Category Archives: animals

9 of the world’s smallest birds


The goldcrest is the smallest European bird with a wingspan of only 5-6 inches. Yet it still isn’t the smallest bird out there. (Photo: Francis C. Franklin/Wikipedia)

The birds that get all the attention are usually the flashiest, like the birds of paradise,or the toughest, like hawks and eagles. And owls seem to be a universal favorite. But what about the itty bitty birds, so small you almost think you imagined them when they flit by? These tiny species deserve a little attention too. Meet some of the world’s smallest bird species!

Red-cheeked cordon-bleu

red-cheeked cordon-bleu

Photo: Dave Montreuil/Shutterstock

This colorful bird is a species of African finch with sky blue feathers and males have a spot of red on their cheeks that make them look like they are perpetually blushing. Individuals only grow to be about five inches in length, and weighs only about .35 ounces on average. That’s roughly the weight of just three pennies! This species can be found in the wild in central and eastern Africa but is also one of the most popular exotic finch species in the pet trade.


verdin bird

Photo: John L. Absher/Shutterstock

With the verdin, we move from blue to yellow, and from Africa to the southwest United States and Mexico. This small bird is a species of penduline tit, and is only about 4.5 inches long when fully grown. It is second only to the 4.3-inch long American bushtit as the smallest of the passerines on the continent. The verdin can be spotted foraging insects among desert scrub plants, or snagging a little dried sugar from hummingbird feeders every once in awhile.

Lesser goldfinch

lesser goldfinch

Photo: Steve Byland/Shutterstock

The lesser goldfinch is the smallest North American finch of the Spinus genus, and it may very well be the smallest true finch in the entire world, growing to just 3.5 to 4.7 inches in length on average. The Andean siskin may beat it by a feather for the title, though, as it comes in at an average of 3.7 to 4.3 inches in length. Still, the goldfinch is truly miniscule. It weighs only around 0.28 to 0.41 ounces.



Photo: OiseauxvendeeWikipedia

Who says you have to be big to be king? The goldcrest’s scientific name is Regulus regulus, and regulus means“prince, little king”. This species is in the kinglet family, and is the smallest of all the birds in Europe. It measures only about 3.3–3.7 inches in length, and weights a miniscule 0.16–0.25 ounces. The species may be small but it is mighty and doesn’t mess around when it comes to raising young. As many as 10-12 eggs will be incubated at once, and sometimes a female will have two broods a season! Populating the kingdom is clearly a priority for this little bird.  


Photo: Mark Medcalf/Shutterstock

Bee Hummingbird

bee hummingbird

Photo: 44kmos/Shutterstock

The goldcrest may be the smallest bird in Europe but the smallest bird in the world is the bee hummingbird. It is only 2-2.4 inches long (barely larger than a bee, hence its name) and weights a light 0.056–0.071 ounces. That’s less than the weight of a single penny. They make nests of cobwebs and lichen where they incubate eggs no bigger than peas. The bee hummingbird is native to Cuba and is only rarely spotted on other nearby islands. Though it is a tiny miracle among birds, it is listed as near threatened due to habitat loss as forests are converted to farmland. The species is in need of conservation efforts to improve population numbers.

Willow tit

willow tit

Photo: Francis C. Franklin/Wikipedia

Despite it’s small size, the willow tit likes cold weather. It is found in sub-arctic Europe and northern Asia. It is a diminutive 4.5 inches long on average, and a weight of 0.31-0.38 ounces, which is about the same size as its neighbor the marsh tit. In fact, they look almost exactly alike as well. However, as soon as they open their mouths, a birder can tell them apart as the two have very different vocalizations.

Spotted pardalote

spotted pardalote

Photo: JJ Harrison/Wikipedia

This species is small but flashy, with plumage of amazing colors and patterns. The white spots can be somewhat to credit for its nickname, the diamondbird. Found in eastern and southern Australia in eucalyptus forests, it is one of the continent’s smallest bird species at only 3.1-3.9 inches in length. Sadly, this beautiful bird species is facing a decline due to habitat loss to clearing of it’s preferred forest habitat for human uses such as sheep-grazing or urban development.



Photo: Tom Tarrant/Wikipedia

This species has a wee bill (which is the source of it’s name) and a wee body to match! The weebill only grows to be about 3-3.5 inches long, and it beats out the spotted pardalote as Australia’s smallest bird species. This small bird species travels in small flocks and lives in most any wooded area, though they love eucalyptus forests the most.

Costa’s hummingbird

costas hummingbird

Photo: Alan D. Wilson/Wikipedia

We couldn’t end this without taking another look at adorably tiny hummingbirds. The Costa’s hummingbird is native to North America’s southwest and it flourishes in the desert setting. It grows to only 3-3.5 inches long, weighs only 0.1 ounces on average, and is one of the smaller hummingbird species. The male has a brilliant purple plumage across its head, and is a flashy little jewel among all the tan and beige of the desert.

Continue reading 9 of the world’s smallest birds

This thing looks like an alien…

MARCH 29, 2016  —  By Tim Unkenholz  

Even though they’re technically parts of our planet, certain regions of the ocean look like they’re from another world entirely. Based on all of the creepy videos floating around out there, our oceans are filled with aliens.

Don’t believe me? Then check out this eerie footage of a monkfish that was captured 80 miles off the coast of Gibraltar. Covered in a dusting of sediment from the ocean floor, this monster looks less like something earthly and more like something you’d see on Naboo.

The creature is somehow even more terrifying when it’s not covered in sand.

Oh, and did I mention that some of them are absolutely massive?

Oh, and did I mention that some of them are absolutely massive?

Getty Images

Apparently, the name of the monkfish’s game is to sit around and wait for fish to swim within chomping reach. It’s a good thing that this cameraman wasn’t mistaken for dinner!

Bizarre Animals

The popular video game and anime is known for taking inspiration from animals in real life, but with these quirky creatures, you have to wonder if it was the other way around.
Photo: reptiles4all
Jerboas are hopping rodents that thrive in the deserts of Northern Africa and Asia. Despite their status as prey animals, these adorable kangaroo-like creatures make do just fine thanks to their excellent hearing and ability to run up to 15 miles per hour.
Mantis shrimp
Photo: Shutterstock
Mantis shrimp
Also known as “thumb splitters,” these vibrant crustaceans are named in honor of their powerful claws, which can spear, stun and dismember prey with 200 pounds of force. In addition to their predatory tendencies, mantis shrimp are also distinguished for their impressive visual capabilities. The eyes of these psychedelic sea critters are equipped with 12 color receptors — humans and most other animals only have three. Scientists speculate this might enable them to process color information quickly within the eye instead going through the brain.
Shoebill stork
Photo: Shutterstock
Shoebill stork
Native to the freshwater swamps of tropical east Africa, these large, cartoon-like avians are known for their uniquely bulbous beaks. They are classified as a “vulnerable” species due to human disturbances, habitat destruction and hunting.
Photo: ZUMA Press
The frowning, gelatinous blobfish is considered one of the world’s ugliest animals, but it actually looksquite different in its native deep sea environment. As a frequent victim of bycatch, the sad, slimy creature may soon be added to the growing list of endangered species.
Fennec fox
Photo: Shutterstock
Fennec fox
Hailing from the arid, scorching sands of the Sahara desert, these cute nocturnal canids are known for their extra large ears, which dissipate heat and are sensitive enough to allow them to hear prey from underground.
Blue dragon
Photo: Imtorn/Wikimedia
Glaucus Atlanticus
You might be surprised to learn that this beautiful sea critter (also known as a sea swallow or blue dragon) is actually a sea slug. The blue and silvery mollusk is known to feed off cnidarians like the venomous Portuguese Man o’ War. What makes these gorgeous slugs even more fascinating is their practice of storing the cnidarians’s stinging nematocysts within its own tissues — ensuring a painful sting to anyone who messes with it.
Photo: Shutterstock
These unusual creatures were once mistaken by early European explorers as “African unicorns” before being formally recognized and classified as Okapia johnstoni in 1901. Although they may bear zebra-like stripes, these endangered ungulates are more closely related to giraffes.
Bush viper
Photo: Shutterstock
Bush viper
Found in the tropical rainforests of subsaharan Africa, bush vipers are venomous snakes known for their distinctly keeled scales. Their strong prehensile tails are perfect for supporting their weight in trees, where they spend the majority of their lives hanging and ambushing their prey.
Proboscis monkey
Photo: Shutterstock
Proboscis monkey
The clown-like, bulbous nose of this arboreal Old World monkey is hard to miss. Often exceeding 4 inches, the prominent proboscis is a result of sexual dimorphism; it is only found in males.
Streaked tenrec
Photo: Frank Vassen/Wikimedia
Lowland streaked tenrec
This quirky little guy is native to the tropical lowland forests of eastern Madagascar. The streaked tenrec is equipped with two sets of quills: barbed and nonbarbed. Similar to a porcupine, the barbed quills are used as a means of a defense against predators. The nonbarbed quills, on the other hand, are vibrated in order to emit a faint chattering that is used to communicate with family.
Coconut crab
Photo: Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia
Coconut crab
Make no mistake — those tree trunks seen above are not saplings. That’s right, those crabs are huge! Growing up to a meter in length from leg to leg, these terrestrial hermit crabs are the largest land-living arthropods in the world. Although they are omnivores that have been known to consume turtle hatchlings, they generally prefer to eat fleshy fruits and, you guessed it, coconuts!
Hummingbird hawkmoth
Photo: Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikimedia
Hummingbird hawk-moth
With its humming, hovering and long, thin proboscis, it’s no wonder this species is having an identity crisis. That said, Macroglossum stellatarum is most definitely a moth, and its resemblance to a hummingbird is the result of convergent evolution.
Giant isopod
Photo: Borgx/Wikimedia
Giant isopod
Along with the giant squid and the Japanese spider crab, these squirm-inducing arthropods are a prime example of deep sea gigantism. If you’re not familiar with the giant isopod, look no further than the common wood louse, which is its terrestrial cousin. Both species have the ability to curl up into a ball to protect themselves from predators.
Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network.

How to get birds to eat out of your hand

With the proper preparation, you can have little chickadees snacking away in the palm of your hand.

Photo: Lighttraveler/Shutterstock

Watching birds flutter to and from your feeder can be a rewarding experience, but what if you could get those cuties to eat out of your hand? It is possible, with plenty of patience.
Trying to hand-feed birds can be a fun challenge, but like any wild animal, you will have to gain birds’ trust first.
For starters, it helps to have a yard that is attractive to birds: free of roaming pets, and with plenty ofplaces to perch. Take notes on when birds come to the feeder, and then start getting them used to your presence.
It may be a good idea to sit or stand (still!) several feet away from the feeder over the course of a few days — gradually getting closer and closer. The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests talking softly to ensure that the birds can get used to your voice.
In addition, topping off the feeders at the same time every day will teach the birds to expect your presence and associate it with delicious rewards. suggests adding some special treats, like chopped pecans, to the feeders if you want to seem all the more appealing.
You will know when the birds have accepted you. They will no longer hide in the trees and shrubs; instead, they’ll excitedly hop to the feeders and they won’t be scared off as easily if you make a little noise. Once they eat from the feeder when you are standing right next to it, try holding your hand out, palm up, on or right beside the feeder. The birds will eventually eat near your hand.
On a day when the feeder is getting low or is completely empty (or you can even take the feed out temporarily), place nuts and seeds in the palm of your hand and wait patiently for a taker. Once a bird lands on your hand, stay still and absolutely quiet. It may be hard, but try not to swallow — the bird may see that as a sign that you want a tweeting snack of your own!
For your first try at hand-feeding, be sure to choose the birds’ favorite seeds — they won’t go to your hand for just any snack. Of the many frequenters of North American backyards, chickadees, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers and titmice have all been known to cozy up to humans for a handful of treats.
ChickadeesBlack-capped chickadee
These chatty birds are perhaps the friendliest of the backyard varieties. With tiny bodies and big attitudes, chickadees don’t usually seem intimidated by humans. They are curious and plentiful. Their call sounds much like their name, chick-a-dee.
Their favorite foods: suet, sunflower, peanuts
NuthatchesWhite-breasted nuthatch
Only a squeak and a hop away, nuthatches are never far from the feeder. You will see these birds climbing headfirst all along the tree trunks (you know, those upside-down birds); it’s what makes them unique — along with their call that sounds a bit like your dog’s chew toy.
Their favorite foods: sunflower, peanuts, suet, peanut butter
Downy woodpeckersDowny woodpecker
While these birds can be a bit flighty, they are significantly less so than their woodpecker cousins. Where there are chickadees and nuthatches, there are usually these speckled beauties. They typically announce their presence either with an obvious swoop toward the feeder or with tap-tapping on a nearby tree.
Their favorite foods: suet, black oil sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts, peanut butter
TitmiceTufted titmouse
Titmice, like this tufted titmouse pictured, are curious and almost always seem to be in the mood for a snack. You may have heard their high-pitched peter-peter-peter call in your own backyard.
Their favorite foods: sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts (and pretty much any other seed)
A note about hummingbirdsHummingbird
Yep, these tiny, fluttering birds can also be hand-fed. Like with the other birds, consistency is key, but feeding them works just a bit differently. recommends holding one of the feeders(and it helps if it is the only available feeder) in your hand — and even providing your finger as a little perch. You can even fill a tiny container and hold it in the palm of your hand to try to get a closer experience. Remember: hummingbirds love the color red, so the more on or around you, the better.
For help identifying the other birds in your backyard, including what they like to eat and how friendly they are, visit Cornell’s bird guide on
A few important notes: If you choose to make this a family activity, be wary of letting young ones try their hand at feeding birds; a fidgety toddler will have little success gaining the trust of a bird. Of course, keep cleanliness in mind: always wash your hands before and after you handle wild birds. And once you begin hand-feeding birds, be sure to act gently if you want them to come back. Make sure that they have the freedom to come and go as they please — and do not try to confine them.


Bizarre, beautiful starfish species


19 bizarre and beautiful starfish species

Who knew that starfish could come in so many shapes and colors … and with so many arms!

Photo: Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock

Starfish, or more technically accurate, sea stars, are fascinating creatures and amazingly diverse. Most commonly thought of as a five-armed intertidal species, starfish come in myriad shapes, sizes, colors, arm counts, and are found from shorelines to the deep sea. And while they seem like docile creatures, they can actually be voracious and rather savage predators. Here are some of the many beautiful, odd and surprising species of sea stars around the world.
Leather star (Dermasterias imbricata): Found along the west coast of North America, from Alaska to Mexico, the leather star lives in the intertidal zone down to depths of about 300 feet where it dines on everything from algae to sponges to sea cucumbers. Meanwhile, it does its best to avoid the morning sun star, another species of sea star that makes a quick meal (well, relatively speaking) of the leather star. Leather stars make up to 50% of the diet of the morning sun star.
leather sea star
Photo: Ed Bierman/Flickr
Morning sun star (Solaster dawsoni)And here is that voracious predator. With anywhere from 8 to 16 arms and usually red or orange coloring, the morning sun star looks, well, like a cartoon sun. It is found in the northern Pacific, from Japan to Siberia and down the coast of North America down to California. Other sea stars literally run away from it if they’re touched by it. Some, however, fight back, including the velcro star and rainbow star which can pinch the morning sun star to make it recoil and provide a window for escape. Others have defense mechanisms — the slime star inflates itself and exudes a noxious mucus, and the sunflower sea star can detach an arm in order to get away. If a morning sun star can’t catch a star of a different species, it has no problem chowing down on an individual of its own species.
morningsun sea star
Photo: NatureDiver /Shutterstock
Sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides): The sunflower star is the largest sea star in the world, reaching an armspan of 3.3 feet. That space is taken up by 16-24 arms. They’re found along the coast of North America, from Alaska to California, but they’re largest in the northern areas. They dine on sea urchins, clams and snails and are usually found in subtidal areas where there is always water, since they can’t support their bodies out of water.
sunflower sea star
Photo: Ethan Daniels /Shutterstock
Pink short spined star (Pisaster brevispinus)Even starfish look pretty in pink. This sea star can reach a whopping two feet in diameter, and can weigh up to two pounds. It dines on clams and sand dollars, so is usually found on sand or mud, but its soft texture allows it to also grip on coral and rocks where it can feast on mussels, tube worms and barnacles. This is also a celebrity species: Spongebob Squarepants’ neighbor Patrick Star is a pink starfish. So next time you see one, ask for an autograph.
giant pink sea star
Photo: jkirkhart35/Wikipedia
Granulated sea star (Choriaster granulatus): This species goes by many names, including the cushion sea star or doughboy star, for obvious reasons. The plump starfish is found in shallow waters on coral reefs and rubble slopes where it feeds on algae, coral polyps, and scavenges on dead animals.
granulated sea star
Photo: Ethan Daniels /Shutterstock
Royal starfish (Astropecten articulatus): This vividly colored species is found along the east coast of North America, primarily in the southeast. While it can live at depths of up to 700 feet, it mostly hangs out at around 70-100 feet deep where it dines on mollusks. Unlike many other species of starfish, the royal starfish eats its prey whole.
royal starfish
Photo: TheMargue/wikipedia
Bat sea star (Asterina miniata): This fascinating species is called the bat star because of the webbing between its arms, which (so some say) look like bat wings. It is found along the west coast of North America, from Alaska to Baja. While the species usually has five arms, it can have up to nine, and it can be a wide range of colors from green to orange to purple. So if you’re wondering if you’re looking at a bat sea star, check if it has the tell-tale webbing.
bat sea star
Photo: stevehullphotography/Shutterstock
Crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci): The name of this species is fairly clear. The spines covering its upper surface make it look like, well, you know. Those spines are also venomous, which aid it in its quest for world domination. Found over a wide range in subtropical waters, from the Red Sea to across the Indian Ocean, and across the Pacific Ocean to the western coast of Central America, this species preys on coral polyps. As one of the largest starfish in the world, it has a voracious appetitive. When numbers are low, crown-of-thorns starfish help boost the biodiversity of coral reefs by preying on the fastest growing coral species. But if their populations become too high, they can wreak havoc on coral reefs. Their population booms are due in part from human fishing of and collection of their natural predators, the humphead wrasse and triton snail.
crown of thorns sea star
Photo: Ethan Daniels /Shutterstock
Pacific blood star (Henricia leviuscula): Despite the creepy name, this common starfish is actually a very small, slender species that feeds on sponges and bacteria. Meanwhile, its main predators are birds and humans. They are among the most brightly colored sea star species in the intertidal zone and are found at depths of over 1,000 feet.
pacific blood star
Photo: Medtrails/wikipedia
Egyptian sea star (Gomophia egyptiaca): Found along the coasts of eastern Africa and Madagascar, this spiky sea star stays at depths of around 20-25 feet. Like may starfish, it can regenerate parts of its body that are damaged. But with those spikes, it doesn’t look like a sea star you want to reach out and mess with.
egyptian sea star
Nine-armed Sea Star (Luidia senegalensis): It may not be the only sea star to have nine arms, but it’s the only species to be named for the fact that it has nine arms. Found in the western Atlantic ocean, this starfish, like many species, everts its stomach to engulf its prey, and essentially “swallows” with its stomach. The nine-arm sea star dines on mollusks, small crustaceans, and sea worms, as well as filters stomachfuls of sediment to feast on tiny organisms.
nine armed sea star
Photo: Andrea Westmoreland/Flickr
Brisingid sea star: Skipping a specific species, these sea stars are so cool, we’re highlighting the entire order! The 70 or so species within this order live in the deep sea, at depths between 330 feet to over 19,000 feet below. They are suspension feeders, using their arms, which number from six to 16, to filter water and capture food as it drifts by. They look almost more like a seaweed or coral than a sea star.
brisingid star
Photo: NOAA/Flickr
Necklace Starfish (Fromia monilis): This jewel-like starfish is found in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean. Found in shallow water in rocky areas, it feeds on sponges and small invertebrates. It can get as large as 12 inches across, and has unusual and beguiling coloring. That plus its relative hardiness makes it a favorite for people who keep salt water aquariums. It is also called the red tile starfish for obvious reasons.
necklace starfish
Photo: Hectonichus/wikipedia
Giant spined star (Pisaster giganteus): This bedazzled sea star is found on the western coast of North America, from southern California up to British Columbia. Found in rocky areas along the low tide mark, they feast on mollusks. This species can grow as huge as two feet in diameter, hence the name that includes “giganteus”. Though they have few predators, they are prey items for sea otters and birds.
giant spined sea star
Photo: Ed Bierman/Flickr
Pincushion starfish (Culcita novaeguineae): Found in tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific, this unusual species of starfish creates its own little habitat by providing shelter for small shrimp that hide under it, and copepods that live on its outside. Even a species of fish, the star pearlfish, may make itself at home inside the body cavity of the pincushion star, emerging to feed. It would be hard to guess by glancing at it that it is a starfish at all, and not a type of coral!
pincushion sea star
Photo: Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock
Chocolate Chip Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus): Mmmmm, chocolate chip cookies! Well, while this looks like a chocolate chip-studded starfish, it wouldn’t exactly taste great. The dark nubs are a way for it to look more dangerous, and it works as it has few predators. Because of this, the sea stars actually provide a home on its surface for other species such as shrimp, tiny brittle stars, and juvenile filefish. Though it has few oceanic predators, it does have one serious predator — humans. This species is collected as a tourist trinket and for the aquarium trade and are being overharvested in some areas.
chocolate chip sea star
Photo: Ethan Daniels /Shutterstock
Blue sea star (Linckia laevigata): This gorgeous blue sea star is found in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, usually in shallow and sunny parts of reefs and reef fringes. It is a scavenger, and so acts as the clean up crew by feeding on dead animals. Like the chocolate chip sea star, the blue sea star has been part of the sea-shell trade for a long time, its skeleton sold as decoration. Because of this, the populations in some regions have seen dramatic decline.
blue sea star
Photo: Ethan Daniels /Shutterstock
Australian southern sand star (Luidia australiae): The mottled coloring of this species helps tp camouflage it in the sediment of seagrass beds of the Pacific Ocean around Australia and New Zealand. Typically sporting seven arms, it grows to be around 16 inches in diameter. It is sometimes found washed up on the beach after storms.
australian southern sand star
Photo: Dusan Wolczko /shutterstock
Panamic cushion star (Pentaceraster cumingi): Talk about gorgeous. This beautiful species is found around the Gulf of Panama and the Pearl Islands, all the way up to the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean. Appropriately, it is also called a knobby star. They can reach up to 18 inches in diameter, and feast on mussels and barnacles. They are considered a keystone species in tidepools thanks to the work they do to keep mussel populations under control. But it’s not without effort — it can take a starfish upwards of six hours to eat a single mussel.
panamic cushion star
Photo: Laszlo Ilyes/Flickr


A Story of Trust (new book by Shreve Stockton)

Saved from certain death
Charlie the coyote owes his life to a whim. A worker with Wyoming Wildlife Services was tasked with killing coyotes that had attacked sheep, but he had an odd compulsion to save one of the pups. Though he didn’t fully understand why he did it, he handed the 10-day-old coyote pup to Shreve Stockton to raise. Stockton, a writer and photographer, took Charlie in — and how could she not, after looking at this tiny face?What happened next is a story of trust, an unbreakable loving bond formed with the “enemy,” and the beginning of a daily story told in photos to fans across the Internet.
Raised by loving hands
“Now, on my second day with the coyote, soft light filled the cabin in the early afternoon. I nestled him between two pillows and dug around under my bureau for my camera,” Stockton writes in her book, “The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Trust and Survival in the Wilds of Wyoming.”


Soon to be a star
“Charlie and Eli were deep into their brotherhood,” Stockton writes of Charlie bonding to his tomcat friend. “On every walk, they stopped under a busy weed and crouched together, eating the tender grass that grew beneath it.” It’s not very common that people allow coyotes anywhere near their cats, but this pup had only love for the orange tabby.

(Text: Jaymi Heimbuch)


Burying herself in research and dedication to the survival of the coyote pup, Stockton readied herself for unknown challenges.

Meanwhile, Charlie made friends with Eli the tomcat.

Shreve Stockton on Amazon


We are living in a hologram.

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