Friday, April 15, 2011

The A - Z April Challenge: M

M is for Marabou
Viewed up close, the Marabou Stork is an alarming sight with his bald, scabby head, oversized beak, and spindly legs. An enormous specimen, he joins the Andean Condor in having the largest wingspan of any land bird. 
Marabous eat carrion, scraps and faeces but will also take fish, frogs and hatchling crocodiles. There is little they will not put in their mouths, even eating other birds such as pigeons, doves and young flamingos. 
We were able to view this fellow from an underground bunker on Mount Kenya, and could better see why their downy underbelly feathers are used to trim clothing and make fishing lures.
 Marabous are particularly lazy birds, remaining motionless for long stretches of time, but once airborne,  take on elegance with their ten-foot wings outspread.
Marabous adapted their naked heads and necks as a result of
sticking their faces into animal carcasses to feed...a way to avoid getting their feathers covered in blood and gore.
Their willingness to eat anything means that these storks are actually benefitting from exposure to humans and are increasing in numbers. Additionally, their grotesque appearance and unsavoury habits make them an unattractive target for hungry hunters. 
M is also for Mongoose

By contrast, the mongoose is a treat for the eyes...tiny, lithe and agile. It lives in grasslands and open forests, feeding mainly on millipedes and beetles, supplemented by eggs and lizards. I was lucky to get a shot of this Golden Mongoose as he peeked curiously around the corner of our Serengeti lodge.
The Banded Mongoose was more commonly seen in our travels. Related to weasels and meerkats,  these animals live in colonies, using dens of all sorts for shelter, including termite mounds.    
As with the Marabou, the development of agriculture on the continent has had a positive influence on their numbers. Farmland crops merely serve as an extra food source for them. They can even be domesticated and are kept as pets to contol vermin...
For more A - Z posts, be sure to pop by Arlee Bird's site and see what others have done with the letter M....


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Wasn't Riki-tiki-tavi a mongoose? They certainly are cuter than the Marabou stork.

Lynette Killam said...

Indeed he was, Debra! I haven't read Kipling since I was a kid...may just pull this one out today...:)

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Ha! I TOTALLY relate to the maribou, scruffiness, eating habits and being prone to lying still for long stretches, hee hee. My TOTEM, wouldnt you know it????????? Great shots, as always, amazing how close you were to the mongoose.

Lois Evensen said...

Great images. The first mongoose image is a real keeper. :)

Katy Cameron said...

I think the mongoose is definitely the prettier of the two!

Jo said...

What a lovely post on African wildlife, Lynette. You captured the Marabou in flight so beautifully. I missed it while watching these strange birds on the way to Nairobi at the end of March. I hope to photograph this stork in flight when we go out birding over Easter weekend. I love the mongoose photos. We have a few on the camp which my friend up the hill feeds on her patio. Hoping to encourage one to our garden sometime. Have a great weekend. Blessings Jo

joo said...

Mangoose is so sweet. Such a lovely and brave creature! As for Marabu, well, not very handsome creatures, but your photos are superb!
have a nice weekend:)

rapunzel said...

I immediately thought of Riki-tiki-tavi, too. Love that movie. Great shots. Amazing.

adrielleroyale said...

I love your nature lessons :) Great shots as usual!