- WILD ANIMALS
- Animal Top’s
By Any Other Name: The meerkat, also called the slender-tailed meerkat or suricate, is the only species in its genus Suricata. A small mongoose, it lives in large social colonies made up of several family units. It is often found in association with other mongoose species, as well as squirrels and various other rodents.
A Vast Repertoire: It has many chatterlike calls in its repertoire. During the night, it shelters in a multichambered burrow; in the daytime, it basks in the sun near the entrance or goes foraging for insects, small mammals, reptiles, birds and their eggs, fruit, and vegetation.
Always on Alert: It has highly developed senses of smell, vision, and hearing, and may sometimes be seen standing up on its hind legs, alert to danger. When a meerkat spots a predator, it will sound an alarm call to warn the others of the colony.
Cuckoo, one of a large, diverse family of birds found all over the world. In addition to cuckoos, the family includes several species of anis (black cuckoos) and the roadrunner. The song of the cuckoo has been the sign of spring in England and other parts of Europe for centuries. Many stories and songs have been written about the cuckoo, and its call is imitated by cuckoo clocks.
Cuckoos have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward.
There are more than 125 species of cuckoos. Most of the species are found in the Eastern Hemisphere. All members of the cuckoo family have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward. This foot structure allows the birds to climb on slender stems and to run swiftly over the ground.
The European cuckoo has become legendary for its habit of laying its eggs in the nests of other birds. The young cuckoo is much larger than the other nestlings and soon crowds the rightful occupants out of the nest. The foster parents, apparently mistaking it for one of their own, work frantically to feed the hungry young cuckoo with worms and insects. As soon as it is able to fly. the cuckoo leaves. Some birds will roof over their nest if they find a cuckoo egg in it. A new nest is built on top of the old and more eggs are laid.
American cuckoos make their own nests—messy structures built in dense thickets of shrubbery. The most common American species is the yellow-billed cuckoo, which is about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Its upper parts are gray-brown and its underparts white. The tail feathers are dark with white tips, and the bill is yellow. The bird is native to the eastern United States. The black-billed cuckoo is similar, but has a black bill. It ranges over much the same territory as the yellow-billed cuckoo, but is found as far west as the Rocky Mountains.
Cuckoos belong to the family Cuculidae. The European cuckoo is Cuculus canorus; the yellow-billed is Coccyzuz americanus; the black-billed, C. erythropthalmus.
Cock of the Rock, a bird of tropical South America named for its habit of building its nest on top of rocks. The male is noted for his courtship dance, consisting of a series of hops. During the dance, he erects a brightly colored crest, which extends from the crown to the base of the bill.
There are two species, the Andean, or Peruvian, cock of the rock and the Guianan cock of the rock. The male of the Andean species is brilliant orange with black wings and tail. The female is orange-brown. The male of the Guianan species is red; the female, dull brown. Both species grow to a length of 11 inches (28 cm).
The cock of the rock belongs to the chatterer family, Cotingidae. The Andean cock of the rock is Rupicola peruviana; Guianan, R. rupicola.
The Andean cock of the rock has rich orange-red feathers and nests atop rocks.
Cassowary, a large, flightless bird related to the emu and ostrich. It inhabits rain forests in New Guinea, Australia, and nearby islands. The cassowary grows to five feet (1.5 m) in height and 120 pounds (54 kg) in weight. The head is topped by a leathery helmet-like projection of skin called a casque. The head and neck are bare of feathers and range in color from iridescent blue to dark red. The stout body is covered by shiny black plumes 3 to 14 inches (8 to 36 cm) long. There are five or six stiff quills on each wing. The Australian (or double-wattled) cassowary has two wattles hanging from its throat; the single-wattled cassowary has one wattle; Bennett’s cassowary has no wattles.
Cassowaries feed on fruit, nuts, insects, and the eggs of other birds. The female lays three to six green eggs in a shallow depression in the ground. The male incubates the eggs and raises the young.
The Australian cassowary is Casuarius casuarius; single-wattled, C. unappendiculatus; Bennett’s, C. bennetti. They belong to the family Casuariidae.
Beaver Basics: The beaver, the second largest rodent in the world, is well-known for its wide, flat tail, used for slapping the surface of the water to warn other beavers of approaching danger. Trees provide a beaver’s favorite winter food — bark and leaves. In summer other vegetation, especially aquatic plants, make up their diet.
Mounds, Burrows and Lodges: Four to eight family members make up colonies and territories are marked with scent mounds — piles of mud that the beavers scent with glandular secretions. Beavers sometimes reside in a burrow at the water’s edge, but more often can be found setting up house in a dome-shaped lodge, built with branches and trees cut down with its large incisors.
The American Beaver: The American beaver can be found throughout North America, except for the most northern parts of Alaska. Like other beavers its feet are webbed for better swimming. The ears and nose snap shut when the animal dives underwater, and the eyes have a third transparent eyelid that helps the beaver to see below the surface of the water. Its dense, yellowish-black, black or reddish-brown fur retains body heat even in the coldest water. A secretive and nocturnal creature, it is awkward on land and thus vulnerable to predators.