Wake Up, Phil!

Groundhog Day is a popular tradition celebrated in Canada and the United States on February 2nd. It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.

The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck is a rodent.

It belongs to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots.

The groundhog is the most widespread North American marmot species.

It is found through much of the eastern United States across Canada and into Alaska.

This species inhabits many different ecosystems. It is typically found in low elevation forests, small woodlots, fields, pastures, and hedgerows.

In the wild, groundhogs can live up to 6 years with 2 or 3 being average. In captivity, groundhogs reportedly live up to 14 years.

Groundhogs are stocky in appearance and often stand up on their hind legs, making them look tall.

Adults measure from 16.5 to 27 inches in total length including a tail of 3.7 to 7.4 inches.

Weights of adult groundhogs, typically at least, fall between 4.4 and 13.9 lbs.

Male groundhogs average slightly larger than females and, like all marmots, they are considerably heavier during autumn than when emerging from hibernation in spring.

Thick fur on the upper parts ranges in color through various shades of brown; the feet are darker, and the underparts are buff. Melanistic (nearly black) and albino individuals sometimes occur in some populations.

Groundhogs are territorial and non-social.

They are mostly diurnal, and are often active early in the morning or late afternoon.

Groundhogs are good swimmers and can climb tall shrubs and sizable trees.

Mostly herbivorous, groundhogs eat primarily wild grasses and other vegetation, including berries and agricultural crops, when available. In early spring, dandelion and coltsfoot are important groundhog food items. Groundhogs also occasionally eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and other small animals, but are not as omnivorous as many other Sciuridae.

Groundhogs have four incisor teeth which grow 0.06 inch per week. Constant usage wears them down again by about that much each week. Unlike the incisors of many other rodents, the incisors of groundhogs are white to ivory-white.

Groundhogs are excellent burrowers, using burrows for sleeping, rearing young, and hibernating.

They are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation, and often build a separate “winter burrow” for this purpose. This burrow is usually in a wooded or brushy area and is dug below the frost line and remains at a stable temperature well above freezing during the winter months.

The breeding season extends from early March to mid- or late April, after hibernation. A mated pair remains in the same den throughout the 31- to 32-day gestation period. As birth of the young approaches in April or May, the male leaves the den.

One litter is produced annually, usually containing two to six blind, hairless and helpless young. Groundhog mothers introduce their young to the wild once their fur is grown in and they can see. At this time, if at all, the father groundhog comes back to the family. By the end of August, the family breaks up; or at least, the larger number scatter, to burrow on their own.

The groundhog is classified as a species of “least concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The groundhog has many lesser-known names including chuck, wood-shock, groundpig, whistlepig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmot, monax, moonack, weenusk, redmonk and, among French Canadians in eastern Canada, siffleux.

(FOR FILLY:)

The etymology of the name woodchuck is unrelated to wood or chucking. It stems from an Algonquian (possibly Narragansett) name for the animal, wuchak. The similarity between the words has led to the popular tongue-twister:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could
if a woodchuck could chuck wood!

Ginger

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root or simply ginger, is widely used as a spice or a folk medicine.

Ginger originated in the tropical rain forests from the Indian subcontinent to Southern Asia.

It is now cultivated in the U.S. (including Hawaii), India, China, the West Indies, and other tropical regions.

Ginger is one of the world’s more well-known and useful plants, being used for centuries as a spice for flavoring food and as a medicinal plant.

Chinese and Ayurvedic practitioners have relied on ginger for at least 3,000 years for its anti-inflammatory properties, and have used it as a “carrier” herb, one that enables other herbs to be more effective in the body.

As one of the first spices exported from the Orient, ginger arrived in Europe during the spice trade, and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans.

By the 11th century, it was a common trade article from the East to Europe.

The Spaniards brought it to the West Indies and Mexico soon after the conquest, and by 1547 ginger was being exported from Santiago to Spain.

Jamaicans and early American settlers made beer from it; and today, natural ginger ales made with fresh ginger are available as a digestive tonic.

Ginger is a perennial reed-like plant with annual leafy stems, about 3 to 4 feet tall. It produces clusters of white and pink flower buds that bloom into yellow flowers. Because of its aesthetic appeal and the adaptation of the plant to warm climates, it is often used as landscaping around subtropical homes.

The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young.

There are 80 calories in 3.5 ounces of Ginger.

Ginger contains a diverse array of many important vitamins and minerals. It also contains gingerol, a compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that has been linked to many unique health benefits.

The health benefits of ginger include reduce hypertension, inflammation, DNA breakage, nausea, migraines, and amyloid beta build-up, which is involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Ginger may also reduce DNA damage from radiation and provide some protection from industrial pollutants.

Ginger has a sharp, pungent taste and aroma.

Ginger rhizomes are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. They can be steeped in boiling water to make ginger herb tea, to which honey may be added. Ginger can be made into candy or ginger wine.

The spice has a slightly biting taste and is used, usually dried and ground, to flavor breads, sauces, curry dishes, confections, pickles, ginger ale and ginger beer.

Its generic name “Zingiber” is derived from the Greek zingiberis, which comes from the Sanskrit name of the spice, singabera.

In Japan and elsewhere, slices of ginger are eaten between dishes or courses to clear the palate.

In Burma, ginger is used in a salad dish called gyin-tho, which consists of shredded ginger preserved in oil, and a variety of nuts and seeds.

In China, sliced or whole ginger root is often paired with savory dishes, such as fish.

The oil of ginger may be used for perfume and medicine.

Source: JustFunFacts

Unusual Plants: Monkey Orchids

In doing research for another open, I came across of whole slew of unusual plants and flowers and I thought I’d present one of them every month.  Today’s entry is Monkey Orchids.  (There are quite a few orchids on the list—they are very unusual as a group—but not all are.)

There are many orchids that bear flowers looking like animals and birds. But the one that is really amazing is the one that looks like the face of a monkey. This orchid called Monkey orchid is aptly named because of its striking resemblance to the simian primates. It is really surprising but Mother Nature has literally dittoed the details with two dark eyes, eyebrows that are fuzzy and dotted, a nose that is furry, and even the beard that one sees on the face of the simians. This is a very rare orchid so chances are that you might not see it in person. It grows at a high altitude of 3000 feet and more in the Cloud Mountains of Peru and southeastern Ecuador.

However, for those interested in having this prized addition to their home garden is that this rare orchid can be grown in cold to warm weather and it blooms year round. The most interesting fact about the Monkey faced orchid is that it smells like ripe oranges to easily make it the center of attraction of any garden where it is grown. However, it is a little ironic that its flower smells like ripe oranges as with a face like a monkey, you would expect the flower to smell like bananas, right?

The Dracula part of the name of this orchid comes from two long spikes from the sepals that look like fangs of Dracula as described in movies and fiction. One fact that many people are not aware of is that the scientific name Orchis Simia derives from the fact that this orchid plant grows from two oval shaped tubers that look like the testicles of a primate. The Greek word Orchis means testicles.

Monkey orchid is a perennial orchid and it has a very long life of many years. However, a plant starts to flower after 7 years of its germination requiring the owners to be patient to see the monkey faced flowers. But once it starts to flower, you can expect the plant to flower every year for nearly 19 years.

Leaves of Monkey Orchid are green in color and linear in shape. These leaves are rhizome and fleshy. A lot has already been said about the monkey faced flowers of this orchid. Interesting fact is that the flower of monkey orchid can be in different colors like red, purple, pink, blue, orange, white, green, and even brown. The three petals of the flower can have dots, stripes or bear no particular pattern yet look like the face of the monkey.

The best conditions for growing monkey orchid in your garden are temperatures of 42-46℉ at night and not more than a temperature of 68℉ during day time. This orchid requires a high humidity level of more than 65%. The soil should be made up of bark and sphagnum moss. Choose a pot that is large and has many holes in it. You can grow this orchid by planting the seed or through vegetative reproduction. The best thing with this species of orchid is that it can be grown any time of the year as it is perennial in nature. The size of the monkey orchid remains between 7 and 20 inches. It requires a heavy amount of water and shady conditions.

Flipper

Dolphins are amazing mammals!  I visited Surfer Today to find 50 fun facts about them.

Dolphins evolved from a four-legged terrestrial animal that started spending more time in the water around 50 million years ago.

The name “dolphin” comes from the Greek words “delphis” and “delphus,” meaning “fish with a womb”.

There are around 40 different species of dolphins swimming in the oceans of the world.

Dolphins range in size from 5.6 feet to 31 feet long and weigh between 110 pounds and 10 tonnes, depending on the type of animal and species.

The killer whale is the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family.

The most common species – the bottlenose dolphin – inhabits all regions of the planet, except for the Antarctic and Arctic oceans.

The differences between dolphins and porpoises can be found in their body shapes, fins and faces.

Dolphins live in relatively shallow waters, but they can dive up to 900 feet.

Dolphins are piscivores and eat around 35 pounds of fish every day, including squid and crustaceans.

Dolphins don’t drink water because they get it from the food they eat.

Although dolphins have teeth, they swallow food without chewing it.

Dolphins have two stomachs – one for storing food and another one for digestion.

Dolphins have a skeleton with light, highly flexible, yet weaker bones compared with land animals.

Dolphins are “equipped” with highly effective healing processes, which means that they don’t hemorrhage to death easily.

Dolphins are believed to have the longest memory in the animal kingdom.

Dolphins use their echolocation/sonar for navigating through the water and obstacles and hunting prey.

Dolphins’ hearing system is so sophisticated and advanced that even a blind individual can survive.

Dolphins have no sense of smell and do not have a good sense of taste.

Dolphins can use their noses to kill sharks.

Dolphins have smooth skin to reduce drag while swimming – their outer skin layer can regenerate in only two hours.

Although dolphins have lungs and breathe like humans, they can’t live on land because they become dehydrated and overheat out of the water.

Dolphins sleep eight hours per day and spend the rest of the day swimming.

Dolphins typically resurface to breathe three to five times per minute, but they can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes.

Dolphins sleep with only one brain hemisphere at a time, in slow-wave sleep, to maintain enough consciousness to breathe and to watch for possible predators.

During the gestation period, female dolphins carry one baby at a time, but sometimes they may deliver twins.

After giving birth, female dolphins carry their calves for between 11 and 18 months.

Dolphin mothers feed their babies with extremely rich and fat milk.

The average life expectancy of a dolphin is 25 years, but they can live up to 50.

Dolphins are highly intelligent marine creatures – they can learn, play, socialize, and grieve just like humans.

Dolphins are altruistic individuals and tend to stay with ill or injured individuals for prolonged periods of time.

Dolphins communicate through whistles, clicks, and other nonverbal forms of communication.

Dolphins call out to each other by their names.

Dolphins usually travel in pods of up to 1,000 individuals.

Dolphins are not monogamous.

Dolphins usually swim at between 3 and 8 miles per hour, but their top speed is around 20 miles per hour.

A dolphin can travel up to 60 miles per day.

Dolphins not only know, but they also enjoy catching and surfing waves like humans do.

Scientists have not yet understood why dolphins jump out of the water – some of them leap over 20 feet in the air.

Dolphins have few enemies – only the great white shark, tiger shark, dusky shark, and the bull shark can be considered serious threats.

Dolphins only bite if they’re furious, angry, frustrated, anxious, or afraid.

Dolphins are trained by military forces to spot mines and find lost humans.

Japan, Peru, Solomon Islands, and the Faroe Islands are known for killing dolphins for human consumption.

The coat of arms of Anguilla and Romania feature dolphins.

India, Hungary, Costa Rica, and Chile have declared dolphins “non-human persons,” meaning that they can’t be captured and used for entertainment purposes, for example, in dolphinariums.

The desert city of Petra, established as early as 312 BC in Jordan, has images of dolphins carved in the rocks.

A group of dolphins is named a “school.” Female dolphins are “cows,” male dolphins are “bulls,” and juveniles are “calves”.

According to several animal welfare organizations, there are around 3,000 dolphins in captivity worldwide.

The most famous movies about dolphins are “Flipper,” “The Day of the Dolphin,” “Zeus and Roxanne,” “The Cove,” and “Dolphin Tale”.

In 2010, director Greg Huglin released a 20-minute film called “Surfing Dolphins,” featuring some of the world’s finest wave riding performers.

Nana and Nellie are the longest-living dolphins on record. They lived 42 and 61 years, respectively.

Carnations

Carnation flowers are symbolic of love, fascination, and distinction and are scientifically known as Dianthus. They are also known as “The Flowers of God.” According to a Christian legend, Carnations first appeared on earth as Jesus carried the Cross. Carnations sprang up from where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell as she cried over her son’s plight.

So, whether you love giving flowers or are an avid gardener, there’s something quite special about carnation flowers.

About the Carnation Flower and Plant

The single flowers of the Carnations species, Dianthus caryophyllus have 5 petals and vary from white to pink to purple in color. Border Carnation cultivars may have double flowers with as many as 40 petals.

When grown in gardens, Carnations grow to between 6 and 8.5 cm in diameter. Petals on Carnations are generally clawed or serrated.

Carnations are bisexual flowers and bloom simply or in a branched or forked cluster. The stamens on Carnations can occur in one or two whorls, in equal number or twice the number of the petals.

The Carnation leaves are narrow and stalk less and their color varies from green to grey-blue or purple. Carnations grow big, full blooms on strong, straight stems.

Growing Carnations

Carnations grow readily from cuttings made from the suckers that form around the base of the stem, the side shoots of the flowering stem, or the main shoots before they show flower-buds.

The cuttings from the base make the best plants in most cases.

These cuttings may be taken from a plant at any time through fall or winter, rooted in sand and potted up.

They may be put in pots until the planting out time in spring, which is usually in April or in any time when the ground is ready to be handled.

The soil should be deep, friable and sandy loam.

Carnation Plant Care

Carnations need some hours of full sun each day and should be kept moist.

Avoid over-watering as this may tend to turn the foliage yellow.

Spent flowers should be removed promptly to promote continued blooming.

The quality of the bloom depends on the soil and irrigation aspects for growing carnations.

Those who grow carnations should know the importance of pinching, stopping and disbudding.

At the time of plucking carnations, leave three to four nodes at the base and remove the stem.

The plant foliage should not be exposed to the direct heat of a stove or the sun.

Carnation Meaning

These flowers are one of the oldest cultivated flowers across the globe. As such, they have a rich history associated with symbolism, and there are several different meanings. The three most loved colors are pink, red, and white carnations.

Pink carnation flowers are known to reflect a mother’s love and gratitude. However, dark pink ones represent tenderness and are sometimes associated with the feeling of love that could bloom on a first date. Light pink carnations are the ones that most dearly express the love of a mother.

Red carnations are most commonly associated with feelings of deep love and affection. Light red ones symbolize admiration – the lightness of their hue enunciates a softer expression of the portrayal of love. While red roses are the ultimate in romance, red carnations are great if you want to convey something a bit less serious.

When it comes to pure love and good luck, white carnations are your best bet. White is a color of purity and luck. When gifting someone white carnations, you convey messages of good wishes for a prosperous life.

The Symbolism of The Carnation Flower

Believe it or not, carnations exude strong symbolism. Although these flowers could easily be taken for granted, they actually have a lot to teach us.

Carnation flowers have a different symbolic meaning in various cultures around the world.

Chinese culture: Carnations are typically used at weddings.

Rome and Greece: Carnations were used in ceremonial crowns, and the name was believed to derive from the Latin word for “wreath” or “garland.”

Korea: People wear pink and red carnations on Parents Day to express admiration, love, and gratitude.

Japanese culture: Carnation flowers are the most loved flower for Mother’s Day, and the red carnation is symbolic of love.

American culture: Carnations are the official Mother’s Day flower and are commonly used for special occasions such as weddings for corsages and boutonnieres for proms.

Victorian era: The colors of the carnation symbolized an answer to a secret question. A yellow carnation was indicative of ‘no,’ and a solid color meant ‘yes, and a striped carnation communicated rejection in a diplomatic way.

Growing Tips for Carnations

Carnation flowers are known to thrive in humid environments. This means that they flourish best in moist conditions. They also grow better when placed fully in the sun with soil that is either slightly alkaline or more neutral in alkalinity.

Caring for them requires little effort, and when stems are cut, they can last for a few weeks. This is what makes them so ideal for growing and using in flower arrangements and bouquets. To make sure that they grow well, it’s best to make sure that they get about four to six hours of sunlight a day.

Take care not to over water carnations. Watering them two to three times a week should suffice. If you notice that the petals or foliage turn yellow, you’re probably over watering them.

If you want to try growing them from seeds, it’s best to plant them in early spring or late fall. It’s also a good idea to grow them indoors. Allow the seedlings some time to grow, and when they are around five inches tall, you can transfer them into a bed that is well prepared or into a pot.

Carnation flowers will form small side shoots (or suckers) around their stems to allow for growth from their cuttings. The best time to take cuttings is in the summer. During this time, the plant cells divide at a faster pace, which promotes root growth. You can also use peat to add more nutrients to the soil to help your carnations grow better.

Uses Of Carnations

Throughout history, there have been several uses of carnations. A common use was to brew the flowers in tea. This is thought to help reduce stress and boost energy levels. Carnation tea can also be used to treat fevers and stomach aches.

In the beauty industry, some products include carnation oil as an ingredient to help moisturize the skin. In addition to this, carnation flowers have also been used in massage oils to help soften and heal the skin while providing a calming scent.

In A Nutshell

Carnation flowers are unique and special, and they should be given credit for their rich history and symbolism. They are robust plants – making them the perfect flowers to grow in your garden. Also, they pair well with other flowers and have a pleasant, calming smell.

Pelicans

Pelicans are a genus of large water birds that makes up the family Pelecanidae.

With 8 different species of pelicans, they can be found on all continents except for Antarctica.

Pelicans live throughout the world in tropic and temperate zones, and always near bodies of water.

Average life span in the wild is 10 to 25 years or more and up to 54 in captivity.

It is easy to identify pelicans, because they are one of the only birds with a pouch under their bill.

Along with the giant pouch, pelicans are a large bird with short legs, and they appear rather clumsy on land. Once in the water, they are strong swimmers, thanks to their webbed feet.

The largest is Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) measuring from 5.2 to 5.9 feet in length.

The heaviest is great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) weighing from 20 to 33 pounds.

The smallest and lightest is brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) measuring from 3.4 to 5 feet in length and weighing about 7.7 pounds.

The wingspan can range from 6.7 to 11.8 feet, depending on species.

Pelicans are splendid fliers and can soar like eagles with their giant wings.

Getting UP in the air can be challenging without the help of the wind. Pelicans must run over the water while beating their big wings and pounding the surface of the water with both feet in unison to get enough speed for takeoff.

They are social birds and typically travel in flocks, often strung out in a line.

Pelicans are carnivores (meat-eaters) and diurnal (hunt during the day).

While most pelicans eat fish exclusively, they can be opportunistic feeders, eating lizards, frogs, crabs and lobsters.

Many pelicans fish by swimming in cooperative groups. They may form a line or a “U” shape and drive fish into shallow water by beating their wings on the surface. When fish congregate in the shallows, the pelicans simply scoop them up.

The brown pelican, on the other hand, dives on fish (usually a type of herring called menhaden) from above and snares them in its bill.

Pelicans do not store fish in their pouch, but simply use it to catch them and then tip it back to drain out water and swallow the fish immediately.

When not eating, pelicans spend hours preening, snoozing, or sunbathing.

At dusk, pelicans all settle down for the night. Their head rests back on their shoulders, their eyes close and their feathers ruffled against the cold.

They nest in colonies in trees, bushes, or on the ground, depending on the species.

Breeding colonies often consist of hundreds of these birds all crowded onto one small island.

Males will use certain tactics to attract females during the breeding season. Certain males have colorful feathers and some others have the ability to change the color of their bill, pouch and neck into brighter colors during the interesting courtship.

Both females and males contribute to the making of the nest.

Pairs are monogamous for a single season, but the pair bond extends only to the nesting area; mates are independent away from the nest.

Females will usually lay 1 to 3 eggs and on some occasions 4 or 5 eggs. Incubation period lasts between 28 and 36 days.

The parents take turns incubating 1 to 5 bluish-white eggs, laid days apart, on the top of their feet.

The eggs hatch in the order laid, and the first chick to hatch is always larger and often attacks its younger siblings to get the most food.

The young are not fed from the pouch; instead, the parents open their mouth wide to allow the young to reach down into the gullet to get regurgitated food. The poor parents must feed their chicks up to 30 times a day for the first month of so!

By 6 to 8 weeks, they wander around, occasionally swimming, and may practice communal feeding.

Young of all species fledge 10 to 12 weeks after hatching. They may remain with their parents afterwards, but are now seldom or never fed.

They are mature at three or four years old.

Pelicans are a large bird, which makes them harder prey for most predators in their natural environment. Because of this, most animals do not hunt them. However, a wounded pelican that cannot fly is easy prey for wild dogs, feral cats and larger mammals. Humans are also predators of the pelican, hunting them for their feathers and eating the meat.

A gull often sits on a pelican’s head, trying to steal a meal when the pelican opens its bill slightly to empty out the water.

All pelicans have long bills, but the Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspkillatus) has the longest bill of any bird. The record-sized bill was 20 inches long.

The American white pelican can hold some 3 gallons of water in its bill.

Pelicans and their relatives—cormorants, gannets, and boobies—are the only birds with totipalmate feet (fully webbed; all four toes are united by ample webs).

Fossil evidence of pelicans dates back to at least 30 million years to the remains of a beak very similar to that of modern species recovered from Oligocene strata in France.

Source: JustFunFacts

Fly Like an Eagle!!!

Whoops! Wrong Eagles!  (But we’re in the playoffs this year! GO BIRDS!) Back to our regularly scheduled open…

Spotting an eagle is a rare moment for many people, but when the chance arises, how much do you actually know about these beautiful birds?

Here we’re going to look at the top 30 interesting facts about eagles.

There are over 60 different species of eagle, most of them from Africa, Asia and Europe.

Despite the bald eagle being an emblem of the United States, just two species can be found on the continent.

The eagle is known to be one of the strongest birds able to carry the heaviest loads, with one being recorded carrying 15 pounds.

Eagles vary in length, weight and other dimensions due to their environments in many cases. Eagles living in forested areas will likely have shorter wing spans, while those living in open areas will have longer wing spans.

A typical adult male eagle weights just nine pounds, despite its strength and large size.

With a height of 3.5 feet and a wing span of 7.5 feet, the average male bald eagle is one of the largest birds around.

The bald eagle takes its name from the fact it has a white head while the rest of its body is brown.

The eagle featured on U.S. currency was modeled on a real bald eagle named Peter who used to live on top of the U.S. Mint. After his death in 1836, Peter was stuffed and is still on display inside the very building upon which he once nested.

Eagles have been used in the police and the army several times, and in The Netherlands, eagles were trained to help control drones.

It is thought that larger eagles lived in New Zealand until the year 1400. Their wing spans may have reached up to 9.8 feet.

In Scandinavia, some eagles have built nests so heavy that they have broken the tree.

Bald eagles can mate while flying or free falling.

An eagle’s beak contains keratin, which means that it grows all the time just like human hair and fingernails.

During the first half of the 20th Century, bald eagles were considered a threat to the salmon fishing industry and over 100,000 eagles were killed.

The eagle has long been considered “The King of Birds”.

In many countries, the eagle is thought to bring good luck, which is one reason it has been featured on various national flags.

A mother eagle will generally lay two eggs, although in most cases, one of the baby eagles is stronger than its sibling and will kill the weaker one.

The eagle is built to be strong and powerful among other creatures. Its beak and talons enable it to be threatening and ruthless, and its amazing eyesight allows the eagle to see long distances for prey.

It takes a number of years for a baby eagle to grow its talons fully.

Although eagles can live up to 70 years, this isn’t always the case and they normally become weaker towards the end of their lives, unable to hunt as they used to.

An eagle’s brilliant eyesight is owed in part to its sizeable eyes, which can take up around 50% of the head.

A male and female eagle tend to stay together all their lives, building nests every year in the same place. It’s fair to say eagles are creatures of habit!

The female eagle will spend most of the 35 days keeping her eggs warm, while the male ensures food is brought to the nest.

Eagles do not all feed on the same food. Some eagles will feed on mainly fish, while others feed on other, smaller mammals.

When baby eagles are born, they are covered in gray feathers and don’t have the typical brown and white pattern until they are 4 years old.

The bald eagle was endangered in 1967 and there were less than 500 eagles left. Fifty years later in 2007, it was removed from the endangered list but is still protected.

A rare species of eagle is the smallest kind, the South Nicobar Serpent Eagle. It weighs just one pound but can fly faster than many other birds of this size.

A Martial Eagle once killed a deer weighing 82 pounds. This was despite the fact the eagle only weighed around 10-12 pounds itself.

Eagle feathers are in high demand across North America, but it is illegal to hunt or kill eagles and get them.

Source: https://www.thefactsite.com/facts-about-eagles/

Apricots

Apricots are delicious and widely popular fruits that belong to the genus Prunus (stone fruits).

The origin of the apricot is disputed and unsettled. It was known in Armenia during ancient times, and has been cultivated there for so long that it is often thought to have originated there.

Its scientific name Prunus armeniaca (Armenian plum) derives from that assumption.

Despite the great number of varieties of apricots that are grown in Armenia today (about 50), according to the Soviet botanist Nikolai Vavilov, its center of origin would be the Chinese region, where the domestication of the apricot would have taken place.

The apricot is now cultivated on every continent except Antarctica.

Apricots are cultivated throughout the temperate regions of the world, especially in the Mediterranean.

The average lifespan of an apricot tree is 15 to 20 years.

The apricot is a small tree, 26–39 feet tall, with a trunk up to 16 inches in diameter and a dense, spreading canopy.

The leaves are ovate, 2.0–3.5 inches long and 1.6–3.1 inches wide, with a rounded base, a pointed tip and a finely serrated margin.

The flowers are 0.8–1.8 inches in diameter, with five white to pinkish petals; they are produced singly or in pairs in early spring before the leaves.

The fruit is a drupe similar to a small peach, 0.6–1.0 inch diameter (larger in some modern cultivars), from yellow to orange, often tinged red on the side most exposed to the sun; its surface can be smooth or velvety with very short hairs. The flesh is usually firm and not very juicy. Its taste can range from sweet to tart.

The single seed is enclosed in a hard, stony shell, often called a stone, with a grainy, smooth texture except for three ridges running down one side.

In a 3.5 oz amount, raw apricots supply 48 calories and are composed of 11% carbohydrates, 1% protein, less than 1% fat and 86% water.

Apricots have many health benefits such as ability to treat indigestion, constipation, earaches, fevers, skin diseases, cancer and anemia. Furthermore, apricots have the ability to improve heart health, reduce cholesterol levels, prevent the deterioration of vision, help you to lose weight, treat respiratory conditions, boost bone strength, and maintain electrolyte balance in the body. It is also believed that apricot is good for skin care, especially for women. This is why you find it added in various cosmetics.

The impressive health benefits of apricots are due to the content of vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E, and niacin in significant amounts, as well as a number of other essential vitamins in trace amounts (less than 5% of daily requirement), as well as their mineral content, which includes potassium, copper manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous. Apricots are also a very good source of dietary fiber, like most fruits.

Apricots are widely eaten fresh as a dessert fruit.

The fruit is also widely made into jam.

Apricots may also be used in desserts, in juices, and for flavoring.

Dried apricots are a type of traditional dried fruit. Dried apricots have an intense sweet-sour flavor. They are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium, iron and are high in fiber. Dried apricots can be high in sulfur dioxide, which is commonly used in small quantities to prevent mold developing on the fruit. Many organic dried apricots are brown because they are sun-dried: sunlight oxidizes their flesh, which acts as a natural preservative.

Nutritionally, apricot seeds are similar to other nuts — they’re rich in healthful fats and provide some fiber and iron. Seeds or kernels of the apricot grown in central Asia and around the Mediterranean are so sweet that they’re sometimes substituted for almonds. The Italian liqueur amaretto, and amaretto biscotti, is flavored with extract of apricot seeds as well as almonds; plus, oil pressed from these cultivars has been used as cooking oil.

Apricot seeds contain a toxic chemical known as amygdalin, which is also referred to as laetrile. Some companies call this compound vitamin B17 in order to label and market the product as an essential substance. In the body, this chemical is converted to cyanide, which is poisonous and can cause serious harm. While your body can detoxify a small amount of cyanide, eating too many apricot seeds or kernels may be hazardous to your health.

During the 17th-century, apricot oil was used to treat tumors, ulcers, and swellings. In 2011, a systematic review deduced that claims that amygdalin and laetrile found in high concentration in apricots have a medicinal benefit to cancer patients were true.

In Europe, apricots were used as an aphrodisiac.

Egyptians usually dry apricots, add sweetener, and then use them to make a drink called amar al-dīn.

In the 17th century, English settlers brought the apricot to the English colonies in the New World. Most of modern American production of apricots comes from the seedlings carried to the west coast by Spanish missionaries. Almost all U.S. commercial production is in California, with some in Washington and Utah.

In 2016, the top five producers of apricots were Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, Algeria and Italy.

The apricot is a member of the rose family and is a close relative of almonds.

Apricot derives from praecocia (praecoquus) as cooked or ripened beforehand [in this case meaning early ripening], and from Greek πραικόκιον (praikókion) as “apricot”. The English name first appeared in the 16th century as abrecock from the Middle French aubercot or later abricot, from Catalan a(l)bercoc.

Seeds of the apricot have been discovered during archaelogic excavations of the Garni Temple and Shengavit settlement, having a history of 6,000 years.

Source: JustFunFacts

Dust Off That Tuxedo

When I think of Burgess Meredith, Grumpy Old Men usually comes to mind.  But in his younger days, Meredith played The Penguin—arch villain on the original Batman series.  What else is there to know about penguins, I wondered.  Here are some interesting facts I found out!

There are only 17 -20 penguin species living on our planet—scientists do not agree on the methodology apparently. 

Penguins are quite fast swimmers. Their speed is usually between 5 and 10 mph. However, they can reach a top speed of up to 22 mph!

The fastest of all penguin species is the Gentoo penguin.

The average lifespan of a penguin lies between 15 and 20 years, depending on the species.

In order to be able to raise their chicks, penguins come ashore.

The smallest penguin species is the little penguin, ranging from 12 to 16 inches. (laziest naming ever…LOL) These penguins are also called fairy penguins, or just little blue penguins.

The biggest penguin species is the emperor penguin, which can reach a height of up to 48 inches.

While emperor penguins can weigh up to 100 pounds, little penguins only weigh around 2 pounds.

Scientists estimate that extinct ancestors of penguins reached a height of up to 70 inches.

While some sources cite that the emperor penguin dived 1,850 feet, their maximum diving capacity is usually around 1,000 feet.

Most of the penguins usually only dive in a range from 16 – 65 feet.

Penguins can hold their breath up to 20 minutes while diving.

Penguins mainly feed on fishes, krill and squids.

Contrary to beliefs, penguins do not have any teeth.

Penguins lose all of their feathers every year. During this time, they are unable to swim, which may cause difficulties for them as they also cannot fish due to that.

The name penguin comes from an unrelated bird species “great auk”, which is already extinct.

Penguins are actually birds but don’t have wings. They have flippers instead.

Penguins are unable to fly.

In order to keep them warm in winter, penguins have many layers of feathers to protect against the cold.

Penguins are masters in controlling their blood flow. Once part of their body becomes too cold, they pump warm water in those parts in order to warm them up.Their biggest enemies penguins have to watch out for are leopard seals, killer whales and sea lions.

The closest relatives of penguins are albatrosses, divers and petrels.

Penguins can drink saltwater as well as freshwater in order to survive. Excessive salt will be excreted.

In order to be able to recognize their mating partner, each penguin has a specific unique sound frequency which it can use to gather with its partner and differentiate him from other penguins around.

Most of the penguin species live on the South Pole or Antarctica, while all of them, apart from the Galapagos penguin, live in the Southern hemisphere.

Don’t confuse Arctic with Antarctica. Penguins don’t live at the North Pole!

In order to reach higher initial speed, penguins often jump out of the water before they dive.

Although it might not be intuitive at first glance when you see penguins out of the water, they are perfectly disguised while swimming. Their white belly disguises them from predators below them, while their black back fits in the water surface and protects them from predators above them.

Penguins produce oil that makes them resistant against the cold water and also more agile underwater.

It is estimated that the average penguin colony varies from 200,000 to 500,000 individuals.

While some penguin species prefer to stay on land, there are also some species that spend up to 80% of their lifetime in the water.

The penguins’ body is built to dive and sink easily, as their bones are not hollow like for many other birds, but they rather have dense bones which make them quite heavy.

Instead of walking, penguins often move with their belly on the ice. It is not fully clear why they do it, but scientists estimate that it might be a faster way to move on ice compared to walking.

Penguins are usually quite trustful towards humans. This is probably learned behavior since most of their predators are underwater and they feel safe on land.

In cold times, penguins are not reluctant to get closer to each other. In fact, they use each other’s body temperature to warm and protect against the cold.

Quokkas

Ever heard of a Quokka?  It’s been called the most cheerful animal on the planet due to their perpetual smiles!  Read on for more fascinating facts!!

What does the quokka look like?

Quokkas are small, four-legged animals covered in fur. They’re from the kangaroo family and have pouches in their abdomens for carrying their young. Though they’re much tinier than kangaroos; the quokka is around the size of a domestic housecat. They have narrow faces, round ears, big noses, and tiny paws. Their tails are short and skinny. They’re almost always a shade of brown. One of the most distinctive features of the quokka is their smile. Known as “the world’s most cheerful animal,” quokkas have a perpetually happy expression on their face. It can range from a tiny smile to a toothy grin, but it’s always there, and it’s always the absolute cutest.

How do you pronounce “quokka?”

It depends on where you live. North Americans usually pronounce it koo-WOH-kuh, but native Australians favor kah-WAH-kah.

How big is a quokka?

Quokkas are the size of domesticated cats. Their bodies measure between 16 – 21 inches long, and their tails are usually 9 – 12 inches long.

How much does a quokka weigh?

Male quokkas usually weigh about 5 – 10 pounds. Females are slightly smaller at 3 – 8 pounds.

Can quokkas climb trees?

Quokkas love to climb trees! They can ascend as high as 4 – 6 feet, which is pretty good for their size. It’s like a housecat climbing to the top portion of a door.

Are quokkas friendly or aggressive?

Quokkas are friendly and approachable creatures. They’re used to tourists, so they have little fear of human contact, and they’ll hop right up to people who are marveling at them. This is how visitors to Rottnest Island are able to pose for so many “quokka selfies.” That said, quokkas can have a bit of amean streak to them. They aren’t afraid to bite when they’re feeling threatened. And they have powerful hind legs that can be used for kicking just as easily as hopping. They don’t like to be handled, either, and the Australian government has strict rules about this, so trying to pet a quokka might result in injuries and fines. To put it another way, quokkas might be friendly, but they’re not domesticated. They’re still wild animals.

Why do quokkas smile?

They’re famous for their chubby-cheeked grins, but why do quokkas actually beam?

The simple answer is that we don’t know. There’s nothing about their mouth or jaw structure that necessitates smiling.

Most experts agree that it’s just a quirk of the species. Like dolphins, quokkas simply have a natural smile. Some other animals with natural smiles include mata mata turtles and axolotls.

Is the quokka the happiest animal?

Quokkas are often called “the happiest animal on Earth” because of their big grins and friendly natures.  However, it’s important to remember that they’re still wild animals. They can bite, and they can get aggressive when fighting over mates or when they feel threatened. Males often form social hierarchies based on size and dominance. Females will even abandon their babies if the situation calls for it. The life of a quokka isn’t easy just because it’s smiling!

Some quokkas will even hang around stores, parks, campsites and youth hostels where people have been known to illegally feed them.

Why can’t you feed a quokka?

You shouldn’t feed a quokka for the same reason that you shouldn’t feed any wild animal. Their bodies aren’t used to artificial ingredients, and their diets can be completely disrupted with the introduction of foods and snacks that aren’t native to their environment. You can even cause physical damage to quokkas if you insist on feeding them. Marsupials are prone to something called lumpy jaw disease that can infect their bone cartilage and lead to pain, distress, starvation, and death. LJD can be caused by something as simple as sandwich bread sticking to their gums, so never feed a quokka!

Do quokkas bite?

Yes. Quokkas can and will bite when they’re feeling threatened, and they’ve been known to nip at the fingers of people who try to feed them.

What eats a quokka? Predators and Threats

Quokkas are vulnerable to cats, dogs, foxes, dingoes, and snakes. Their natural predators are birds of prey and dingoes, but the rest have been introduced to their environment over time.

When faced with a predator, the quokka’s first instinct is to run away. They can hop at high speeds for their size, and they can dive into burrows and scurry up branches to try and lose their pursuers. Moms have even been known to sacrifice their children as a distraction to escape. If they’re cornered, quokkas will fight tooth and nail for survival. They can bite with their teeth and scratch with their claws, and their powerful hind legs are good for kicking. It’s only their small size that dooms them. Compared to a dingo or even a dog, quokkas are no match for larger animals.

Are quokkas endangered?

Quokkas are listed as “vulnerable” by the Australian Department of Environment and Energy.

They aren’t quite endangered, but their population trends are decreasing.

How many quokkas are left in the world?

The IUCN estimates that there are between 7,500 – 15,000 mature adults in the wild. The vast majority is on Rottnest Island. There’s also a protected population on Bald Island, and there are a few scattered colonies on mainland Australia as well.

What threatens the quokka?

The biggest threat to quokkas is deforestation. Humans are tearing down trees to build cities; weather changes are having ripple effects on vegetation, erosion, and rainfall. In 2015, a wildfire in Western Australia decimated 90% of the local quokka population. Their numbers went from 500 to 39.

Another big threat to quokkas is humans. People just can’t resist trying to feed, pet, cuddle and capture them, and the smallest of sandwiches can have long-term consequences for their health. There have also been cases of animal cruelty towards quokkas. Since they’re such a prevalent part of life on Rottnest Island, people take liberties with them. One man was jailed when he threw a quokka off a boat to prove that it could swim.

Do quokkas live in groups? Are they sociable?

Yes and no. Quokkas live in colonies, but they don’t really socialize with one another. For example, they don’t groom or play together. They live solitary lives that just so happen to intersect for food and safety reasons.

What do quokkas eat?

Quokkas are herbivores that eat grasses, leaves, shrubs, and plants. One study has suggested that their favorite food is Guichenotia ledifolia, a type of white-purple flower.

Do quokkas mate for life?

There’s no evidence to suggest that quokkas mate for life, but they’ve been known to return to the same mates for several breeding cycles in a row, so they aren’t opposed to monogamy. It seems to be a matter of convenience more than anything. Remember: They’re solitary creatures that mostly live together for survival rather than any desire for companionship.

What sound does a quokka make?

Quokkas don’t make a lot of noise. They don’t have calls or songs to communicate with others of their kind, and they don’t growl when they’re threatened. They might make involuntary sounds of fear or panic when they’re distressed, but that’s about it.

Are quokkas nocturnal?

Quokkas are nocturnal.  Their natural instinct is to sleep during the day and forage at night. However, you’ll find plenty of quokkas that are active in the daylight hours. They know that they have better chances of being illegally fed by tourists if they hang around crowded places at high noon.

Where does the quokka live?

The quokka is native to Australia. Its biggest population is on Rottnest Island, but there are small groups on Bald Island and mainland Australia as well. These are the only places in the world where you can find wild quokkas.

What is the habitat of the quokka?

Quokkas live in trees, shrubs, swamps and other areas with dense vegetation. They don’t like the exposure of wide and open spaces. They prefer environments where they can hide from predators or take shelter from the elements when necessary.

How many babies do quokkas have?

Quokkas have one baby at a time. Since they’re a mammalian species, it’s a live birth, and the baby will require milk after it’s born.

What do you call a baby quokka?

Like kangaroos, baby quokkas are called “joeys.”

What are baby quokkas like?

They’re adorable! Baby quokkas are miniature versions of their parents, and they ride around in their mother’s pouch until they’re old enough to fend for themselves. It isn’t uncommon to see babies poking their tiny, fuzzy heads out of their pouches as their mom hops from location to location. As for their life cycle, a quokka female will give birth to a single baby after gestating it for about a month. Then she’ll nurse it and carry it around in her pouch for an additional six months. At six months, the joey will be encouraged to leave the safety of the pouch. It will start to wean itself off mom’s milk as it learns how to forage for food. At 10 – 12 months, the joey will be considered independent, and it won’t rely on mom at all anymore. It might stay close as part of a colony, but it will be a mature and solitary adult.

Do male quokkas play any part in child-rearing?

Male quokkas will defend their pregnant mate, but they don’t have anything to do with mom or baby after it’s born.

How often do quokkas reproduce?

Quokkas are known for their rapid reproduction rates. They mature quickly and can give birth twice per year, so in a 10-year lifespan, they might produce anywhere from 15 – 17 babies. They’re unbound by mating seasons, though it’s most common for quokkas to breed between the months of January – March.

Do quokkas really throw their babies?

Despite their sweet and friendly nature, quokkas have a survival instinct that’s pretty nasty: If a mother is being pursued by a predator, she’ll sacrifice her baby to save herself. She won’t actually throw it, but she’ll eject it from her pouch by relaxing her pouch muscles, causing the baby to drop out. The baby will flail on the ground and make noise that attracts the predator.

Where can I see a quokka?

If you want to see a quokka in the wild, book a trip to Rottnest Island. Quokkas are such an everyday part of life that they’re considered a nuisance by local shopkeepers! They run inside businesses looking to scavenge, and they distract customers, cause messes, dig into garbage and poop everywhere. They’re adorable little troublemakers. Outside of their native habitat, you can find quokkas in all kinds of Australian zoos, including the Perth Zoo, Adelaide Zoo, Sydney Zoo, and Melbourne Zoo.