An unusual creature, as if coming from the ancient depths of centuries, strikes with a mysterious appearance. Kitoglav resembles a descendant of a dinosaur or an alien inhabitant. The massive beak gives the bird a mystery and looks intimidating.
Meeting with a whale in nature is already a rarity, not every zoo can be proud of a fantastic guest.
Description and Features
An under-studied bird native to East Africa. Ornithologists proved her kinship with pelicans, in addition to which the origin reflects ties with many ankle birds: storks, herons, marabou. The whalehead family includes a single representative - the royal heron, as it is called otherwise whalebird bird.
The size of the African inhabitant is impressive: the height is about 1.2-1.5 m, the body length reaches 1.4 m, the individual weighs 9-15 kg, the width of the wings in the expanded form is 2.3 m. A large head and a huge beak, like a bucket are completely not proportional to the size of the body - in width they are almost the same. To other birds this anatomical dissonance is not characteristic.
The remarkable beak, whose size is up to 23 cm long and about 10 cm wide, was compared with a wooden shoe, the head of a whale — the names of the birds reflected this feature. The beak is equipped with a characteristic hook on the tip, helping to cope with prey.
A long neck holds a massive head, but on rest, the beak finds support on the bird's chest to relieve tension on the cervical muscles. The yellowish eyes of the royal heron, unlike the relatives, are located in front, and not on the sides of the skull, so vision transmits a three-dimensional picture of the world. The expressive gaze of round eyes radiates peace and confidence.
It is impossible to distinguish between a male and a female whalehound in appearance. All individuals are gray, only the beak is sandy yellow. Powder fluff can be seen on the backs of birds, like related herons.
A large body with a short tail, the bird keeps a large head on tall and thin legs. To walk on marshy terrain, stability of the bird is given by paws with apart fingers. Thanks to its wide support on soft soil, the whale does not fall into the quagmire.
A feature of the bird is the ability to stand for a long time without movement. At this time and gets whale in the photoas if deliberately posing. In one of the parks in Europe, a note was jokingly written on a whalehead information plate: it was still moving.
In flight, the birds retract their neck like herons, move gracefully, hover for a long time over the swamp swamps, sometimes the birds move in short hops. Aerial whale-maneuvers on spread wings resemble from afar an airplane flight.
King Whale - a bird of little speech, but capable of producing a variety of sounds:
to crack like stork-like congeners with a beak to transmit information to congeners;
shrill shouting with an appeal to something;
wheezing in danger;
"hiccup" when you need to beg for food.
In zoos, amazing birds are very appreciated, but obtaining and keeping a whale is difficult for a number of reasons:
- specific feed medium;
- difficulty in captive breeding;
- limited habitat.
The cost of individuals is high. In pursuit of poaching profits, the indigenous people of East Africa catch, sell whale heads, and reduce the number of wild populations, which is only 5-8 thousand unique individuals. The habitat of unusual birds decreases, nests are often ruined.
Today whale whale - a rare bird, the safety of which causes concern not only among ornithologists, but also a wide range of nature lovers.
Royal heron, whale, refers to the order Ciconiiformes. In the family of whales, this is the only representative.
Discovered a rare bird in 1849, over the next year, the whale was described by scientists. The world learned about the feathered miracle from the book of the Swedish bird watcher Bengt Berg about visiting Sudan. To this day, the whale has remained a poorly studied species in comparison with other birds.
Genetic studies prove the relationship between the feathered inhabitants of Africa and the pelicans, although traditionally they have been attributed to relatives of herons and storks. Numerous disputes about the place of the whale hunter in the bird hierarchy have led to scientific judgments regarding it as the missing link between the Copepods and Ciconiiformes.
The issue of the "shoe boot", as the British called it, is still in the status of study.
Lifestyle & Habitat
The whale-breeding range is located in tropical swamps in central and eastern Africa. Being endemic, the bird lives on the banks of the Nile, the water areas of Zaire, Congo, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan to western Ethiopia. In these places, the main food of birds is found - double-breathing fish, or protopters.
Settling and indolence are characteristic of non-malignant and quiet creatures. The whole history of birds is associated with papyrus thickets and protopters.
The populations are scattered, sparse. Most birds are observed in South Sudan. Favorite places of the whale hunter are reed jungles in the marshland, and feathered animals avoid open spaces.
Birds often keep alone, less often in pairs during the mating season, never grouped. Seeing several whale heads together is a rare occurrence. An amazing creature is quite inert, does not seek communication with fellow tribesmen.
Only ancient instincts are pushing individuals closer together. Birds spend their lives in dense thickets of swamps, protecting themselves from strangers. Sometimes the crack made by the beak betrays the location of the mysterious inhabitant of the tropics.
For many hours, fading with a pressed beak makes the bird invisible among the reed and papyrus. You can go next to it, the whalehead will not even move, unlike other birds it will not fly up.
The royal whale whale rarely takes off. Flying with spreading giant wings is very beautiful. The beak of the bird is pressed to the chest, it does not interfere with movement. In search of food, birds fly low.
For soaring, like eagles, whale heads use air currents, do not spend energy effort for free flight.
Royal herons choose vegetation islets at observation posts, but walks through the swamp periodically take place. Birds can plunge into the swamp to the line of the abdomen.
The whale heads only look intimidating, but themselves, like ordinary herons, are subject to attacks by natural enemies. In addition to the threats of feathered predators (falcon, hawk), crocodiles pose a great danger to them.
African alligators inhabit swamps in abundance. Whalefoot chicks and egg-laying are threatened by marten attacks.
In captivity, rare birds, being safe, quickly get used to the person, become trusting. The inhabitants are peaceful, they get along with other animals.
In the diet of the whale, animal food is aquatic and near-water animals. Protopter from the genus of lobster fish - a favorite "dish" whale-head, dwells in shallow areas of water bodies, in marshy creeks, lowlands of river floodplains.
The feeding time for birds is often morning, less often daytime. All floating islands of aquatic plants are inspected, walks are made among the thickets. Seeing not far away the gawning prey, the whalehead flaps its wings, rushes towards to hook the victim with a beak. The trophy is held securely.
Sometimes a bird stirs up silt to find mollusks, amphibians. With a wide beak, a royal heron can capture even a crocodile cub. If the whale cleans the fish from plants, tears its head off before a meal, then it can swallow large rodents whole.
The choice of hunting spots is often connected with the paths of elephants and hippos. Animals thinned by large animal areas always accumulate livestock, more fish. Artificial channels attract many birds.
Ornithologists believe that the best fisherman among birds is whale head. What eats royal heron, if protopters cannot satisfy their hunger?
The hunt for tilapia, polypterus, catfish, water snakes, turtles is carried out from an ambush, the king heron patiently waits for their appearance and approach. Sometimes a bird lowers its head into the water to scoop up swimming fish with frogs and a substrate, like a butterfly net. The method of catching prey resembles the behavior of pelicans.
A skilled fisherman always hunts away from his fellow tribesmen. The minimum distance between birds is at least 20 meters.
The addiction of gourmets to double-breathing fish is explained by the specific form of the beak adapted to a certain “menu”. The loss of the main source of food is fatal for whales, even if they are fed by other aquatic inhabitants.
Reproduction and longevity
With the end of the rainy season, the breeding season of the whaleheads begins. Unlike polygamous birds, pairing of royal herons occurs once. The choice of a partner takes place during mating dances, greetings with nods of the head, extension of the neck, crackling and deaf songs, clicks with the beak.
The next stage is the construction of the nest. The construction is a platform with a diameter of 2.5 m. The location is hidden from prying eyes by dense thickets. To protect against land predators, whaleheads build nests on marshy shallows, suitable islands in impassable places.
The building material of the birds is collected together. At the base of the nest, papyrus and reed stalks are laid, inside the tray is lined with dry grass, which the whale heads bend with their paws.
In clutch usually 1-3 eggs. At night, the female warms them with her heat, and during the day, if necessary, cools the water brought in her beak, like a scoop. Maintaining the right temperature is important for the development of offspring. Hatching lasts for a month. Parents take turns on duty at the nest.
Hatched chicks with a thick brown fluffy gun, hooked beak is present even in newborns. The female feeds babies at first with a burp from goiter. After a month, the crumbs are already able to swallow pieces of the brought food. Bathing newborns in the heat occurs in the same way as eggs - brought water in the beak of the female.
As a rule, only one heir survives, who gets more food and attention. Getting baby food accelerates by tapping the female’s legs or beak. Up to 2 months whale-chick is inseparably with parents, then begins to show the first signs of independence.
At 4 months after the formation of the young whalehead on the wing, parting with the native nest occurs, but homecoming is still taking place.
The reproductive function of the whale catches at the age of 3 years. Life expectancy of birds is on average 36 years. The livestock is gradually declining due to poaching, reducing the necessary habitat.
Human activity is offensively capturing wildlife. In captivity, breeding of birds is difficult.
A kitoglav can not only surprise a person, but make him think about the preservation of the amazing world of nature, in which everything is interconnected and harmonious.