This large, flightless bird is still alive (well, not this particular one, but the species in general) and kicking. And when we say kicking, that can be taken literally, for this bird has been known to do serious damage to people with those powerful legs.
Take a close look at the feathers, and wings. The feathers are really almost hair-like…coarse hair. And the larger bits you see in the photo below are all that remain of the wings/wing feathers: very stiff…whatevers. It’s like the rachis without any of the rest of the feather attached.
This bird belonged to PT Barnum – he was given it in 1874. The U of M acquired it many years later when one of their bird collection staff saw it in a back room collection of Mr. Barnum’s things. Upon saying “we don’t have one of those” he was offered the bird. Et voila – here it is today.
The Hoatzin is this funny chicken-like bird from South America. I saw these when I visited the Amazon, gosh, 14 years ago! They are famous for the claws the babies have on their wings, which enable them to climb back up the tree to the nest if they fall out. It was once thought that this was proof of a missing link between modern day birds and their dinosaur ancestors. This theory is no longer in vogue.
The Shoebill, or Whalehead, is a large bird that is named for its rather obvious bill, which resembles a wooden clog. Although often likened to storks, this African native is not related to storks at all. Today it is believed that this bird is more closely related to pelicans and has thus been reclassified into the pelican family of birds.
Specimen collections are important in many aspects of scientific study, but for our group they served two purposes. One, we got to see birds many of us would never see otherwise. Two, collections can help people learn how to identify species.
This collection of yellowthroats …
like these dinosaur bones!
it’s a replica from a fossil that was found of a snake eating a baby dinosaur! Complete with eggs from the dinosaur nest! This fossil was found in western India in 1981. We will never know who would’ve won the battle, the dino or the snake, because they were both covered with silt before the snake could catch the dino or the dino could get away. Apparently snakes were quite rare during this time period, so this find was simply incredible.
If you find yourself in Ann Arbor with some spare time on your hands, make your way to the U of M’s Museum of Natural History. It’s free ($6 donation suggested) and well worth a tour. I know that I will be going back to see more of what they have to offer!
You are also invited to join our Tuesday Group! Anyone can come out with us. We meet every Tuesday morning at 9:00 here at Dahlem. Most of the time we are outside looking for birds, bugs, plants and other critters. Sometimes we study geology. Sometimes we travel to other sites to see new and exciting things. If you are interested in natural history, come on out and join us!