Extreme Birds is a photographic showcase of 150 birds at the extremes of nature. It reveals nature's ingenuity and sometimes its sense of humor. The species in this book were chosen for their extraordinary characteristics and for behaviors far beyond the typical. They are the biggest, the fastest, the meanest, the smartest. They build the most intricate nests, they have the most peculiar mating rituals, they dive the deepest and they fly the highest. These are the overachievers of the avian world.
Enlivened with entertaining facts and anecdotes, Extreme Birds is an engaging celebration of nature's tremendous imagination. It will appeal to all readers, especially birders and naturalists.
Dominic Couzens has written many books on birds and birding, leads specialized bird tours and is a regular contributor to Birdwatch and BBC Wildlife magazines.
Most Patient Feeder
NAME shoebill Balaeniceps rex
You're not going to use a bill like this for anything ordinary. The aptly named shoebill of central Africa is a true specialist, feeding almost entirely on lungfish -- big, sluggish fish of well-clogged, sheltered waterways. They are not easy to catch, being large and awkward to deal with, and it takes refinements of fishing technique, as well as of the bill, for the shoebill to be successful.
One of those refinements is the shoebill's extraordinary patience. In some ways its fishing mirrors the technique of herons, waiting by the waterside and eventually striking when prey comes near. But the shoebill takes the waiting much further, sometimes staying completely still for more than half an hour; a heron, and any other stealth hunter for that matter, would have given up long before that. Observers watching shoebills feeding often miss the strike, having passed into a kind of torpor themselves.
The strike, when it comes, is a real all-or-nothing affair; it is often described as a "collapse." The shoebill lurches head first at the fish, and the rest of its anatomy follows. With a bill 7 1/2 inches (19 cm) long it scoops up a huge mouthful, frequently containing some of the lungfish's habitat as well -- water, plants and all -- and it may take some time before the hunter regains its balance. A lungfish constitutes an ample meal, and after feeding the shoebill can go for several days without food. In the life of this bird, it seems, a lack of impetuous hurry is the rule.
Table of Contents