually only takes flight when alarmed.
These birds occur in mid-sized flocks and spend almost all of their time foraging on the ground. They are omnivorous, feeding on a large range of foods including insects, small vertebrates, berries, buds, leaves, stems and seeds. As with all game birds they are diurnal, and shelter in trees or under vegetative cover at night. Call consists of a piping clucking noise, and an alarm call which is a loud piping chirp.
Courtship and nesting occur in the spring, from September to October, males are a lekking species and try to form large harems of females to mate with. Males perform an elaborate display in which they fan out their ornamental tails, and spread their wings, puffing up their breast and producing a chuckling, piping sound as they circle the female. Males may compete over females and the best territory to display in, and fights consist of leaping and kicking. After mating, the female makes a scrape in the ground, lined with leaves and twigs, in lee of some piece of vegetative cover, the clutch consist of as many as 11 eggs, laid over a 2 week period, incubation lasts up to 26 days. The chicks follow the mother and grow quickly, being able to fly after about 17 days, and fledging fully at 20 weeks old. Lifespan usually reaches up to 10 years.
Related species is the Ocellated Quail-Grouse (Notogalloides ocellaris), which differs by darker colour. With male coloration, body is chocolate brown chequered with grey and having a dark grey chest, and the fan-tail is longer and marked with a reflective blue-green “eyes” pattern. This species is found mostly in the North Island and the northern half of the South Island, overlapping in range with the Fan-tailed Quail Grouse.
Smaller, more ornate form is the Ornamental Quail Grouse (Notogalloides nanus), which is more secretive in habits, and is found only in the sub-tropical forested areas of the northern part of North Island. It is about half the size of the other species, males possess a powder blue breast and blood red body, chequered along the sides in yellow-white. The male’s tail fan is long, and is banded in alternating bars of reflective red and blue, separated by strips of black. This form prefers densely-vegetated areas and is very shy.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Morris, Adelaide, Australia.

Ghost Barn Owl (Tyto spectra)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Barn owls (Tytonidae)

Habitat: European maquis.
Neocene was a period when many large diurnal birds of prey became extinct, and later their niche was occupied by birds of other orders and families – corvids, shrikes, etc. Nocturnal predators – true owls and barn owls – were more fortunate: the nocturnal lifestyle helped the species that survived during the Holocene-Neocene ecological crisis to survive the initial rivalry with new birds of prey and eventually even master a partially diurnal lifestyle, forming new species during this process. One of these species is ghost barn owl.
This bird is one of the descendants of the Western barn owl (Tyto alba) of the Holocene epoch. It is about the same size as its ancestor – on average about 50 cm long, but with stronger and longer legs and wings; unlike most other barn owls, ghost barn owl feels free both in trees and on the ground. Compared to its ancestor, it is colored quite variegated – on the brown background of back and wings, lighter, even whitish spots and stripes are scattered, which makes this bird less visible during the day among the light and shadows on tree branches or in bushes, where it hides from other birds at this time of day. The head is rounded; face disc is well developed, but less noticeable, since the feathers on it are of the same color as the rest of the bird’s body. This species also does not have feather “horns”, like other barn owls. The inner side of the wings is white; the disturbed bird takes off, stunning a potential enemy with a bright flash of white feathers and a loud unpleasant screech – a penetrative squeal (hence the epithet “ghost”). An undisturbed bird prefers to run on the ground rather than fly. It can exist relatively successfully even in a treeless area on the outskirts of Mediterranean lowland.
Like all other owls, ghost barn owl is a bird of prey. Its main prey is small rodents and insects, less often small birds. Ghost barn owl gets most of its prey on the ground. In search of prey, it relies not only on sight, but also on hearing. Having heard its prey, ghost barn owl usually sneaks up to it on the ground, sometimes very slowly, and ometimes running fast. Only the last few meters it usually takes off into the air and rushes at its prey from above. Its legs somewhat resemble the legs of Cretaceous raptor dinosaurs, but without specialized claws; ghost barn owl's claws are blunted due to a more terrestrial lifestyle, and it kills its prey with a “bite” of its powerful beak. But toes of ghost barn owl are tenacious and strong, this bird can press the caught animal to the ground with them and perch on a branch, although it feels more comfortable on the ground.
Courtship season at this barn owl takes place in the second half of the dry season; this bird is monogamous, and pairs are often formed for life. Males and females court each other, performing peculiar dances – they fly up alternately or simultaneously, stamp their feet ceremoniously or run after each other. A few days after that, the female equips the nest, lays 1-4 white eggs and hatches them for about 5 weeks. Ghost barn owl does not build complex nests: it can use the nests of other birds, tree hollows, caves and burrows, but it actually does not make nests itself, adding the litter only. Male does not hatch the clutch, but feeds his female. When chicks hatch from the eggs, both parents feed them for about 5 weeks before juveniles take wing, but not all young birds survive to independence – various predatory animals and snakes ravage nests of these barn owls. These birds also often have cases of cainism, especially when there is a shortage of prey.
The life expectancy of ghost barn owl is up to 30 years, but most of these birds die much earlier.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

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.

Swift-winged owl (Otus apodiptera)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigdae)

Habitat: Caucasian Peninsula, forests on mountain slopes and in valleys.
The boundary between Holocene and Neocene was marked by climatic changes and the mass extinction of many animal species, especially of larger ones. Smaller species mostly survived and evolved into new species, developing new ecological niches, sometimes quite unusual ones. One example of this kind is swift-winged owl, a descendant of the Eurasian scops owl (Otus scops) of Holocene epoch.
Despite its name, swift-winged owl is a fairly large, crow-sized owl. Its appearance is recognizable and characteristic of owls, including the face disk, as well as feather horns, like other owls of Otus genus. The coloration is also characteristic for owls – soft, gray or ochre-red (various color morphs are present) with a variegated marble pattern imitating tree bark. However, in its proportions this bird resembles swifts or swallows rather than other owls – bird has long narrow wings, which make this owl a very effective flier. The bird’s legs are long and agile, with tenacious toes and sharp claws.
Swift-winged owl is a migratory species: it is so due to the specifics of the diet of this species. As soon as autumn comes in the Caucasus Mountains, these owls leave their habitats and fly south to North Africa and the mountain valleys of Persian Ridge, where they winter. Owls usually migrate at night to avoid encounters with other birds that may attack the owl or give away its location to predators with loud cries.
This owl is specialized for hunting chiropterans, and its fast flight allows it to hunt even the fastest bats. Soft plumage suppresses the echolocation signals of the animals, and they do not notice the approach of the owl until the last moment. During the night, the bird eats up to five small bats or 2-3 large ones. It swallows small prey whole, at large prey it pre-tears off and throws out wings with long fragile bones. Less often, swift-winged owl catches large insects, small birds and other arboreal vertebrates. It usually hunts at dusk, in the morning and in the evening, resting in the middle of the night, but on clear and moonlit nights it hunts without interruption. During the day, the bird hides in the crowns of trees and sleeps.
When spring comes, swift-winged owls return to Caucasus, where new pairs form in the mountain forests. At the same time, bats wake up, and birds begin to hunt and eat off actively after migration. Males ready for nesting find suitable hollows or abandoned nests of other birds, and call females with shrill cries. If the female likes the male and the nest, it stays and they raise offspring together.
Swift-winged owls protect the territory around the nest from relatives, and declare their rights to the territory with rather loud screeches at dusk and at night. There are usually 4-5 white eggs in the clutch; they are incubated by both parents in turn. When the chicks hatch, the parents quickly begin to leave them alone, actively supplying the brood with food. After two weeks, the juvenile down is replaced by feathers, by one and a half months old they can fly and learn to hunt, and in the fall they fly south along with their parents. At the same time, adult couples break up.
The life span of swift-winged owl is no more than 10 years, but usually these birds die much earlier, in wintering areas or during migrations.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Rust-feathered owl (Neoglaucus ferrugineus)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigdae)

Habitat: southwest of North America, north of Central America.
The transition between Holocene and Neocene was marked by significant changes in the climate and geography of the Earth. South America separated from the North America again, and the latter connected with Eurasia via Beringia, as a result of which vast areas of high young mountains were formed in the west of the North American continent. The peaks of Rocky Mountains in Neocene epoch are covered with glaciers even in summer, and even in the southern part of this mountain range.
The new habitats were populated by migrants of different origins. Most often, these are descendants of species from the north retreated to the south because of the glacier, or from the west – descendants of Asian species who managed to cross mountainous areas and get to a new continent. But the ancestors of some species came to this corner of the planet from the south: one of them was the ancestor of rust-feathered owl, which descends from one of the species of Central American pygmy owls of the widespread genus Glaucidium. This bird got its name for the characteristic rusty-brown background color of its plumage; in the coloration of this species, there are also brighter white spots and stripes, which give rust-feathered owl an appearance more characteristic for tropical species. These light markings are especially noticeable when the bird is in flight. There are no feather horns on the head. A characteristic feature in the coloring of the bird is also the wide black “eyebrows” – bands of black feathers over the eyes, converging over the beak. The facial disc is weakly pronounced. Unlike the ancestors, this is a fairly large species - up to 50-60 cm long with a wingspan of about one and a half meters.
The voice of this species is a long, shrill whistle, different from the voices of other local owl species. Rust-feathered owl is aggressive towards other species of owls, especially large ones, and destroys their clutches and kills chicks. Due to its aggressive disposition, this owl successfully survives when living next to predatory mammals. The adult rust-feathered owl has virtually no enemies, but this species often suffers from parasites got through the prey. This species hunts various mammals at night, sometimes attacking sleeping birds. This species has a characteristic behavioral feature: rust-feathered owl bites off the prey’s head and swallows the body without it. Therefore, in the favorite places of stay of this bird on the ground under the roost, piles of skulls and heads of prey at various stages of decomposition gradually accumulate.
Despite the fact that this owl is a fairly large bird, it has a light build, and its wings and tail are adapted for fast, maneuverable flight between trees in pursuit of animals. It catches prey on the ground, but it often grabs birds and bats with one foot in the air or from branches. During the day, rust-feathered owl sleeps, usually hiding somewhere in a secluded place – among the tree foliage, less often in a mountain cave. At this time, the coloring of the bird provides it with an excellent disguise.
Rust-feathered owl is a non-migrating species, but the connection with the territory is rather weak: if necessary, the birds easily travel long distances, moving to places rich in food.
This species is monogamous. The courtship season begins in early spring, at the end of the dry or beginning of the rain season. Males begin courtship games: the displaying male actively calls the female, flying next to the tree in which the chosen hollow is located, and screams and whistles shrilly. The female is guided mainly by the quality of the hollow chosen by the male. This bird does not form permanent pairs; after the end of nesting, the pairs break up. Sometimes rusty-feathered owls nest not in hollows, but in mountain caves and crevices between large boulders.
In the clutch of this species there are 1-4 white eggs. Rust-feathered owl, like other owls, does not build its own nests, laying eggs directly in the natural litter. Hatching begins with the first egg, so the older owlets turn out to be much more developed and larger than the younger ones, and they may well eat them if the year is poor. Due to cannibalism, usually only 1, rarely 2, offspring survive to sexual maturity. The plumage of young birds is duller than that of adults and lacks white markings. Sexual maturity begins at the age of 2 years.
The average life expectancy of rust-feathered owl is 8-12 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Flute owl (Philomelostrix xenowekau)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigdae)

Habitat: New Zealand, forests of various types.
The largest owl of New Zealand of the human era was the laughing owl, or whekau (Sceloglaux albifacies). But by the beginning of the XX century, this species became extinct, unable to withstand the pressure of civilization and introduced species. In Neocene, a new large owl species appeared in the ecosystems of the archipelago, descending from the human-introduced little owl (Athene noctua). This bird is called flute owl. The body length of the flute owl reaches 70 cm, and weight is up to 1800 g. The wingspan of this bird can reach 150 cm. Males are slightly smaller and slimmer than females. Flute owl is distinguished from most owls by its long and strong legs, feathered to the toes.
The coloration of these birds is rather inconspicuous. The underside of the body is light gray with dark brown mottling. Back, wings and back of the head are chestnut in color with a white scaly pattern. Tail is striped, of chestnut color with white cross-stripes. Face is gray, bounded at the edges by thin black stripe. Eyes are bright yellow; there are no “horns”. Beak is pale yellow, legs are gray.
Flute owls got their name for the mating song of a male, which sounds as a simple musical phrase repeated many times and vaguely resembling the singing of a Eurasian golden oriole. Females often sing with males antiphonally. In general, these owls are very “talkative” and make a variety of sounds that serve as alarm signals, as well as for communication during the nesting period.
These birds, like most owls, are nocturnal, with the greatest activity occurring in the twilight hours after sunset and before dawn. During the day, these owls sleep or perch, hiding among the branches.
The food of flute owls includes various small and medium-sized vertebrates, primarily rabbits, rodents, ground birds, lizards and amphibians, as well as large insects and snails. Usually these predators ambush prey, perching on a roost site, and attack it from above. Also, flute owls often chase prey on the ground, developing a fairly high speed and deftly overcoming obstacles. Sometimes male and female hunt in pair and catch this way a larger prey than singly. When hunting, these owls rely equally on sight and hearing. Silent flight is also a great help.
Flute owls are monogamous birds: a pair occupies the same hunting territory all year round. However, outside of the breeding season, the male and female stay in different parts of it. The reunion of the mates takes place at the end of winter (in the Southern hemisphere it is August). At the same time, lonely birds search for mates for themselves.
Flute owls nest in hollows located low above the ground, or on the ground: under the roots of trees, in abandoned burrows of mammals, etc. Stems of herbaceous plants are used as a litter. There are usually three to five eggs in the clutch, which are laid one after the other, and the female begins to incubate only from the moment the last egg is laid. The male feeds and protects her. After 30 days, helpless down-covered chicks hatch. Both parents are engaged in feeding them. Flute owls guard the nest very jealously; they bravely attack any animals that happen to be near the chicks. However, if the parents are not around, the chicks can fend for themselves: in case of danger, they make loud buzzing sounds resembling the buzzing of local wasps (similarly, the chicks of Holocene burrowing owls imitated the rattle of rattlesnakes). The survival rate of chicks depends on the number of prey animals and the hunting skills of the parents. If there is not enough food, the stronger chicks kill and eat the underdeveloped ones.
As young birds grow up, they gradually leave the nest, and begin to fly when they reach the age of one and a half months. In the fall, they leave their parents’ territory. Already in the first year of life, young birds begin to reproduce, and the life span of flute owls can reach more than 15 years.
Due to their size and strength, adult flute owls have almost no enemies – only occasionally they can be attacked by large predatory mammals and eagle keas acting as a group. However, in the daytime, these birds, like all owls, may be mobbed by small birds.

This bird species was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

New Zealand Ground Owl (Antipathene cursor)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: True Owls (Strigidae)

Habitat: North and South Islands of New Zealand, open country, grassland, meadows, scrubland, bush, open forest.
During man’s occupation of New Zealand during the Holocene, the Little Owl (Athene noctua) was introduced to the archipelago in order to control plagues of sparrows and other crop-eating birds. Since then it became very successful, leaving descendants in the Neocene.
This mid-sized owl resembles its ancestor somewhat, but even more its relative the Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), with the exception of not settling in the burrows of other animals. Reaching a length of 35 centimeters and a wingspan of up to 70 centimeters, it has a compact body, with a small facial disk; coloration is dark greyish brown, spotted all over with yellowish white, also having white eyebrows and “bib” above the chest that is bordered with darker brown. Living in open country, they are regularly found on the ground, having long slender legs ending in compact feet with large claws, stance is upright and alert. There is little or no sexual dimorphism.
These birds are often active during the day, but do most of their hunting between dusk and dawn; they will stalk over the ground, seeking out higher spots from which to spot prey. Diet includes small vertebrates such as frogs, rodents and lizards, as well as large insects, slugs and earthworms. Usually they swoop down on prey from their perch, though they may occasionally chase prey on foot. They are territorial, and a male maintains a territory the boundaries of which may change during its lifetime. Call is a high-pitched, repetitive hooting, or a throaty hiss when alarmed.
Breeding occurs in spring, from August to November, birds are generally monogamous, but may sometimes have a different mate from year to year. These birds seek out a large patch of vegetative cover, tree stump or rocky outcrop, near which to make their nest. Nests consist of a shallow scrape in the ground, in lee of a piece of cover, and obscured by a cairn of gathered tufts of grass and other vegetation, materials for the nest include grass and shed feathers. The female will make a clutch of up to 6 eggs, laying one egg every few days over a protracted period of time, she then broods the eggs for up to a month, with the male bringing food for her to eat. Both parents feed the young, chicks become active and able to make short flights after about 4 weeks, but may still be fed by their parents during this time. Lifespan is up to 10 years.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Morris, Adelaide, Australia.

“Dead head” owl (Athenops caput-mortuum)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigdae)

Habitat: mixed and broadleaf forests of Europe - from the forests of the Atlantic coast to the east to the Ural Mountains.
In the human epoch, the advantage in the struggle for existence was gained by small synanthropic species, which, thanks to people, managed to maintain a high number and a fairly wide range. One of these species was the little owl (Athene noctua), which gave a variety of descendants in Neocene, including in new habitats, where it was introduced by people. A descendant of the little owl in the forests of Europe is “dead head” owl, a widespread owl species.
The appearance of “dead head” owl is very characteristic and easily recognizable: the front part of the head around the eyes and beak is covered with white feathers, which makes the white area slightly resemble the stylized outlines of the human skull – hence the name of the species. The crown and the back of the bird’s head are black; these areas of plumage shade the “mask”, making it more contrasting. The background color of the plumage is dark brown, primary feathers are reddish. Sexual dimorphism is weakly expressed, but the female is about 20% heavier than the male and is also distinguished by a dark cross stripe on the wings, which appears with the onset of maturity. The adult male reaches 25-30 cm in length and 55-60 cm in wingspan, the female is proportionally larger.
This owl species preys on rodents, bats, small birds; sometimes in summer these owls eat insects. In the northern part of the range, with the onset of winter, this bird hides part of its prey in hollows – this stock helps out in case of unsuccessful hunting. In hunting, these birds rely on very keen hearing and almost silent flight. The hunting agility of this owl allows it to grab a bat in flight or from the ceiling of the cave, quickly turning over in flight with its belly up.
“Dead head” owl lives in hollows; it can occupy an abandoned squirrel nest, if it is not badly destroyed. In mountainous areas, birds arrange nests in crevices between rocks, but only as a last resort if they do not find a suitable place for a nest. When arranging the nest, the birds confine themselves to laying fresh litter only, and sometimes they simply rake the wood dust into a pile on which they lay eggs. These owls are strictly nocturnal, fly out from the shelter for feeding at late dusk, when many daytime birds living in the same territory are already settling down for the night. Before the flight, these owls spend a few minutes near the hollow, preen feathers with a beak and spread their wings, flex their muscles with frequent flaps of their wings. Going for hunting, these owls utter a characteristic screech before takeoff, notifying neighbors that this territory is occupied. The usual vocalization of “dead head” owl is a ringing hoot, uttering in a series of 3-4 cries with a long break between a series of signals.
Nesting usually takes place in March-April. During the breeding season, birds are very active, behave excitedly, often fly even during the day and scream for a long time. Courtship ritual includes mutual feeding, preening and pinching with the beak. There are 3-6 eggs in the clutch, the incubation period is 28-33 days, and the feeding of the offspring continues for about 3 more weeks. Young owls reach sexual maturity at 2 years old and live 15-17 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Fishing owlet (Postathene longipes)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigdae)

Habitat: reed thickets along the shores of Fourseas.
In Neocene, in epoch of the restoration of ecosystems, some land birds passed to a semi-aquatic lifestyle – for example, fishing parrots of Mauritius island and ethereal kites of the tropical seas of the Earth. Another bird from this category is fishing owlet, a small fish-eating inhabitant Fourseas, a descendant of the little owl (Athene noctua).
This species is larger than its ancestor, but is still not among the largest owl species: about 40 cm tall, with wingspan of up to 70 cm. This bird species has a very recognizable appearance: a rounded barrel-shaped body with a facial disk, like in other owl species (due to the contour feathers), and very long legs. The bird spends a lot of time on the ground and walks well on marshy soil: there are skin membranes between the toes, reaching to the middle of toes. The length of the claws reaches 6 cm; the tail is 13 cm long. In the color of plumage, this owl is more like a bittern – the background color of the back and sides includes many longitudinal yellow and brown stripes, masking the bird among the vegetation. Face disc is beige. Legs are orange, beak and eyes are yellow.
Fishing owlets inhabit reed thickets along the shores of Fourseas. Unlike most other owls, this species is active during the day and at dusk, and often lives in colonies of larger waterfowl. During the day, fishing owlet forages for food. It can walk along the banks of the channels or directly along the bottom of shallow reservoirs, as well as fly over the channels and look for prey. The diet consists of aquatic invertebrates, small fish, frogs and newts. It prefers to snatch these creatures out of water with its claws and brings by paw to its beak, tearing them to pieces. In case of hunger, fishing owlet can kill animals the size of itself – for example, medium-sized fish. In summer, these owls can find a drying duct and literally empty it, not leaving this place until they eat all the animals got into this trap. Wandering in colonies of semiaquatic birds (thalassocoraxes, herons), this owl looks for prey accidentally dropped by birds and eats it. The enemies of this owl are terns and large predatory fishes that can drown this bird.
Fishing owl is a migratory bird; for wintering it flies to the shores of Indian Ocean, including to the north of Zinj Land. During the migrations, these birds stick to the riverbeds and try not to fly high into the mountains.
In the spring, the owls returned from wintering form breeding pairs. They choose colonies of shorebirds for nesting and occupy old bird nests or build their own ones. The nest of this species is a loose building half a meter in diameter. The female lays up to 3 eggs and hatches them for 5 weeks while the male brings food to her. Chicks are covered with thick brown down with irregular white spots. While the parents are away, the chicks huddle together and close their eyes, not giving away their presence. During the feeding of chicks, adult birds may not even fly far from the nest – they gather fish dropped by thalassocorax chicks. Acute hearing helps the bird to determine where the fish has fallen. At the age of 6 weeks, the chicks are already fully fledged and begin to learn to fly.
Sexual maturity in young birds occurs at the age of 2 years, life expectancy is up to 40 years.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

Hawaiian red owl (Pueotus rufus)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigdae)

Habitat: forests of the Hawaiian Islands.
At the beginning of Neocene, the avian colonization of Hawaiian Islands continued. After the end of the human epoch, owls – descendants of the long-eared owls (Asio otus) of American origin – arrived to the islands. In competition with the descendants of human-introduced species, they gave rise to several small forms, one of which is Hawaiian red owl.
It is a small bird: the total length of the bird is 20 centimeters with a wingspan of about 30 cm; female is slightly larger than male, like in most birds of prey. This is a bird of an elegant build: it has an elongated fan-shaped tail, as well as rather long legs. The body is elongated; head is not very large, with small tufts of feathers above the eyes. The background color of the plumage is reddish-brown with a darker marble pattern on the wings, tail, back and nape. On the chest and belly, the background color is lighter, tips of feathers are white, and there are also light areas under the wings. Face disc is also light; beak is grey and the iris is yellow. Tips of tail and wings are dark. Legs are feathered almost to the toes; skin on toes is dark pink with gray claws. There are numerous corneous bristles on the underside of toes.
This small predator lives in the lowland rainforests of Hawaiian Islands, but a related form inhabits the mountain silver forests. This bird is active at night and at dusk, often flies in the forest canopy and at high altitude. This owl usually sleeps among foliage or in thickets of epiphytes against the background of bark. Like all owls, this species searches for prey mainly by ear and grabs it with its claws. The diet of Hawaiian red owl is diverse – usually it includes large invertebrates (snails, crabs and insects), sometimes tailless amphibians and lizards, often a variety of small birds and tree rats, which the bird attacks, despite the fact that they are almost equal to the predator in size. The owl itself can become a prey of larger birds of prey (like neopueo). Hawaiian red owl is able to defend itself from the predatory erinia bat by cutting its flying membrane with its claws.
Hawaiian red owl does not have a specific breeding season – in a tropical climate, birds ready to breeding are found at any time of the year. A couple makes a nest in the forest canopy, preferring an abandoned large nest of another bird or a hollow rotten out in place of a broken tree branch. The same place can be used for nesting by several pairs of these birds in succession. If suitable nesting sites are present, the egg laying may repeat twice a year. There are one or two blue eggs in the clutch; the clutch is incubating for up to 17 days. Only the female hatches it, the male gets food for her. After the chick appears, both parents can fly in search of food, especially when the juvenile grows up. Chick feeding lasts up to 35 days. The young bird leaves the nest, and the parents feed the fledgling for about one more week. Sexual maturity is at the age of 5 months, life expectancy is about 6-7 years.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

Hawaiian horned owl (Pueotus cornutus)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigdae)

Habitat: the canopy of the Hawaiian rainforest.
Among the endemics of Hawaii of Neocene epoch there are small owls, usually insectivorous and having bright coloration. They descended from the descendants of long-eared owl (Asio otus) settled at the islands from North America after the end of the human era. They form a genus Pueotus (“pueo” is the owl name in Hawaiian), uniting small species living in the tropical forest canopy. One of their species is Hawaiian horned owl, a relative of Hawaiian red owl.
This species is a small bird the size of a starling, but with a slightly larger head and beak, and with long legs. Because of this, as well as because of the fluffy plumage, the bird seems larger than it actually is. It has not very long, but wide wings that allow it to maneuver among the branches of the tropical forest. The upper side of the body is red-brown with a pattern resembling tree bark, lower side is beige or sandy yellow, face is white with a thin black cobweb pattern, beak is gray, legs are feathered to the toes, yellow or occasionally pinkish, equipped with large claws. On the upper side of the body there are many fine spots on the plumage; on the white plumage of the face disk, a black pattern is formed of thin black edges of the facial feathers. Above the eyes there are two long pointed tufts of ochre-red feathers with white tips, for which the bird got its name. Females are slightly larger and duller colored than males.
The habitat of this small bird is the canopy of tropical rainforests. On its broad wings, it flies among the trees at dusk and at night, looking for prey and listening to the sounds of the forest. During the day, these owls gather in groups and sleep in shelters on especially tall trees. They often hide among epiphytic plants. Horned owls usually feed on insects, including large ones – beetles, butterflies and orthopterans. To do it, the bird uses a large beak and a strong bite, as well as powerful claws that easily pierce insect shells. Hawaiian horned owl kills beetles by sticking a claw into the articulation of the head with the chest. Part of the diet consists of snails, including large ones, which shell the bird breaks easily. Less often, this owl feeds on small birds, like honeybirds – such prey sometimes appears equal in size to the predator itself. For Hawaiian horned owl, erinia bats and larger birds of prey are dangerous. When attacked by these predators, owl maneuvers among the branches under the forest canopy, relying on its speed and small size.
There is no pronounced breeding season in this species. Like its ancestor, this owl occupies the nests of various birds, without even making attempts to complete or repair them. Sometimes birds lay eggs simply among epiphytic plants, and even in the center of the rosette of an epiphytic fern. In the clutch, there are 2-3 blue eggs without spots; during the year, the egg laying is repeated 2 times. Only the female incubates, and the male feeds her and sleeps near the nest during the day. After 15 days, the chicks hatch. They are usually fed not on insects, but on small birds and lizards, which their parents previously tear into pieces and give their chicks with skin and bones. A little later, the chicks switch to a diet of insects, after 1.5 months they begin to fly and soon leave their parents and move on to independent life. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 5 months, life expectancy is up to 6 years.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

Karnabo (Asio karnabo)
Order: Owls (Strigiformes)
Family: Typical owls (Strigdae)

Habitat: southern Europe – between the Alps and the Mediterranean lowland.
The transitional epoch between Holocene and Neocene was marked by climatic changes and the mass extinction of many animal species, especially of large and vulnerable species. Smaller species mostly survived, evolved and became the progenitors of a number of new species, including those having a lifestyle atypical for an ancestor. Karnabo, a descendant of Holocene short-eared owl (Asio flammeus), is one such species.
Karnabo is a rather small owl about 30 cm long with a wingspan of about 60 cm and a weight of 150-250 grams (the female is larger). Plumage is colored inconspicuously, but contrastingly: head and wings are mainly gray with thin black cross ripples. Its chest and abdomen are white with gray ripples; the round face disk is outlined by a narrow black stripe along the edge. There are no feather “horns”. Karnabo lives along the entire southern slope of the mountain ranges of Europe to the north of the Mediterranean lowland; the range is strongly elongated from west to east, so local variations in the color of the plumage are very common – gray color can be replaced by beige or ochre-red. Legs are long and strong – karnabo spends more time on the ground than in trees, and runs well. The bird can fly well, but prefers to stay on the ground in thickets of bushes, less often on trees or in the burrows of small animals. The bird often chases wounded prey by running.
Karnabo has two peaks of daily activity – day and night ones; in the morning and evening, this bird prefers to sleep in a shelter. It hunts mainly small vertebrates, less often daily active insects. In spring and autumn, during the migration of birds, a significant part of the diet of this species consists of small birds. Cannibalism is characteristic for this species, especially among chicks. This owl does not like cold, and it is not found in Central, and even more so in Northern Europe.
The breeding season of karnabo begins in the first half of spring, when rains begin and seasonal vegetation develops abundantly. Pairs are formed for one season. Males call females with shrill cries, but they introduce themselves very carefully, because the female is larger and often behaves aggressively. Within a few days, the birds get used to each other’s presence, after which mating takes place. Karnabo has from 4 to 7 white eggs in the clutch. Karnabo does not build its own nest, and usually occupies someone else’s one, or lives in a hollow, or even in the burrow of some small mammal. Only the female incubates the clutch for 17 days. The male does not take part in incubation, but brings her food. Later, when the chicks hatch, they are fed by both parents. Owlets grow quickly: in a month they fledge, at the age of 6 weeks they can fly, in two months they are already independent, and the next year they can take part in reproduction.
Karnabos usually don’t live more than 10 years.

This bird species was 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.

Flagwing (Vexillipteryx cantabrarius)
Order: Nightjars (Caprimulgiformes)
Family: True nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Habitat: savannas and semi-deserts of South Africa.
Nightjars, although they lost part of the species diversity in human era, relatively safely survived to Neocene. Tropical forest species suffered the most from human activity, and species from savannas, steppes and deserts survived relatively successfully. Nightjars had no serious competitors in their ecological niche, so they have changed little by Neocene. Although specialized forms quite unusual for this group, such as merlette (Merlette aviphaga) and saline land nightjar (Halocaprimulgus halophilus), appeared among them, most nightjars remained nocturnal insect hunters, like most species known in human era. Among them, flagwing stands out for its unusual appearance – it is a strange descendant of the pennant-winged nightjar (Macrodipteryx vexillarius).
It is a relatively large bird compared to most nightjars: body length 32-34 cm, male body weight 303-365 g, female body weight 286-290 g, wingspan 63-70 cm. The background body color is grayish-brown, reddish on the back. Wings have a pattern of small brown spots on a gray background. This bird species differs from the rest of the nightjars by some features of the structure of the plumage, which give it a very recognizable appearance. The secondary feathers of males outside the breeding season are somewhat elongated, which adds a specific easily recognizable shape the silhouette of a flying bird: wings seem angular, expanded at the ends. In females, it is expressed to a lesser extent.
Birds of this species have large eyes, short beak, but a wide mouth, typical for nightjars. Like other nightjars, flagwing is a nocturnal bird and sleeps during the day – most often in bushes or on tree branches, lying along a branch. At night it flies to hunt for grasshoppers, horseflies, gadflies, beetles and moths. These birds are most often found near the herds of large herbivorous mammals. The voice of this species is a long, rattling cry.
The courtship season at flagwings is in spring, in September-October. At this time, among the secondary feathers of males, one pair turns into large ribbon-shaped rusty-red feathers resembling flags. At these feathers, the shaft is soft and flexible, and at the tips these feathers expand into rounded lobes. The color of these lobes contrasts with the background coloring of the bird’s body: they are covered with a cross-striped black-and-white pattern and end with a white “eye” spot on the black background. At this time, they greatly hinder the movement of the bird: they prevent its walking and prevent it from taking off normally. Because of this, a fairly large number of males die when attacked by predators – this bird species has appeared in the “trap” of sexual selection. This species is polygamous, no permanent pairs are formed. During the breeding season, the male mates with a large number of females, so the death of males is compensated by a large number of offspring from the survivors. After intensive courtship display for 1-2 weeks, the feathers of the courtship dress shed and the surviving males continue to lead a habitual lifestyle. Courtship display in this species includes a fluttering flight of the male low above the ground, accompanied by a prolonged chirping trill. Females stay on the ground, from time to time flying from one place to another, and indicate their presence by calls. During the courtship flight of the male, they accompany him on the ground, flitting from one place to another. Mating takes place on the ground, at this time the male manages to mate with 3-4 females, after which he continues his flight. By the end of the mating season, the male loses a lot of weight and weakens.
The nest is arranged on the ground and represents a hole in the grass or in a bush. The clutch usually contains 2 eggs of an elongated ellipsoid shape, measuring 27-37x20-25 mm. Incubation lasts about 17-18 days, exclusively the female is incubating. 25 days after hatching, the chicks are ready to leave the nest and live independently. At the age of 1 year, they are already sexually mature. Life expectancy reaches 14 years, but males usually live much less because of their vulnerability during the mating season.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, 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.

Tube-making swift (Glutinornis tubicolus)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Swifts (Apodidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Africa, areas of young forest.
The human era has significantly influenced the diversity of living organisms. The destruction of tropical forests led to the mass extinction of diverse forest flora and fauna, and after the human disappearance, forests began to recover from very few surviving fragments. The plants and animals inhabiting them began to evolve rapidly, occupying vacant ecological niches and redistributing species diversity between old and new inhabitants of the recovering tropical forests of the early Neocene.
Swifts fly over the canopy of the forest – they have changed little in appearance since the human era. In Asia, unusual birds appeared among the swifts – basket-mouths, distinguished by a particular hunting device. African swifts are more conservative in terms of morphology, but some of their species have interesting behavioral features. Among them, sticky swifts have interesting nesting features – these are birds with developed salivary glands that secrete a large amount of viscous and rapidly solidifying saliva.
A characteristic representative of sticky swifts is a tube-making swift, a small, modestly colored bird. The span of narrow long wings of an adult does not exceed 40-45 cm; the length of the body and tail is no more than 15 cm. The plumage of this bird is colored gray with a dark V-shaped stripe on the upper part of the body, stretching from the shoulders to the middle of the back. The underside of the body is only slightly lighter than the top one; tips of wings and tips of the forked tail are dark gray.
This bird has a short beak and a wide slit of the mouth that stretches beyond the vertical of the posterior edge of an eye. Eyes are large and almost black. These birds are characterized by highly developed salivary glands. Saliva allows the bird to “pack” captured insects for feeding offspring, as well as build nests.
Tube-making swifts nest inside large tree leaves, twisting them into tubes, inside which birds glue a small nest and hatch offspring from an egg also glued to this nest. Due to this peculiarity of choosing a place for the nest, tube-making swifts prefer nesting in damaged forest areas, usually along the beds of large rivers. They choose fast-growing trees with wide non-dissected simple leaves and occupy branches in the upper part of the crown, under which there is enough free space.
The breeding season of this species is not pronounced. Courtship flights continue all year round and are accompanied by loud screeching calls. The choice of a partner is accompanied with a joint synchronous flight, mating also takes place in the air.
Male and female build a nest together. Choosing a leaf of a tree, one of the birds twists it and holds it with its claws, while the second one at this time smears with sticky saliva and glues its edges. The tube from the leaf is twisted tightly enough – there is only room inside it for a nest and a pair of birds. Birds cannot turn around inside the nest, so they leave it by simply unclenching their claws – they fall down from inside the nest through the entrance and open their wings already in the air. A small nest of down and flluffy seeds of trees is arranged inside the leaf. There is only one egg with a white shell in the clutch, which these birds glue to the bottom of the nest and incubate in an upright position. Incubation lasts 12-13 days; the chick grows and develops for about 20 more days. Sexual maturity of a young bird occurs at the age of 4 months, life expectancy does not exceed 5 years.
A leaf shelter has a rather long life: it is used and repaired by several pairs of birds one after another until the leaf from which the shelter is twisted dies off. Sometimes two pairs of birds use the same shelter, breeding their offspring alternately. In this case, they jointly protect their shelter from the claims of other relatives, although they tolerate each other. Nesting of one pair can repeat up to 3-4 times a year.
A close species, lesser sticky swift (Glutinornis hemisocialis) lives along the banks of narrow forest rivers and prefers to catch insects among forest crowns. This is a miniature species with a wingspan of no more than 25 cm. The plumage is light gray with a bluish tinge; the tips of the edge tail feathers are white. Unlike the previous species, it nests collectively. Two or three pairs together twist a large leaf of the plant and arrange nests inside the tube on its opposite sides.
Pastry swift (Glutinornis pistor), by its behavior, represents a more primitive stage of development of this method of nest construction. The nesting pair folds the leaf in half at the base and glues its edges to half, which makes the leaf look a little like a pie. Birds strengthen the glue join from the inside with an additional layer of saliva with down and feathers, and the place of gluing becomes the foundation for the pocket-shaped nest. The entrance to the nest is the open lower part of the glued leaf. The wingspan of this species is up to 35 cm. Its plumage is dark gray with white “eyebrows” above the eyes. This species prefers to settle in thickets of large-leaved grasses in the early stages of restoration of the rainforest stand; it lives in Central Africa.

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.

Motley basket-mouth (Xiao asiaticus)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Basket-mouths (Calathostomornitidae)

Habitat: Far East, subtropical and temperate deciduous forests.
In Neocene, the species diversity of insect-eating birds increased, which is associated with the restoration of forests after the human era. The heavens of the Earth were inhabited by new families of birds, among which basket-mouths – one of the most unusual descendants of the swifts of the human era – are remarkable in their characteristic appearance. Rings of mobile elastic feathers with sparse barbs grow around their beaks, which help the basketmouths deflect insects on the fly and direct prey right into their mouths.
Most basket-mouths are small birds, and motley basket-mouth is one of the large species of the family. It reaches 20 cm in length, has a wingspan of up to 55 cm, and weighs up to 50 grams. Compared to other members of its family, it is distinguished by a more massive constitution with proportionally longer wings. Its plumage is brown from above and gray or brownish from below, covered with white spots and strokes forming a camouflage pattern imitating tree bark. There are also white rings around the eyes. The beak is light colored, gray or pinkish, with a very wide mouth slit.
Motley basket-mouth hunts, like its related species, catching insects on the fly with an open beak and deflecting them into the mouth with hunting feathers. But it is a larger bird that eats larger insects, and therefore sometimes it attacks from ambush: it perches on the tree trunk or on the underside of a branch and waits until a large insect flies past it. Attacking its prey, the basket-mouth quickly flies off its branch, catches and swallows its prey.
This lifestyle has led to the appearing of some other differences in motley basket-mouth from related species – it is not such a hardy flyer and prefers to sleep perching on a tree, although it can also sleep on the fly and does so during migrations. Like other swift birds and allies, it is unable to move on the ground, but freely climbs branches and tree trunks – the bird only needs space to open its wings in the fall. Its legs are short but tenacious, and its claws are short, hooked and pointed. All four toes are pointed forward; their underside is covered with bristles that improve seizing the branch.
Motley basket-mouth does not make nests, but simply glues its eggs with saliva to a tree branch, less often to the wall of an empty tree-trunk hollow. There are 1-2 eggs in the clutch, they are white or pinkish and very noticeable, so parents always hatch them and feed in turn. The chicks hatch blind, but covered with cryptically colored down and have tenacious paws that allow them to cling tightly to the substrate. They require little heating and can stay alone for quite a long time, since both parents get food for them, heating them only at night. Chicks grow quickly, and by the end of summer they are already flying as well as their parents. When the chick leaves the nest, the family breaks up; this species is monogamous and does not form permanent pairs.
Motley basket-mouths fly south quite early – already at the end of summer, with the first night cold spells. The wintering grounds of motley basket-mouth are Southeast Asia and the Philippines. During the wintering, the birds manage to breed offspring, and in the spring the young bird migrates to the north, where it can nest in the first year of life. The lifespan of motley basket-mouth does not exceed 7-8 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

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.

Giant archilochus (Archilochus gigas)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Habitat: southeastern North America, northeastern Central America, islands of Caribbean Sea.
Can a hummingbird become a giant? Yes, but only out of necessity – usually these birds belong to the smallest birds. Back in Holocene, a finch-sized giant hummingbird (Patagona gigas) lived and flourished in South America, but it was rather an extreme, since most hummingbird species were small and tiny birds. A distant relative of this species, giant archilochus, a descendant of ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) of Holocene epoch, also reached similar sizes. The reason of it was a special lifestyle, different from that of most hummingbirds, especially from the tropics of Central and South America. It is a migratory species that performs long-distance migrations.
Its ancestor also migrated from North America to Central America and back, while remaining the typical size for a hummingbird. This helped it survive at the beginning of Neocene, when the climate changed dramatically and the boundaries of natural zones shifted. Part of the population of the ancestral species became extinct; the other part began to migrate over Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico between North and Central America. Various islands of Caribbean Sea served as resting places for the ancestral species.
Then the ice age ended and the world changed again, but Archilochus continued to migrate over the sea along the already established routes, bypassing the mountains and deserts of Mexico. These birds gradually formed a new species – giant archilochus.
It is a very large hummingbird by the standards of the family: equal in size to a swallow of the human era and resembling it in proportions. Unlike other hummingbirds and swifts, giant archilochus can take off from the ground, making a high jump, but still prefers to live in trees and spends a lot of time in the air. These birds have a solid green plumage with a metallic sheen, especially on the belly, which makes them less noticeable against the sky when viewed from below and among the foliage when viewed from above. Like at the ancestor, males of this species have a ruby-red spot with a metallic sheen on the throat. Compared to its ancestor, it is a larger, stronger and hardier bird species, capable of doing long distances in a day. Its diet has also changed – it has relatively less amount of pollen and nectar and more invertebrates (even large ones), and also fruits and berries with soft flesh have appeared, which giant archilochus pecks without problems: by the standards of hummingbirds, its beak is wider, shorter and stronger. The main source of nectar for this species is cactus and agave flowers.
Giant archilochus nests on the territory of North America when it returns there in the spring, less often on islands of Caribbean Sea, if it has no opportunity to return to North America in proper time. This species does not form permanent pairs, but looks for a new nesting partner every year. In a cup-shaped or conical nest made of plant material on a thin tree branch, there are 2 white eggs. The female incubates them for about 2 weeks, and the male feeds her and drives away enemies with stabs of his pointed beak. 3 weeks later, the fledglings of this species take wing and by autumn they are ready to migrate south across the sea. Some of them do not fly to Central America, but remain on the islands, maintaining and vivifying populations of this species there. Young birds can already nest on wintering grounds, and more than half of adult birds capable of reproduction also manage to make a second brood there, and these young birds migrate to North America in spring.
The maximum lifespan of giant archilochus is 4 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Cactus glimmer hummingbird (Micrarchilochus cactobius)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Habitat: deserts and semi-deserts of Mexico, thickets of “old virgo” cactus.
In Neocene, hummingbirds from the Americas continue to compete for the brightest plumage and unusual appearance. Some species have mastered new habitats, and one of them is cactus glimmer hummingbird, a miniature inhabitant of deserts and semi-deserts of Mexico.
Body length of this bird is up to 7 cm. Another 2.5-3 cm falls on straight thin beak. Tail is short and fan-shaped. Wingspan is up to 13 cm. Legs are short, adapted only for perching on branches.
Like many other members of the family, cactus glimmer hummingbird has bright plumage: almost the entire body is pink with a metallic sheen, wings are blue, tail is light gray with black spots along the edge; on the head there is a shiny bright green “cap”. By the nesting season, females shed and get a dull color – grayish-green with dark green stripes on the head and back and numerous dark longitudinal strokes on head and throat feathers.
Cactus glimmer hummingbird lives in Mexican deserts and semi-deserts. During the day, it can fly very long distances in search of flowering desert plants. This species is not specialized for feeding on a certain kind of plants, and feeds on various species of desert plants as they bloom – more often on cacti, agaves and herbs of lily family. In winter, birds migrate to Central America and feed on flowers of mountain cacti. Cactus glimmer hummingbirds use water very efficiently, and therefore they can live in desert. At night, birds unite in flocks and sleep in various shelters, mainly among cacti. The enemies of this species are birds of prey, small mammals, snakes and lizards.
Breeding season of cactus glimmer hummingbird comes in spring, during the mass flowering of cacti. Males display on top of a cactus, usually an “old virgo” one, threatening each other with squeaking and trying to drive them off the cactus. When a pair is formed, male and female begin to build a nest together. To do it, both birds choose a bunch of cactus “hairs”, twist its tip so that it looks like a cup, and then glue this cup to the surface of the cactus with saliva and continue to weave it with neighboring hair strands, adding cobwebs and plant fibers. In this case, “hairs” growing above the nest cover the nest from the sun and mask it from predators. One cactus can carry up to 15 nests disguised in this way.
This species is monogamous. Female lays 2-3 eggs in the nest. At this time male flies to cactus flowers and sucks nectar, feeding a part of it to the female and pollinating the cactus in addition. After 2 weeks, nestlings hatch from the eggs. At first, the female protects nestlings from the scorching sun during the day and from the cold at night, while the male brings nectar for the whole family. As the juveniles grow, the female begins to leave the nest and feed them. After fledging, young birds leave the nest at the age of about 20 days, and the pair breaks up.
Life expectancy is up to 5 years, usually less.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

Yaremusi (Trochiliviator yaremusi)
Order: Apodiformes (Apodiformes)
Family: Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Habitat: forests of Venezuela, the Antilles, Florida.
In Neocene, the geography of the Central American region has undergone significant changes. The Panama Strait appeared, and the Antilles formed an intermittent land connection between the continents. In Neocene at the shores of Caribbean Sea, there is a small genus of wandering hummingbirds that make long migrations, including across the sea straits. They all descend from the species Colibri cyanotus, and one species of the genus is yaremusi.
This species is a small bird: the body length without a beak is 7-8 cm; the long beak adds 6-7 cm more. In the body shape this bird resembles an ancestral species – body of light build, not very long wings, pointed at the tips, small wide tail and small head. Legs are short, bird can perch on branches, but walks with difficulty. The wingspan is 13-14 cm. The basic body color is turquoise, belly is light yellow, primary and secondary feathers are pink. On the back edge of the tail there is a red stripe shaded with blue. There are three black cross smears on the chest. On head there is a blue “cap”, and throat is light green. Legs and beak are gray-blue.
Yaremusi is a migratory species. Every year they migrate along a single route in thousands of flocks. Yaremusi spends the winter in Venezuela, where these birds live in groups of 20-30 individuals at the same area of the forest. But at the beginning of the migration, yaremusi flocks unite into huge flocks that move from their homes and fly north along the chain of the Antilles. During flights across the sea, hummingbirds fly in fairly dense flocks, demonstrating the phenomenon of murmuration, so from the distance their flock looks like one living organism and takes bizarre outlines during the movement. Sometimes, during flights, birds do not find any food sources at all, so before the flight and at all stops these hummingbirds feed actively, accumulating large fat stocks. Flocks of birds break up over land, and birds migrate in small groups through the forests, uniting only before forcing water barriers.
After 2-3 weeks, yaremusi hummingbirds fly to North America, where they live in the same way as in South America. In the warm season, birds migrate further north and feed on the nectar of large herbaceous plants. In autumn, birds migrate back to South America.
Throughout the migration route, yaremusi hummingbirds feed on the nectar of various plant species. They play an important role in pollination of a wide variety of species, like other hummingbirds. Birds get protein by consuming small insects together with nectar. The enemies of these birds are tree snakes and lizards, and spiders and parasitic insects often attack their nestlings.
Yaremusi make two clutches per year – in South and North America. Male and female build a nest together of twigs, blades of grass, cobwebs and down. Both parents alternately incubate the clutch for 11-12 days. Nestlings are fed by both parents. After 2-3 weeks, young birds leave the nest. Life expectancy is up to 10 years.
Also in the north of South America a similar hummingbird species yaremuna (Trochiliviator yaremuna) lives. It is smaller (up to 5-6 cm long), and has red longitudinal stripes on the primary feathers; throat is light red. This species turns west during the flight along Greater Antigua and flies to Yucatan.
The names of these species mean “hummingbird” in Caribbean languages.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

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.

Finnish or diving kingfisher (Boreodacelo speciosus)
Order: Coraciiformes (Coraciiformes)
Family: Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Habitat: freshwater reservoirs of Northern Europe, wintering at the Fourseas and to the south of it.
The common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) was one of the bird species that relatively successfully survived in the human era. Its tropical relatives were significantly affected by human activity, but this species was quite widespread and retained a high number and a wide range. In Neocene, due to the warming of the climate, it settled further north, and the northernmost of its descendants lives in Scandinavia and on the Kola Peninsula. This is Finnish, or diving kingfisher.
Diving kingfisher is much larger than its ancestor, which is due to its inhabitation in a colder climate: the body length of Finnish kingfisher is about 40 cm, the wingspan is up to 70 cm. Finnish kingfisher has a very long pointed beak (about 17 cm) with a small hook on the upper jaw tip. Tail is quite short. Diving kingfisher also has elongated legs with large hooked claws. Wings are wide, but pointed at the tips. In its body shape the bird resembles its ancestor of the human era. The color of the plumage is very bright: against the background of other birds of Fennoscandia, Finnish kingfisher looks like a tropical bird. Back and upper part of wings are of various shades of blue with an expressed metallic luster. There are red cross stripes on primary feathers. Tail is turquoise, undertail is yellow. Belly and chest are reddish-orange with purple tips of feathers on the throat. On the crown and back of the head there is a dark green stripe stretching to the shoulders; sides of the head are red. Beak is dark gray, legs are pink. Sexual dimorphism in coloration is not pronounced.
Finnish kingfisher spends all the warm season on the Kola Peninsula and in Scandinavia. For housing, the bird uses either a hole dug independently in a steep riverbank, or a tree-trunk hollow. Diving kingfisher is active during the day, sleeping at night in its shelter. The bird is very territorial; it drives relatives from the territory, aggressively treats gulls and waders looking for food nearby.
This bird species is exclusively zoophagous. Its prey is very diverse: invertebrates (worms, mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic insects), small fish and amphibians. The bird hunts in several ways. Usually the Finnish kingfisher perches on the branch of a tree growing near the water and looks out for prey. When the bird sees it, it dives into the water, catches it with its beak and kills it by beating against the roost, or pecks it, pressing it to the roost with its foot and then eats it. Also, diving kingfisher can run along the river bottom against the current, like a dipper, peck small prey and swallow it immediately. For the kingfisher itself, some birds of prey are dangerous, and large fish and amphibians are in the water.
Finnish kingfisher is a migratory species; it winters on the shores of Fourseas and further south, and at the end of March it returns to the nest, unmistakably finding its own territory. The male digs out a new nest and displays himself in flight or by perching next to the nest. When the female makes her choice, the birds mate, and then the female lays 2-3 eggs in the nest without litter. Exclusively the female incubates them for a month while the male feeds her. When the nestlings hatch, the female warms them during the first days of life, and then leaves the nest and also begins to look for food for them. The nestlings grow quickly and leave the nest in the middle of summer. They differ from adults in their dull juvenile plumage, and their belly and chest are colored brown. Young birds feed on the parent territory, learn to catch prey, and at this time they are fed by their parents. The birds migrate independently, one by one; young birds sometimes migrate for the winter in groups, but return to the north alone.
Young birds become sexually mature by the following spring, although in the first years of nesting they rarely manage to occupy a good feeding area and feed the brood. Life expectancy is about 30 years.

This bird species was discovered by a Mamont, the forum member.

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.

Stiff-tailed, or wood-pecking parrot (Boreagapornis piciformis)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: North Africa, savannas, thickets of baobab opuntia.
In the human era, the scale of the introduction of alien species exceeded the natural rate of species exchange between continents by many orders of magnitude. Invasive species often caused damage to the natural flora and fauna of new habitats, and after the human disappearance continued to exist in new habitats. Their descendants became natural components of new Neocene ecosystems, and even began to play a leading role in communities. This is what happened to prickly pear cacti in the Old World. In North Africa of Neocene epoch, their descendant, baobab opuntia (Adansopuntia obesa), grows – it is a giant tree-like cactus, around which a specific community of living organisms has developed.
One of the bird species closely associated to baobab opuntia is stiff-tailed, or wood-pecking parrot, one of the descendants of the yellow-collared lovebird (Agapornis personatus) of Holocene epoch. It resembles outwardly the related parrot species: relatively large head, hooked beak and fan-shaped tail, but its habits are more like a woodpecker: it has tenacious paws, with which this bird can climb vertically along the trunk, and short but wide wings that allow maneuvering among the thorny tree branches. The bird’s tail seems ordinary at first glance, but the shafts of the tail feathers are very strong and thick, so it serves as a support for the bird when the parrot needs it. The bird’s beak is lacquer-red, rather massive, slightly jagged at the edges – denser and tougher areas stretch in strips in the corneous cover of the beak, which play the role of “teeth” when wearing out the corneous material of the beak.
This bird has a discreet body color – brown head, back and wings, green chest, belly and tail. Stiff-tailed parrot has a ring of yellow feathers on its neck – it is a remnant of the yellow plumage areas of the ancestral species. Body length of this bird reaches 30 cm, the wingspan is up to 50 cm.
The specific appearance indicates that the parrot is a “homebird” and does not like to fly far away from fodder trees. This bird spends almost entire its life among tree-like baobab opuntias, less often among other tree species of African savannas and semi-deserts, and does not fly far from them, avoiding the dangers of the savanna. Stiff-tailed parrot feeds on various insects that settle under the bark and in the wood of baobab opuntia and other trees, including large grubs. A specific kind of food is large tree-dwelling zulal beetles (Moneilema zulal) living in the wood of baobab opuntia and their larvae. This is a rather specific food, because these insects are poisonous, and birds have adapted to neutralize their poison. In addition, some of the metabolites accumulate in the tissues of the bird, making its meat inedible. Such a diet has a side effect: the life expectancy of these parrots is less than that of related species of similar size, but sexual maturity occurs already at the age of 6-8 months. A significant part of the bird’s diet consists of cactus fruits, which the bird easily bites. With a lack of food of animal origin, the bird feeds on fresh cactus shoots, eating the pulp out of them.
The mating season is not pronounced at this parrot: its main food is available all year round. During the year, the breeding pair nests up to 2 times. These parrots nest in tree hollows – with their powerful beaks they easily gnaw out hollows and even tunnels in the thickness of the soft wood of the treelike cactus. The nest is quite primitive – it is a pile of twigs and grass stems, which the birds drag into the hollow and spread in a layer along the walls. This species is monogamous, pairs are formed for life. Colonies of several dozen breeding pairs are formed in trees convenient for nesting.
At the bottom of the nest, the female lays two or three whitish-pink eggs, and both parents hatch them in turn for 31 days. Then blind and naked nestlings hatch from the eggs, but after a couple of weeks they open their eyes and grow white down, and after another 6 weeks they leave the nest and are able to fly. They stay with their parents for another 2-3 weeks, and adult birds finish feeding them. Infant mortality level in this bird is also quite high, and at least half of the nestlings and fledg;ings of stiff-tailed parrot die before reaching adulthood.
The maximum lifespan of stiff-tailed parrot is up to 8 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Arafura mangrove parakeet (Mangropsitta lacustris)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: Arafura Lake, mangrove forests.
In the age of man, Australia was one of the centers of species diversity of parrots. At the end of the human epoch, the diversity of parrots decreased due to the destruction of tropical forests and climate change, but in the early Neocene it recovered approximately to the level of the pre-human epoch. Neocene parrots often occupy new ecological niches not previously occupied by these birds. Some species of parrots live in a vast zone of mangrove forests separating Arafura Lake in northern Meganesia from the ocean. One of these species, Arafura mangrove parakeet, is found exclusively in this habitat. It comes from one of the species of rosella (Platycercus) – a common genus of parakeets of Australia in the human era.
Arafura mangrove parakeet is a medium-sized bird: its body length including its tail is about 50 cm. The tail is about half the total length of the bird.
The coloration of this parrot is quite noticeable, although it lacks bright spots. Bird has a golden-green back, chest, neck and back of the head. The wing coverts have a black center; they form a characteristic “scaly” pattern on the folded wings of the bird. Primary feathers are black with a narrow green border along the front edge and with green tips. The tail consists of narrow long feathers; the middle four feathers are of the same length and blue in color, other tail feathers are bluish-green. The undertail contrasts in color with the tail feathers – it is rusty-red in color.
Against the background of the head plumage, a white beak outlooks, shaded by a black “mask” on the front of the head. This species does not have a crest. Beak is relatively large compared to ancestral forms, of crushing type.
This bird feeds mainly on seedlings and leaves of mangrove trees, as well as on seeds of palm trees and pandanus (screw palms). Arafura mangrove parrot receives a significant part of the necessary fresh water from vegetative food. The addition to the diet are small invertebrates that live in mangrove forests – mollusks and small crabs, which birds gather at low tide on the roots of mangrove trees.
Outside of nesting, this bird migrates in the mangrove forests in flocks of 20-30 birds. At high tide, this parrot feeds in the crowns of trees, at low tide it descends to the roots and gathers invertebrates. After the rain, birds willingly drink fresh rainwater accumulated on the surface of the channels.
These parrots are monogamous; the pair persists for several nesting cycles, and often for life. During the nesting period, flocks break up or ready-to-nest pairs separate from them, occupying their own territory. Like most parrots, this species nests in tree-trunk hollows. If the found hollow is small, the pair expands it with their beaks, digging up the wood and throwing chips out. There are 2 clutches of 4-6 eggs per year. The parents feed the offspring for three months, after which they nest again two months later. There are usually fewer eggs in the second clutch than in the first one.
Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 14-16 months, life expectancy is usually no more than 5-6 years.

The idea of the existence of this bird species was proposed by Timothy Donald Morris, Adelaide, Australia.

Phantom parakeet (Nocturnopsitta phantomica)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True 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.

Wood-breaking parakeet (Psittopicus trachyrhamphus)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: New Zealand, forests of various types.
The fauna of New Zealand has suffered significantly due to the introducing of various mammals and birds in the human era. The Neocene fauna of the islands is dominated by descendants of introduced species, which turned out to be much more competitive in relation to local species. Only a few New Zealand animals (especially among vertebrates) are descendants of native species.
The fauna of New Zealand initially lacked woodpeckers, widespread across the rest of the globe (except for Australia (Meganesia) and Antarctica). People did not bring introduce these birds to New Zealand and their ecological niche was empty for a long time. But in due course of evolution, one of the local parakeet species got a good chance of survival by mastering the nutrition of tree-boring insects. However, unlike woodpeckers, this parakeet does not peck wood, but gnaws it with a very hard and wide beak. For this feature, the bird was named wood-breaking parakeet.
It is a small bird species: body length of an adult is 25-30 cm, the weight is about 85 grams. The parakeet seems larger because of its long tail.
Wood-breaking parakeet inhabits forests in which there are large numbers of old trees affected by woodworm insects. It is a very cautious bird, skillfully hiding its presence. It is very difficult to notice a wood-breaking parakeet perching on a tree: its plumage is colored to merge with the color of tree bark – it is brown with a pattern of dark longitudinal strokes. The secondary feathers are gray with black cross stripes; they are visible only during flight and serve as an identification signal for relatives. This kind of bird prefers to perch not on branches, but on the trunk of a tree, and climbs the branches, holding its body not across, but along the branch. In this way it resembles large tropical nightjars. The bird has very tenacious paws, covered on the underside with lateral corneous combs, allowing it to hold on to the bark without much effort. Tail feathers also have adaptations for climbing trees – the shafts of the tail feathers are rigid, and their tips jut out of the vane and serve for support.
Wood-breaking parakeets are strict monogams. During the nesting period, each pair occupies a large area of forest (up to three square kilometers) and protects it from the invasion of relatives. To signal them, they use a bright spot – a white crest of slightly elongated feathers. At rest, however, it is hidden by a “cap” of elongated feathers of camouflage color. This adaptation allows it to give signals to relatives: by raising the crest, the parakeet makes white feathers visible from afar. Outside of the nesting season, birds gather in flocks of up to a dozen birds and wander through vast forests, never staying anywhere for a long time. Sexual dimorphism is not pronounced in this species.
Wood-breaking parakeet usually feeds on trees with dried branches or on dying trees already damaged by insects. This species, unlike most parrots, is predominantly insectivorous; it eats beetles and large grubs. It extracts them from the thickness of the wood with a long tongue equipped with bristles, vaguely similar to the woodpecker’s tongue. The tongue of woo-breaking parakeet can stick out of its mouth at a distance almost twice the length of the bird’s head. Due to the flexibility of the tongue, the parakeet can examine the winding passages of woodworm insects.
These birds become sedentary and stick to a certain territory only during the nesting season, which takes place in September-December (spring and early summer in the Southern Hemisphere). Like most parrots, this species nests in tree-trunk hollows. The female lays 4-6 eggs directly on the bottom of the hollow without litter and incubates them for 18-20 days. The male feeds the female at this time and protects the territory from relatives. Nestlings hatch featherless and blind; being about ten days old, they open eyes and at the age of one month they fledge. They develop rapidly, and become independent at the age of 2 months. The life span of this species is about 12 years.

The idea of the existence of this bird species was expressed by Nick, the forum member.

Chatham digging parakeet (Speopsitta moriori)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: Chatham Islands.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

To the southeast of the main islands of New Zealand, there is a small Chatham archipelago (the locals – the Moriori people – called it Rekohu, which meant “misty skies” in their language). By the beginning of Neocene, the fauna of these islands was severely depleted by human activity and the ice age that came at the end of Holocene. However, in Neocene, when the climate became more favorable, the fauna of Chatham restored the diversity of species. One of the unusual inhabitants of the archipelago is Chatham digging parakeet.
Birds of this species are remarkable in their strong constitution and large size (body length is 50 cm, weight is up to 2 kg), which makes them look a little like Holocene parrots kakapo (Strigops). However, in this case, the external similarity is deceptive: by their origin, Chatham digging parakeets are not related to kakapo in any way; they descended from the eastern rosella (Platycercus eximius), an Australian parrot introduced to New Zealand by people. After the human extinction and the end of the ice age, the descendants of this bird, developed various habitats of the main islands of the archipelago, settled to more southern islands.
Chatham parakeets lead mainly a terrestrial lifestyle, which has left its mark on the appearance of this bird species. They are distinguished from most parrots by well-developed strong legs with rather long toes, which not only allow them to run fast, but also serve to dig up the ground and forest litter in search of food. Other characteristic features of the digging parakeet’s appearance include a powerful beak and a relatively short vedge-shaped tail. Wings of Chatham parakeets are not very large and have a rounded shape. The Chatham Islands are home to animals that are dangerous to these birds, so they have not lost the ability to fly, although they usually walk on the ground. In case of danger, they try to hide among plants or run away, but in extreme cases they fly vertically upwards, like gallinaceous birds.
In its coloration, Chatham parakeet is very different from the rosella, its brightly colored ancestor. The main color of its plumage is dark yellowish-green. Throat and cheeks are white; a wide bright red stripe runs over the beak. There are numerous black speckles on the back; the uppertail coverts are light brown. The eyes of Chatham parakeets are black, beak is light gray and paws are dark gray. Male differs from female in slightly brighter plumage.
Chatham digging parakeets have a rather pleasant voice, and they are very “talkative”: birds often communicate with each other, uttering soft whistling and creaking sounds. Louder whistles are used in courtship ceremonies and to alert relatives of danger.
The food of these birds is mainly vegetative: seeds and vegetative parts of grasses and shrubs, as well as flowers, berries, fruits and mushrooms. They mostly gather food on the ground, but, using their beak and paws, they can climb low into trees for seeds and fruits. Terrestrial mollusks and soft insects, brought by parents, also play an important role in nestling feeding.
Outside of the breeding season, digging parakeets lead a collective lifestyle, gathering in wandering groups of 15-20 birds – it increases the safety and efficiency of food search. These birds are characterized by daytime activity, and they spend the night low in trees or (during the breeding season) in burrows. Sometimes flocks of Chatham parakeets follow large local birds – barocygnuses.
The Chatham Islands are located in high latitudes, so the birds inhabiting them have a pronounced seasonality of reproduction. The courtship season of Chatham parakeets begins in December, which corresponds to the beginning of summer in the Southern hemisphere. Groups of birds break up into pairs – many of which, thanks to the emotional attachment of partners, persist for decades – and move to nesting sites. The formation of a pair is preceded by a courtship ceremony: the male walks around the female in circles, opening his tail and lowering his wings and she begs for food from him. This “spectacle” is performed both by couples forming for the first time, and by birds who have been living together for a long time.
The nest is arranged in a hole, which depth sometimes reaches 1.5 meters – birds can dig it out on their own, using their paws and beaks, or use abandoned burrows of rodents and seabirds. In rare cases, Chatham parakeets nest in low-lying tree hollows, and inexperienced couples may try to lay eggs simply in a small depression on the ground (in the latter case, the clutch is almost always doomed to damage). A good burrow often causes quarrels between pairs of birds: the owners of such a dwelling have to defend their right to it from the encroachments of other family couples. In fights between relatives, beaks, blows with wings and paws and “chicken style” throwing ground are used. Much more fiercely, although using the same techniques, Chatham parakeets protect their offspring from predators and ravagers.
There are up to three white eggs in the clutch of these birds, their incubation lasts up to 28 days. The female incubates mainly, and the male is responsible for supplying her with food. After hatching the nestlings, they are fed by both parents. At the age of 45 days, young birds can already fly and feed themselves. After the end of the breeding season, adult birds and their offspring unite in small groups again. Thus, young individuals usually do not leave their parents until the next breeding season. They will be able to reproduce only after reaching the age of three years.
The only inhabitant of Chatham – a large predatory rat – represents a danger to adult birds, although eggs and nestlings can also be attacked by smaller rodents and omnivorous birds, such as gulls or false ravens.
Chatham digging parakeets are long-lived birds. The usual life expectancy is 40 years, and in record cases it reaches 55 years.

This bird species was discovered by Simon, the forum member.

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.

Basket-making parrot (Megagapornis architector)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: Madagascar, dry forests in the western part of the island, in river valleys.
In the human epoch, among the most successful inhabitants of Madagascar there were lovebirds (Agapornis). These small birds were able to live in a man-altered landscape and did not depend on the presence of old trees with hollows for reproduction, because they were able to make nests themselves. Their small size allowed them to preserve quite numerous populations in conditions of strong fragmentation of habitable landscapes. A significant part of the Madagascar parrots of Neocene epoch descends from lovebirds. The most impressive among them are large false macaws (Pseudarara), but these birds are not the only descendants of lovebirds – in the forests and savannas of the island various parrots live, ranging in size from small to quite large ones.
The dry forests to the west of the island’s mountain ranges are inhabited by one of these species – a large basket-making parrot. It is crow-sized bird with a short tail, wide wings and a massive beak. The background color of the plumage of this species is emerald green, only on the rump there is a patch of white feathers. The bird’s head stands out vividly against this background: it is red and white, with a red “mask” and a white crown and nape. The bird’s beak is light gray. Male and female almost do not differ in color: the female has only a little more white color in the coloration of the head, and less red one. Also, the female has a larger white spot on the rump: its display serves as a signal for mating. Legs are featherless, dark gray in color.
Palm seeds and hard-shelled nuts compose a food for these birds, but up to a third of their diet consists of soft fruits and the tops of tree shoots. Sometimes these parrots eat food of animal origin – insects and snails. And due to their powerful beaks, they are able to split the bones of large vertebrates in search of bone marrow, so they can often be seen waiting in line around feasting predators. They need food of animal origin mainly during the feeding of offspring.
These parrots live in stable pairs. For nesting, this species builds a large twiggen nest, often intertwining branches of living trees. Birds interweave them with twigs and fibers cut from palm trunks, arranging a nest up to one meter in diameter among the branches. Such a nest turns out to be very durable, and with regular repairs it serves for several years in a row. After parrots, owls, small herons and bats often settle in such nests. The nest chamber is lined with dry grass and palm fiber. Basket-making parrot nests in colonies of several dozen pairs, occupying several trees growing next to each other.
In a clutch, there are 4-5 eggs with a white shell; the female incubates mainly. Incubation lasts 20 days, young birds spend 2 months in the nest, fledging and eating off. Young birds, leaving the nest, weigh up to 1500 g, exceeding the weight of their parents. They differ from adult birds in plumage color: there are no white areas in the plumage, and the red color is replaced with reddish-brown. Beaks of young birds are dark gray. They learn to fly over the next few days and begin to accompany their parents in search of food. At the age of one year, young birds get adult plumage color, and two-year-old birds form breeding pairs and nest. The life expectancy of this species reaches 50 years.
The mating ritual includes mutual feeding and preening. A peculiar feature of the mating ritual is the male sticking grass into his plumage of the back and displaying it to the female with outstretched wings and tail upraised. This is an echo of the method of carrying of building material to the nest, characteristic of small lovebirds. The formed pair of birds jointly builds a nest, or repairs an old one. Usually, if the old nest is occupied by a heron or owl, parrots prefer to build a new nest. Nevertheless, parrots do not try to expel the owl from the colony, since its presence scares away terrestrial and arboreal predators.

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.

New Azora parakeet (Azoropsitta macaronesiensis)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: New Azora, forests of various types.
One of the hallmarks of human epoch was the mass appearance of various biological species in places where they could not settle naturally for various reasons. In Neocene, the descendants of many of these species became part of the newly formed ecosystems. One of the species that in Holocene appeared in a place where it had not been before is the rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri) introduced from India to Europe. Moreover, its number was very high, and in Neocene in Europe its descendants exist. In early Neocene, the descendants of the rose-ringed parakeet managed to colonize New Azora island, where they turned into a separate species – New Azora parakeet.
On the island, the parakeet has undergone some changes: it has become a larger, crow-sized bird. Its legs have become much longer, and the tail is shorter than that of the ancestor. The bird spends quite a lot of time on the ground in search of food and is a good walker. Its claws are blunted compared to arboreal parakeets. Plumage is green with a lighter belly. The color of the tail is red in males, brownish in females. Beak is brightly colored: the upper mandible is gray, the lower mandible is yellow. Due to such a bright color of the beak, birds notice each other at a great distance in the semi-darkness of the undergrowth. Around the eyes there is a narrow area of bare red skin.
These parakeets live in flocks of 15-25 birds in the forests of the island, preferring the growing places of trees with edible fruits (mainly of the heather family), and rarely leave the inhabited territories. Birds feed in the crowns of trees, or walk on the ground and gather fallen fruits, clearly preferring to eat large fruits with a soft peel. Large piles of droppings accumulate under the trees where the New Azora parakeets live. After passing through the intestines of the bird, the seeds germinate, and in such places the entire undergrowth is occupied by young trees. Small birds make nests in these dense thickets, and it is also a good place for insects to live. Parakeets are tolerant of small birds and do not conflict with them. Their enemies are local mammals – mustelids and hedgehogs, and birds – large barn owls. To protect against them, parakeets gather in a large flock and vocalize loudly, simultaneously attacking the enemy and mobbing it for a long time.
Parakeets of this species nest in tree hollows, or dig holes in steep sea shores, where the soil is strengthened with tree roots. The female lays up to 5 pinkish eggs and incubates them for about 3 weeks. Birds feed their offspring with a semi-digested pulp of fruits and seeds. At the age of 4 months, young birds fly out of the nest; they reach sexual maturity at the age of 4 years. Life expectancy is up to 50 years, but many birds die earlier.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

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.

Greater monkey parrot (Tardipsittacus pithecinus)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: Eonesia, Burotu Islands.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

In Neocene, Eonesia islands represent one of the few places on Earth whose fauna was formed in natural way. They were formed after the human disappearance, and their settling occurred solely due to the own capabilities of living organisms to settle and colonize new habitats. Therefore, the fauna of Eonesia islands bears all those features of originality that were lost as a result of human introducing of alien species to the islands in the historical era. Flightless birds, sometimes very peculiar, are often found on these islands.
In the fauna of the Burotu Islands there are very peculiar birds – parrots that have lost the ability to fly. In the dense forests of the islands, they occupy an ecological niche roughly corresponding to primates. Their representative is a greater monkey parrot, a large bird leading an arboreal lifestyle. The weight of an adult is up to 4 kg: a bird is the size of a large rooster, only with a proportionally larger head and a massive beak. Wings of this species are developed, but have greatly decreased in size. Due to the large stomach, the size of the sternum has greatly decreased, and the flight muscles are weak. Because of it, the ability to fly in this species is limited to gliding from one tree to another, without flapping wings. In its way of life, the bird resembles hoatzin (Opisthocomus) of the human epoch. Tail is wedge-shaped, with very dense and stiff feathers, slightly resembling the woodpecker’s tail. While climbing trees, the tail is used as an additional support.
The main color of the plumage is dark green, orange on the back and at the base of the tail; there is a white spot in the lower part of the head and throat.
In contrast to the wings, the legs are very well developed and proportionally larger than those of parrots of ordinary appearance. The tarsometatarsus and toes are covered with bare gray skin. Claws are pointed and hooked, with their help the bird climbs trees and grabs food. The lower surface of the toes is covered with numerous corneous spikes that improve grip with the support. Greater monkey parrot is able to climb trees, and with the help of strong legs it jumps from one branch to another without the help of wings. Sometimes, when a bird jumps unsuccessfully, it grabs a branch with its beak and only then pulls up and clings with its paws. Sometimes this parrot can hang from the support and get food with its beak or another paw in a hanging position.
This species has a very strong crushing beak of gray color, darker at the base. Greater monkey parrot feeds mainly on hard seeds and fruits with large kernels. It supplements the diet with young foliage, which it “chews” before swallowing. Marks of its feeding are very characteristic – these are branches, the ends of which seem to have been cut off with a sharp knife.
Greater monkey parrots are strict monogamous; the pair persists for life. The mating ritual is very simple: the male pursues the female he likes in the tree crowns, displaying his dexterity to her at the same time. An important role in the formation of a pair is played by the personal sympathies of birds – the female treats aggressively the male she does not like. An established pair of birds spends a lot of time preening and feeding together. Birds mark claims to the feeding area with loud calls.
The nesting of this species occurs exclusively in the hollows of old trees, so the birds avoid areas of young forest. If necessary, the pair gnaws out a hollow of the proper size in rotting wood, eaten away by insects. Reproduction rate is very slow. There are two eggs in the clutch, but the pair usually manages to rear only one chick. Incubation lasts 23-24 days; nestlings hatch naked and blind. The young bird fledges completely at the age of 80-82 days, leaves the nest at the 120th day of life and migrates through the forest with its parents for about 2 months. Sexual maturity comes at the age of 5 years. Life expectancy is up to 60-70 years.
In the forests of Burotu there is a more common lesser monkey parrot (Tardipsittacus versicolor). Obviously, it lost the ability to fly on each of the islands independently, after settling across the archipelago. The weight of this bird reaches 1 kilogram, in proportions it resembles its larger relative. The ability to fly is limited to gliding between trees. The plumage is light green, wings and tail are dark brown, and back is reddish-orange. There is no white spot on the throat. On different islands there are different color morphs, differing in the presence and shades of color marks in the background color of the plumage. This species has greater fertility and a faster rate of reproduction – a couple raises two chicks in one nesting cycle, sexual maturity occurs at the age of 2 years. This species feeds exclusively on fruits and large seeds.

Large-billed infantopsitta (Infantopsitta raphomima)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Habitat: Eonesia, Burotu Islands.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov, colorization by Biolog.

In Neocene, the consequences of human intervention in the natural balance still remain in the fauna of the Earth – it is a significant number of species that are descendants of alien invaders, purposefully or accidentally introduced by people to new habitats. The amount of such species is especially high among the representatives of the island fauna. “Uncontaminated’ island fauna is found only on those islands that appeared after the human disappearance. Such places include the large Eonesia archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. Here, in due course of evolution, true island species arose, resembling the typical fauna of the islands of the Earth before human colonization.
A peculiar bird species lives in the forests of the central island of Burotu archipelago – large-billed infantopsitta, a ground-dwelling parrot. It is a bird of a heavy constitution, completely lost the ability to fly and resembles a dodo (Raphus), exterminated in human era. The process of transition to terrestrial life in this species has gone even further than in kakapo (Strigops) and Mauritian broad-billed parrot (Lophopsittacus) of human era. The evolution of infantopsitta followed the path of neoteny and the preservation of infantile features – in this respect this species resembles dodo of the human era: adult birds retain the features of the juvenile in appearance. In this species, wings are greatly reduced, although they still retain all the wing bones typical of flying birds. The plumage has changed, having lost the features characteristic for flying birds: it has become soft; the feathers are loose, more like wool. There are several shortened primary feathers in the wings; tail is wedge-shaped, represented by several elongated pointed feathers.
Adult infantopsitta weighs up to 8 kg. This species has strong legs with massive bones, adapted for walking. Bird can walk for a long time and, if necessary, run quickly for short distances, but it brings food to its beak with difficulty, without showing the dexterity of its ancestors. Toes are covered with calluses from below and have thick blunted claws that allow digging holes.
A characteristic feature of the appearance of this species is a massive black beak. It allows the bird to crush the fruit kernels. Also, this parrot digs edible plant roots with its beak and legs. A significant part of the diet of infantopsitta consists of plant fruits and succulent leaves of low-growing plants. Small seeds are not digested by the bird and fall with its droppings into the ground, where they germinate.
Male and female do not differ from each other in coloration; male is slightly smaller, with a larger beak. The background color of the plumage is green with a white "mask" around the beak and eyes. Back has a brownish hue, there is a dark brown half-ring on the neck, interrupted in front.
Infantopsitta is a strict monogamist; couples are formed for life. Male and female constantly stay together, communicating with sound signals. The voice of this parrot resembles a throat grunt; in case of irritation or fright, the bird utters a loud unpleasant cry.
This species nests in wide burrows, which it digs under the roots of plants. Preparing for nesting, the male chooses a secluded place in the forest and begins to dig a hole, loosening the ground with his beak and raking it away with legs. He invites the female to join the nest arrangement with nodding head movements and “cooing”. The rate of reproduction in the infantopsitta is very slow. Nesting takes place once a year; there is only one egg in the clutch, which is alternately incubated by both parents. There is no nest litter in the burrow. Incubation lasts about 30 days. If the egg turns out to be unfertilized or lost during incubation, the birds undertake a new clutch only after 2-3 months. The nestling hatches featherless and blind, stays in the nest for up to 3 months. In the first weeks of its life, the female stays in the nest for a long time and takes care of it. A young bird spends the first 3-4 months of life with its parents, then begins to lead an independent life and unites in bachelor groups with other relatives. New pairs are formed within such groups.
Sexual maturity in this species occurs at the 5th year of life, life expectancy is up to 60 years.

Long-billed Lorikeet (Neotrichoglossus vocifer)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: Parakeets and Lories (Psittaculidae)

Habitat: Different forested areas throughout eastern Meganesia, extending from temperate forests of Great Dividing Range, through to tropical rainforests of the north of the continent.
Numerous kinds of parrots saw their extinction during the late Holocene, due to pressure from the pet trade and habitat loss, but many less pretentious kinds prospered alongside man, and so leave descendants in the Neocene. Lorikeets (Trichoglossus) proved their viability by easily living off ornamental trees commonly used by man.
The Long-billed Lorikeet is descended from this genus, and has further adapted to feeding on the nectar and pollen of flowers, such as wattles, acacia, bottlebrush and eucalypt, in the north of their range they feed from various unspecialized rainforest flowers, they will also eat the pulp of fruit. Their bill is less parrot-shaped than its ancestor, being conical for reaching into flowers, the lower jaw is deep and wedge shaped in order to house a large, brush-like tongue which is even more extensive than its ancestor and can be extended further. It is a medium sized parrot, reaching up to 30 centimetres long. The head is a bright purplish blue, turning to bright red on the shoulders and chest, which is orange tinged further towards the underside, the belly is dark blue. Wings and back are colored bright orange red with the primaries being a dark green, scalloped with brownish orange. The bill is yellow-orange and the iris of the eye is red. Males and females are not dimorphic, and are identical in size and colour.
These birds are very social, forming large loose flocks which travel from tree to tree feeding on flowers; they are exclusively diurnal and make a good deal of noise, mostly high pitched squealing and squawking. Breeding occurs from August to January, the nest is made usually in tree hollows or ledges, 2 to 3 eggs are laid which incubate for up to 25 days, the female exclusively sits on the eggs. A single tree may contain more than one breeding pair. Individuals usually pair for a long time, usually for life.
A closely related species is the Rainforest Lorikeet (Skoupaglossa splendida), found in the rainforests of Northern Meganesia. Smaller than its relative, it measures only 20 centimeters long. It differs by a longer more curved bill which contains a much longer, broom shaped tongue, this species is intermediate in form between Long Billed Lorikeet, and south-east Asian species of the genus Florilorius (Loreetos). The head and shoulders are bright purple with a green back and tail; these feathers are scalloped with yellow. Wings are bluish green scalloped with olive green. This species feeds specifically on various large specialized rainforest flowers that the Long-Billed Lorikeet is unable to feed on, competition to feed on these flowers is usually high and thus this species is not as social as its relative. Breeding occurs in the drier months and is generally similar to its relative.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Donald Morris, Adelaida, Australia.

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.

Drummer cockatoo, red-headed parrot (Paracacatua erythrocephala)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: Cockatoos (Cacatuidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Meganesia (north and east of the continent).
Most large parrots became extinct along with other large tropical birds during the anthropogenic crisis as a result of human persecution, habitat destruction and climate change during the Holocene-Neocene glaciation. Among the few large parrots that survived the end of the glaciation there were some cockatoos – characteristic birds of Australian zoogeographic realm. Several specialized species have appeared among the Neocene cockatoos, but there are species of a more typical appearance. One of these parrots is a drummer cockatoo, a descendant of the palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus).
This species belongs to the number of large parrots: the body length is about 1 m, the tail is 32 cm. The wingspan reaches 160 cm. The plumage color is black with a greenish tint, especially intense on the wings and tail, head is red with a black nape and a movable feather crest, which has an intense green tint. Drummer cockatoo is a sociable bird that lives and feeds in pairs that last for life. A characteristic feature of the bird’s appearance is a strong disproportionately large beak, which allows it to feed on hard seeds of palm trees and nuts, as well as dry seeds of acacias and other plants. Beetles and snails are an addition to the diet. When foraging, the bird deftly crunches the shells of nuts and peels the bark from the branches. If necessary, the bird is able to break wood with its beak. Birds communicate with each other with murmuring sounds and separate calls; the alarm signal is creaky and sharp. The enemies of this bird are mainly feathered predators; drummer cockatoo protects itself from snakes with bites. The bite of a bird’s beak is capable of crushing the limb bones of a predatory mammal.
The mating season has no pronounced seasonality. Birds nest in old hollows, expanding them according to their own needs. At the same time, courtship resembles that of an ancestor – the male bites off a tree branch, claws into the bark of a tree or perches on a branch near a hollow and knocks this branch against the trunk at the hollow in a certain rhythm. Each male has his own rhythm of beats, and the competitions of young males for a female resemble the roll of drums in the forest. When a female appears, the intensity of the drumming increases. Preening the mate’s plumage is a sign of sympathy and trust between nesting partners.
This bird species reproduces quite slowly. Drummer cockatoo’s clutch usually has one egg with a white or slightly bluish shell. In case of destruction of the clutch, the female lays a new egg after 2-3 weeks. Incubation lasts about 30 days, and at the age of 10-12 weeks, the juvenile flies out of the nest and stays under the care of parents for up to 4-5 months. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 6 years. The slow rate of reproduction is compensated by the significant longevity of the bird – the life expectancy can reach 90-100 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Cut-throat Digging Cockatoo (Geocacatua cepaphaga)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: Cockatoos (Cacatuidae)

Habitat: Savannahs and bushy plains of central and southern Meganesia.
Parrots were one of the great success stories of Australia during the Holocene, these included lories, parakeets and cockatoos, and mankind became fond of them too, keeping them as pets. Cockatoos were particularly diverse in Australia, and remain so in the Neocene, despite some previous conflicts with mankind over crops.
The Cut-throat Digging Cockatoo is a descendant of the Long Billed Corella (Cacatua (Licmetis) tenuirostris), and is broadly similar in habits and size. They reach 38 centimetres in length, with a wingspan of up to 80 centimetres and a weight of 550 grams. Outwardly they partly resemble both Galah and Corella, being yellowish white with a bright pink head, which bears a red stripe across its throat (giving it its name), undersides of wings are yellow and bases of chest and belly feathers are pink. Beak is pale and the skin around the eye is puffy and bright blue. The beak greatly resembles that of its ancestor, but slightly wider, with a weak hook shape and the upper jaw overhanging the lower, forming a digging implement.
These birds feed mainly by digging in the ground with their beak, in search of roots, seeds and bulbs of various grasses and weeds. They travel in flock of up to 30, which may merge with neighbouring flocks to form large congregations, which settle on open areas of grassland and sod. These birds are very destructive not only in feeding but habitually to wear their bill down, and may tear at dead or live wood to occupy themselves. Its call is a wavering screech when communicating, or otherwise a harsh screech. They are diurnal, and socialize a good deal in the early evening and late afternoon.
Breeding takes place from August to November, male and female pair for life and share the nest making and incubating duties. The nest is generally made in the hollow of a living or dead tree, and lined with plant debris and decayed wood, these birds may extend these cavities by chewing and scraping them with their beaks. 2 to 3 eggs are laid and incubation takes up to 23 days, chicks spend about 52 days in the nest. Lifespan is considerate and can range into several decades, as long as 70 or 80 years in some cases but usually shorter, predators include large raptorial birds as well as some kinds of predatory marsupial.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Donald Morris, Adelaida, Australia.

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.

Hatoyoku (Barotreron phyllophagus)
Order: Doves (Columbiformes)
Family: Doves (Columbidae)

Habitat: Japan Islands, lowland evergreen forests in the southern part of the archipelago.
The evolution of living organisms on isolated islands can lead to the appearing of living creatures of unusual appearance, which may occupy unusual ecological niches. In the evergreen forests in the south of Japan Islands, one of these peculiar species lives – large hatoyoku pigeon, descended from one species of green pigeons (Treron) of the human era. An adult bird of this species weighs about 2 kg – about the size of a chicken, hence the name of the bird, meaning “rooster pigeon” in Japanese; the wingspan is up to 120 cm. Hatoyoku retains the characteristic appearance of pigeons, adjusted only for the large size of the bird. In this species, the background color of the plumage is grassy-green, with a faint bronze sheen on the neck in males; the secondary feathers are black with white tips, clearly visible during flight. Legs are bare, of meaty red color. Beak is deep and wide, black with a white cere; mouth is wide. Birds of both sexes have light yellow eyes with a round pupil and bright pink eyelids.
This species inhabits exclusively evergreen forests in the southern part of the archipelago, because it has a special food specialization – it feeds mainly on young leaves of trees. Such food specialization has led to changes in the anatomy of the internal organs of hatoyoku. The crop of this bird is very voluminous; it allows this bird to process a large volume of greenery at the same time with the help of numerous symbiotic bacteria. A partial fermentation of fiber occurs in the crop, which continues in the long intestine. Due to the large body weight, hatoyoku flies reluctantly and for a short time, mainly flying from one tree to another and occasionally flying over narrow rivers. An additional factor that reduces the bird’s ability to fly is a highly developed crop, due to which the size of the sternum and the flying muscles attached to it has decreased. This species feeds on the leaves of various trees, mainly eating soft young leaves at the tips of branches. Hatoyoku is able to climb trees deftly and cling to branches with the help of rough corneous pads on the underside of its toes.
When digesting food, hatoyoku alternates periods of active feeding with periods of inactivity, when food is processed in the crop. At this time, bird prefers to hide in the foliage, next to the trunk of a tree. Defending itself from the enemy, hatoyoku spits out a stream of semidigested feed from the crop into it. If the enemy gets too close, hatoyoku turns back to it and shoots stinky sticky droppings. The bird flies away from the enemy only in case of extreme danger: hatoyoku is able to fly no more than 200-300 meters at a time, after which it must rest. This bird flies very poorly against the wind and prefers to wait out storms on a tree or among rocks, firmly clutching the support with its paws.
At this species, a pair is formed for life. During the courtship display, the male coos in front of the female, greatly inflating the crop, and the skin on his eyelids is filled with blood, which makes the eyelids become clearly visible; warty growths appear on them. The displaying male spreads his tail like a fan and lowers his wings, making visible the bright color of the secondary feathers.
Hatoyoku arranges a large nest in the upper part of the tree crown. Birds build it from broken branches and twigs heaped into the fork of the branches, renewing it every year if the nest has not been occupied by birds of other species. There are 2 eggs in the clutch, only the female incubates. The male feeds her with a leaf pulp partially processed in the crop. Incubation lasts about 20 days. Nestlings are naked and blind, at the age of one week they grow a coverof thin down and fully develop at the age of 40-45 days. They are fed with crop milk, later they switch to eating fermented leaves. Birds nest twice a year. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 1 year, life expectancy is about 15 years.

The anonymus from Dobrochan helped to clarify the name of the bird.

Owl-pigeon (Tytomimus tytomimus)
Order: Doves (Columbiformes)
Family: Doves (Columbidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Jakarta Coast and Southeast Asia.
In the nature of Neocene epoch, many examples of cryptic coloration and mimicry can be found, which are demonstrated by representatives of various groups of living organisms. This survival tactic was widely known on the Earth in the human epoch, and became equally widespread in the subsequent epoch.
One of the species demonstrating this kind of adaptation is large pigeon species that lives in the tropical forest canopy of Southeast Asia and nearby islands. It is a bird weighing about 1 kg, with a wingspan of up to 1 meter. The appearance of this bird is quite typical for pigeons; it has a small head and a thin beak that can open wide. Wings of this bird are of rounded outlines: owl-pigeon lives in the dense forest canopy and its flight is quite slow. Tail of this bird is wide and fan-shaped. A feature that distinguishes this species from most pigeons is relatively long legs. Owl-pigeon often walks along the branches, only fluttering from one branch to another if necessary.
The plumage on the neck and on the top of the head of this species is dense, and the feathers have greatly expanded vanes. Because of this, the bird’s neck seems thicker than in most other pigeons.
The coloring of this pigeon is very peculiar, but its true meaning is clear when the bird is defending itself from the enemy. The body of this pigeon has a reddish-beige color with numerous individual variations from grayish and pinkish to ochre-red. In different populations of owl-pigeons, a different background shade prevails. Numerous spots of dark brown color are scattered over this background; they are most common on the primary and tail feathers, as well as on the crown. The lower part of the head, cheeks, front part of the neck and the upper half of the chest of representatives of all populations are of snow-white color; sometimes a dark border stretches along the lower edge of the white area. In the middle of this area there is a large black spot stretched horizontally. Sometimes there are some white feathers on black background.
Disturbed by a predator, owl-pigeon takes a protective pose. To do it, the bird stretches the body vertically, strongly fluffs the plumage on the neck and head and bends the head to the chest, laying it across the black spot. In this position, the bird imitates a barn owl very accurately. The white plumage on the chest mimics the owl’s face disk, and the lateral edges of the black spot become similar to its eyes. The illusion is complemented by the movements of the bird (the pigeon slightly opens its wings and stamps on its feet) and the sounds it utters. Defending itself, the bird makes humming sounds, vaguely similar to an owl’s hoot. Usually such an imitation is enough to scare monkeys or small tree-climbing predators. If the deception is revealed, the pigeon flies away, flapping its wings very loudly – this is an alarm signal.
The imitation of an owl is purely external: in behavior, this pigeon differs little from most of its relatives. It feeds on the tree fruits, swallowing them whole. This bird often pecks insects, getting the necessary protein feed.
Owl-pigeon is a solitary bird. Pairs of this species are formed for several seasons, but outside of the nesting time, the birds stay alone and rarely meet each other.
The courtship at these birds is accompanied by spectacular displays of the male. Perching on the branch, he inflates his crop, throws his head back and fluffs his feathers, visually enlarging the area of white plumage and the black spot on it, which at this moment is facing upwards. The displaying male utters prolonged humming sounds, while shaking his whole body.
The nest of twigs is arranged in the fork of the branches of a tall tree and reaches about one meter in diameter. There are only two eggs in the clutch of this species, and parents, as a rule, successfully feed both juveniles. Incubation lasts 16 days, nestlings hatch covered with sparse down. They stay in the nest for about 2 months, after which they leave it forever and their parents feed them for about another week. The young bird lacks white area on the chest and neck, and instead of a black spot, it has a dark brown one. After the first molt, the bird has a plumage color characteristic of this species.
Several closely related species live on the islands of Southeast Asia:
Minor owl-pigeon (Tytomimus minor) inhabits the forests of Sunda Land. It is a jackdaw-sized bird with similar coloring features, but with darker plumage on the body.
Spectacled owl-pigeon (Tytomimus strigops) lives on Philippine Islands. This crow-sized species is distinguished by the presence of two eye-like spots on the chest, black with a yellow border. The rest of the plumage is mottled, gray-brown with spots, imitating the owl plumage.
Horned owl-pigeon (Columbubo cornutus) also lives on Philippine Islands. This is a large species (the weight of an adult is about 1500 g, the wingspan is up to 120 cm) with a “mane” of elongated feathers on the neck and two large ocular spots on the chest. Two tufts of elongated feathers directed backwards and to the sides grow from the bird’s lower jaw. When a bird takes a protective pose, it fluffs its plumage, exaggerating its own size. With the head bent to the chest, the tufts of feathers look like the “horns” of an eagle-owl.

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.

Balkan forest pigeon (Hesperocolumba balkanensis)
Order: Doves (Columbiformes)
Family: Doves (Columbidae)

Habitat: subtropical forests of the Balkans.
In Neocene, the Balkans have become one of the warmest and most livable places in Europe. Peculiar natural conditions have been formed here, favorable for the growth of evergreen drought-resistant forests characterized by a peculiar flora and fauna. Balkan cavedoves (Cavernicolumba strigops) nest in local caves – birds rather non-standard in behavior with modest plumage color and a kind of face disk, which makes them look like owls. However, the cavedove feeds on the fruits of plants, like its closest relative, the Balkan forest pigeon.
In its general appearance, Balkan forest pigeon resembles ancestral pigeons, differing only in a longer and thinner beak. It is a fairly small bird – about 20-22 cm long, with a wingspan of 30-35 cm, weighing no more than 200-250 grams. The background color of the plumage is greenish with a brown spot on the shoulders and back; only on the head sides there are feathers with a yellow tinge, but around the eyes and up to the beak there are “glasses” of dark green feathers, which gives the Balkan forest pigeon a distant resemblance to its cave-dwelling relative. Males and females of this species have an identical coloration, but the female’s plumage is duller than that of male.
Unlike the cavedove, this bird nests not in caves, but in the forest, in the tree crowns. During the courtship display, males inflate the crop and utter loud buzzing calls. A breeding pair is formed for several breeding seasons, and outside of the breeding season, birds prefer to keep together.
The nest is a simple platform of twigs and branches, where the female lays 3-4 grayish or white eggs with dark specks. Both parents take turns hatching the clutch, but the male often does it at night. Nestlings hatch on about the 20th day, and spend another month in the nest. Then, for about another month, the young birds are fed by their parents, and then they leave the young forever. Nesting is repeated twice a season, young birds become capable of breeding the next year. Balkan forest pigeon is an unsociable bird; these pigeons live in forests in breeding pairs and do not form large flocks, as some other pigeon birds do.
Like the cavedove, Balkan forest pigeon is a frugivorous bird, but it also eats insects and other invertebrates, and feeds on seeds, buds and young leaves. In summer, it keeps mainly in the crowns of trees, rarely descending to the ground. In autumn and winter, birds often look for food on the ground, but they are very cautious and take off at the slightest danger, loudly flapping their wings. Their behavior is not particularly complex, and this pigeon is hunted by local birds of prey, as well as tree snakes and predatory mammals (mainly mustelids). Balkan forest pigeon lives no more than 10 years.

This bird species was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Booming Fowl-Dove (Gouraphaps tardus)
Order: Pigeons and Doves (Columbiformes)
Family: True Pigeons (Columbidae)

Habitat: Tropical rainforests of northern Meganesia.
Endemic species of Australian bird have generally prospered in the Neocene of Meganesia, and the impact of introduced species is less than elsewhere.
The fowl-sized Papuan ground pigeons such as the genus Goura, became extinct in the late Holocene because of man’s pressure from hunting and habitat loss. A new kind has come to partly replace them, descended from the Wonga Pigeon of Eastern Australia (Leucosarcia), which has spread much further north.
The Booming Fowl-Dove is a fairly large ground bird, reaching up to 75 centimetres long and 3 kilograms in weight. The colour is a slaty blue, becoming more intense powder blue on the chest and wings, with paired white bands extending across the chest, and a whitish grey underside flecked with blue. The feet and flesh around the eye are pinkish red, and the front of the face is whitish feathered. The beak is a little longer than its ancestor, more similar to that of the genus Goura.
These birds are gregarious and mostly diurnal, travelling in pairs or small groups, they travel over the forest floor in search of food, which consists of fallen fruit and seeds, occasionally insects. When alarmed, they will fly and roost high in the branches of the trees until danger has passed. Males frequently display to each other and the females in order to maintain dominance and make overtures, this consists of puffing up the chest and making short charges and beating of wings.
Breeding occurs late in the dry season, when calling and displaying to the female, the male makes a loud humming boom sound and puffs up its chest. The female will make a well built stick nest in an overhanging tree, laying a single large white egg, which she broods exclusively without help from the male. Incubation period is 30 days and the squabs leave the nest when they are still smaller than their parents, but are attended to by the female for up to 11 weeks. Lifespan is up to 25 years and predators include many large flesh-eating marsupials and predatory birds, monitor lizards will eagerly eat their eggs.

This species of birds was discovered by Timothy Donald Morris, Adelaida, Australia.

Fruit coorrow (Carpocolumba curro)
Order: Pigeons (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: Pigeons (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.

Mergen (Ungulavis trachypes)
Order: Sandgrouse (Pteroclidiformes)
Family: Sandgrouse (Pteroclididae)

Habitat: steppes and semi-deserts of Central Asia to the east of Fourseas.
In conditions the global ecological crisis sandgrouse suffered less than many other bird species – these birds were adapted to extreme living conditions in a desert area, so they were not harmed by the expansion of desert areas in the human era. In addition, the ability to increase the number rapidly and to make long-distance migrations and quickly change their place of residence when living conditions deteriorate made it possible to preserve a sufficient number of viable populations. Some of the local species became extinct and the number of other species decreased, but they survived. A number of species already in the human epoch were characterized by significant fluctuations in numbers, so after the end of the human epoch, the surviving species simply realized their potential. Their descendants evolved into new species, and one of them is megren, a descendant of Pallas’s sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus).
Compared with the ancestral species, mergen is a rather large bird: the body length of an adult is 65-75 cm; weight is 3.5-4 kg. Male is larger than female, but does not differ from it in coloration. The background color of the plumage is gray with brown mottling, reddish-yellow on the belly. Wings are strong and pointed; the flight is straight and fast. Birds are capable of making long flights in search of water and food. The outer and middle toes of the bird, fused already in the ancestor, formed a kind of hoof covered with a common corneous cover – hence the name meaning “hoofed bird”. Such an adaptation allows it to walk on hard and stony soil, as well as on stones that are strongly heated by the sun. The inner toe is reduced.
Megren is unpretentious in nutrition: this bird eats herbaceous plants, including dried ones, as well as leaves and berries. The digestive system of this species does not digest hard seeds, and the bird carries them over long distances. From spring to autumn, these birds keep alone (except for the time of rearing chicks), in winter they form flocks of 10-15 birds of both sexes. At this time, mergen follows the herds of harelopes and steppe obda, feeding on grass excavated from under the snow.
The courtship season in this species lasts from the end of March to April. At this time, the peculiar courtship games take place: males gather in certain areas of the steppe with hard clay soil without vegetation and begin courtship dances – they jump up, flapping their wings, and quickly stamp their feet. The noise they make resembles dull thunderclaps, for which the bird was named after the Mongolian god of thunderstorms. The feet “drumming” is very synchronous and attracts other relatives very much. Each bird drums with its feet for about ten seconds, making up to 3-5 beats with each foot per second. Each lekking ground has its own “drumming” rhythm, which is set by the dominant males and supported by the rest of the birds.
The female lays from 3 to 5 eggs in a hole lined with grass and incubates them for 40 days under the protection of a male replacing her at night and morning. Immediately after the hatch of offspring, the couple breaks up. The chicks hatch quite developed and are immediately able to follow the mother and feed, pecking the same plants as her. The mother only gives them a drink from the beak for the first 20 days, until they learn to fly, and warms them at night. Later, young birds stay with their mother for some time. At the age of 3 months, young birds become completely independent, and by the next spring they reach sexual maturity. Life expectancy reaches 10-12 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

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

Secretive snake-catcher (Cryptophoenix ophiophagus)
Order: Cuckoos (Cuculiformes)
Family: Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
At the end of Holocene and the beginning of Neocene, birds of prey experienced a significant crisis. Large species, whose numbers were undermined by man, gradually became extinct. In some places of the Earth, they were replaced by descendants of smaller species. But in Eurasia, the place of feathered predators was occupied mainly by carnocorvids and some shrikes. In the tropics, the diversity of carnivorous birds is much higher, and among them there are descendants of malkoha cuckoos (Phaenicophaeus). Having lost some species during the destruction of tropical forests in the human epoch, the few surviving species have evolved; one of these birds occupied a niche of a specialized herpetophage in the forest canopy.
Secretive snake-catcher is a relatively large arboreal bird, resembling large nightjars outwardly. The body length is about 70 cm, of which about half is a narrow tail; male is slightly larger than female. The wingspan is 100 cm. Wings are wide, with blunted tips, providing maneuverable flight among the trees. The color of the plumage is greenish-gray; there are black and green strokes on the wings. The bird has large yellow eyes surrounded by rings of gray featherless skin, and a hooked beak with a wide mouth cut.
Secretive snake-catcher feeds mainly on lizards and snakes, regularly catches amphibians, and occasionally eats large arthropods and rarely – rodents. Bird lives in family couples, but both birds hunt alone. The border of the territory of a family couple is not clearly determined, but competitors are not allowed to the nest. This species flies to hunt later than others, and stops earlier when the activity of its prey begins to decline. Secretive snake-catcher uses an ambush method of hunting: the bird hides for a long time in the foliage or clings to the tree bark or the bend of a liane, and the color of the plumage hides it from both predators and prey. It’s not easy to spot a bird in an ambush. When it sees the prey, it attacks, having previously let it get closer, or getting closer on branches and a tree. The bird crushes the snake’s head with a bite, and pecks other prey, simply killing it with an exact peck.
The courtship season begins at the end of the rainseason. At this time, single males call females with monotonous hollow whistling calls. Family pairs vocalize a duet. From time to time, the male brings the female his prey – usually a snake or a large lizard. In single birds, it is an obligatory element of courtship. The nest is small and loose, the head and tail of the hatching bird are often visible from the outside. Birds often occupy other bird’s nests, sometimes expelling the nest owners and ruining their clutch. There are 2-3 eggs in the clutch. Sometimes a bird that is late with nesting manages to lay its eggs to neighbors who usually accept another bird’s egg. After incubation lasting 16-17 days, naked and blind nestlings hatch from the eggs. A month later, the young birds fully fledge and try to fly, but they remain near the parent nest for some time. They are duller than their parents, and spend a lot of time learning to hunt, but for about another month their parents feed them. At the age of six to seven months, they get adult plumage, at 2 years of age they reach sexual maturity. Life expectancy is up to 20 years.

This bird speies was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Pink lenaka (Lenaka callorostra)
Order: Hornbills (Bucerotiformes)
Family: Hornbills (Bucerotidae)

Habitat: deserts of South Africa.
One of the characteristic groups of birds in Africa is hornbills. Many forest species of this group became extinct in the human era due to the destruction of tropical forests, and only some small savanna forms managed to survive by Neocene. In Neocene, a number of their descendants live in Africa. The common bird species include pink lenaka – an inhabitant of the deserts of South Africa, a descendant of the species Tockus leucomelas. The species name means “hornbill” in Sesoto language.
Pink lenaka is mainly a ground-dwelling bird. The height of a bird of this species standing on the ground is up to 35 cm. In its proportions, lenaka is similar to other birds leading a similar way of life: it has a medium-sized trunk on long bare legs, wide rounded wings, a long narrow tail, an elongated movable neck and a small head with a very large beak. The outgrowth on the beak represents just a low crest on the upper side of the upper beak. The background color of the plumage of lenaka is white with a grayish or beige tint, the legs are dark gray; there is bare meat-red skin around the eyes and on the front of the head. The back is light pink, the pink edges of the feathers on the wings form a scaly pattern; tail and primary feathers are gray or beige. A remarkable feature of the bird’s appearance is the bright beak: crimson with vertical yellow strokes in males, light pink with pale spots in females. There are no other sexual differences between male and female.
Pink lenaka is a fairly numerous species of birds; they can often be found in the deserts of South Africa. Pink lenakas live in groups of up to 15 birds – they are very sociable and love the company of relatives; alone, the bird experiences obvious stress. The group does not have a specific place of residence and roams a vast territory during the day, and at night the birds sleep in any random shelter – more often on a tall aloe tree with prickly leaves. Usually flocks of these birds constantly communicate noisily, so their approach can be noticed from afar. These birds are generally quite intelligent, not inferior in intelligence to corvids and parrots, and can use natural objects as tools.
The diet of this species is diverse: leaves, fruits, seeds, invertebrates and small vertebrates, as well as carrion. Pink lenakas often follow large animals – both herbivores and predators. For herds of herbivores, they serve as a kind of sentinels, warning them of danger. Accompanying predators, birds behave quietly and cautiously, because they eat the remains of their prey and are often the first to be near the left remains of prey and have time to eat a lot before the appearance of stronger scavengers. The enemies of this species, as a rule, are large birds of prey, less often snakes and small predatory mammals. Pink lenaka is characterized by group protection: noticing a predator, birds mob it, surrounding it with their whole flock.
The breeding season is at the end of the drought. Males arrange courtship displays, and females choose the one with the brightest beak. Birds build nests in rocks from grass, twigs and feathers. Both parents incubate the clutch (up to 3 eggs in it). After 2 weeks, the nestlings hatch, and both parents take care of them – while one heats and protects them, the other carries food. By this time, the wet season comes, and it is easier to feed the juveniles.
Life expectancy is up to 20 years.

This bird species was discovered by Mamont, the forum member.

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.

Healer trogon (Brevitrogon pediculivorus)
Order: Trogons (Trogoniformes)
Family: Trogons (Trogonidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of South America, preferring drier areas.
Trogons represent a group of birds of ancient origin, which turned out to be very vulnerable to anthropogenic impact. Deforestation of tropical areras and mass capture of these birds for zoos in Holocene, and then further reduction of the area of tropical forests during the ice age greatly reduced the species diversity of the order. As a result, only a few relict species were preserved in the Neocene in dry and secondary forests. Despite further adaptive radiation, trogons in Neocene represent a decaying group of birds. Healer trogon is one of the unusual descendants of relic trogons of the ice age, a descendant of the blue-crowned trogon (Trogon curucui). It avoids competition with passerine birds due to its unusual lifestyle.
It is a small bird species: the body length of an adult is 15-18 cm along with the tail. The coloration is quite striking – the male has red spots on black wings, a greenish back and a blue head with a metallic sheen. Unlike the ancestral species, the belly has a soft color – it is pinkish-gray. Female has brown body and wings; head and shoulders are rusty-red. Birds of both sexes have a distinctive feature: a cross stripe on the chest, slightly expanding in the middle. The tail color of birds of both sexes is the same and catchy – the feathers are covered with black and white cross-stripes. Paws are short and tenacious. Beak is conical in shape, with a pointed tip.
Usually, outside of nesting time, this species keeps in small groups of 5-7 birds of both sexes on tree trunks and branches, as well as on lianas. Seeing a relatively large mammal – notopongo, sidespiny porcupine or other arboreal beast, healer trogons utter a characteristic calling trills – a series of chirps and whistles, and also flutter along the trunk. In addition, birds give visual signals to the beast by sharply stretching and folding tails. Noticing the signals, the animal stops, allowing the birds to land on the wool and search for parasites in it. Healer trogons have the ability to extract larvae of parasitic dipterans from under the skin of animals. Small queues sometimes gather at the “medical center” of the birds – up to 6-7 animals of various species waiting to be cleaned of parasites. Occasionally, even predatory mammals use the services of these birds. The specialization of this species to the wool cleaning of other animals is not deep. In the absence of “clients”, the healer trogon is able to feed itself and feeds on caterpillars, mollusks and slow-moving beetles. The main enemies of this species are birds of prey and snakes.
The courtship season is not expressed. At any time of the year, both parents with chicks, and ready-to-mate or incubating birds may be met. Male calls female ready for mating with loud cries to the chosen place for the nest – usually to a hollow or a cavity hollowed out in a termite mound or an abandoned wasp nest. Eggs are laid directly on the bottom of the hollow, without any litter. There are 2-4 rounded eggs of a greenish-rusty color in the clutch. The clutch is hatched by both parents for about 2 weeks. The nestlings hatch naked and blind, at 10 days they are covered with feathers and have eyes opened, at 3 weeks they already leave the nest and try to fly. The parents feed the juveniles for some more time, and at the age of 6 weeks they are completely independent. Young healer trogons form their own groups and clean arboreal mammals. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 7 months, life expectancy is up to 15 years.

This bird species was discovered by Nick, 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: t