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9 of the world’s smallest birds

goldcrest

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

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.

Goldcrest

goldcrest

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.  

goldcrest

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.

Weebill

weebill

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

The Subject of No Subject

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APRIL 2, 2014

THE SUBJECT OF NO SUBJECT
  • 1.Hijadeagricultor1919.jpg“Farmer’s Child,” 1919. Photograph by August Sander.
  • 2.Hijadeagricultor.jpgPhotograph by Michael Somoroff.
  • 3.Small-town-Women.jpg“Small-town Women,” circa 1913. Photograph by August Sander.
  • 4.Small-town-women.jpgPhotograph by Michael Somoroff.
  • 5.Pastelero1928.jpg“Pastrycook,” 1928. Photograph by August Sander.
  • 6.Pastelero2007.jpgPhotograph by Michael Somoroff.
  • 7.CistercianMonks1911.jpg“Cistercian Monks,” 1911. Photograph by August Sander.
  • 8.CistercianMonks2007.jpgPhotograph by Michael Somoroff.
  • 9.Artistasdecirco1926.jpg“Circus Workers,” 1926-32. Photograph by August Sander.
  • 10.ArtistasdeCirco2007.jpgPhotograph by Michael Somoroff.
  • 11.GirlinFairgroundCaravan1926.jpg“Girl in Fairground Caravan,” 1926-32. Photograph by August Sander.
  • 12.Girl_in_Fairground_Caravan_2007.jpegPhotograph by Michael Somoroff.

Michael Somoroff’s “Absence of Subject” is an unconventional homage to the German photographer August Sander. Starting in the nineteen-twenties, Sander, a former miner and painter, began shooting portraits for his series “People of the Twentieth Century,” a systematic effort to document a cross-section of German society. Using an eight-by-ten camera, whose large format gave his photographs a remarkable sense of immediacy, he shot tens of thousands of portraits until his death, in 1964. Of these, only eighteen hundred survive; the rest were destroyed when his studio was bombed, in 1944.

Somoroff, a photographer from New York, began digitally removing the people from Sander’s most iconic images in 2000. What started out as, in Somoroff’s words, a philosophical experiment “to emphasize this particular power and talent that Sanders had” eventually turned into a seven-year project. He collaborated with Julian Sander, August Sander’s grandson, who gave him the support that was necessary to bring the project to life. “The idea that drove ‘Absence’ is that there is a philosophical discussion in terms of our existential condition,” Somoroff told me. “What really is our relationship to God or our relationship to being? The answer to that—universally found in all religions—is that we are a part of a whole. In so being, we are an expression of a lack. In essence, ‘Absence of Subject’ is about that lack.”

August Sander photographs © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK-Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne – VG-Bild Kunst, Bonn, 2011.

Ghost Towns

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FATEHPUR SIKRI, INDIA

Built by Emperor Akbar to be the most beautiful city in the world, it was widely thought this goal was achieved – until people realized the city lacked access to water. It was abandoned as the capital of the Mughal Empire after just 10 years and is today a perfectly preserved 16th-century town.

Picture: Flickr user Sikri Goove2007

 

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DECEPTION ISLAND, ANTARCTICA

A regular stop on Antarctic sailings, Deception Island was a popular place for scientific outposts until several volcanic eruptions destroyed the bases in the 1960s. Today you can see their remains, plus swim in hot springs.

Picture: Flickr user Wili Hybrid

 

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 KOLMANSKOP, NAMIBIA

Travellers seeking a quiet place need look no further than the numerous towns around the world that have been abandoned for one reason or another. Travel review website IgoUgo.com has compiled a list of the top 10 ghost towns around the world based on recommendations from its readers.

Before you enter this abandoned mining town in the Namib desert, you’ll need to stop in nearby Luderitz for a permit – a holdover from the days when Kolmanskop was a free-for-all for diamond hunters. The town was at its heyday in the 1920s but abandoned in 1956. It has since been partly restored.

Picture: Flickr user Coda

 

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OATMAN, ARIZONA, US

Of the Arizona ghost towns, quirky Oatman has to be among IgoUgo members’ favourite. It’s here where wild burros roam the streets and $60,000 bills decorate the walls of the local hotel, where, incidentally, Clark Gable and Carol Lombard spent their wedding night.

Picture: Flickr user Caveman 92223

 

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ARTLUNGA, AUSTRALIA

A favourite part of this old Outback mining town (and early European settlement) is the “loneliest pub in the scrub,” also known as the Arltunga Hotel. It’s an ideal place for lunch or a cold beer before or after exploring Arltunga which was born out of a gold rush.

Picture: Page Lovelace

 

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 GRAFTON, UTAH, US

Founded for its fertile land and abandoned largely due to conflicts with Native Americans and flooding, Grafton is most famous as the set of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The last residents left in 1944.

Picture: Flickr user Respres

 

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.
Jerboa
Photo: reptiles4all
Jerboa
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.
Blobfish
Photo: ZUMA Press
Blobfish
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.
Okapi
Photo: Shutterstock
Okapi
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. Birdwatching.com 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.
About.com 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 AllAboutBirds.org.
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.

 

When Jazz and Baseball Were in Perfect Harmony

The Smithsonian’s curator of American music explains how the history of two great American innovations—Jazz and baseball—are intertwined

(I enlarged the picture so if you want to see it, just click on it)

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louis armstrong baseball

 

Louis Armstrong’s Secret 9 baseball team, New Orleans, 1931. (Courtesy of Louis Armstrong House Museum.

20061847.jpg__600x0_q85_subject_location-520,107_upscaleArmstrong attends a Mets game at Shea Stadium in the 1960s. (Courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, Jack Bradley Collection.)
20063979_catchers_mask_1957.jpg__600x0_q85_subject_location-479,229_upscaleLouis Armstrong attends a Mets game at Shea Stadium in the 1960s. (Courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum.)
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Duke Ellington and band members playing baseball in front of their segregated motel (“Astor Motel”) while touring in Florida. (Charlotte Brooks, photographer, LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

We are living in a hologram.

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