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15 Birds With Fancy Feathered Noggins

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Special crests, crowns, and plumes can be found on birds all over the world, and can be used for anything from mating to intimidation.

1. Andean Cock of the Rock

The national bird of Peru is an interesting animal, known for its frog-like croaking and mud cup nests. The females are a dark orange, but the males display vibrant orange feathers and a disc-like puff of plumage on their heads. They spend most of the day croaking and displaying their unusual hairdos in hopes of attracting a female. As their name suggests, you can find these birds in the cloud mountains of the Andes. 

2. Guinea turaco

This fun green bird—which is very social and lives in flocks with as many as 30 members—has a little fluffy crest that puffs up when it's excited. Guinea turaco birds are monogamous: During courtship, the male bird will feed the female, and then they build a nest together. When the eggs are laid, they each take turns watching the nest.

3. Wilson's Bird of Paradise

These strange birds look like they're wearing skull caps. The male Wilson's birds of paradise are exceptionally colorful, featuring bright yellow, red, and green plumage; the inside of their mouths is a light yellow, and their tails curl into loose ringlets. The females are much more modest; their feathers are shades of brown, and their tails are plain. Both sexes have a turquoise head, which is, surprisingly, bare skin. When trying to woo a prospective female, males will tidy up an "arena" to perform a dance in. 

4. Royal Flycatcher

Royal flycatchers don't seem very interesting at first; their feathers are a drab light brown on top and light yellow on the underbelly. The bird's real beauty is in its crest, which normally lays flat on top of its head. When raised, it makes an impressive fan shape displaying either dark red for males or bright yellow for females. The fan is tipped with black and silver to further emphasize the pop of color.

It's believed the crest flies up when the bird is feeling stressed and threatened, as well as during courtship. They tend to move their heads back and forth in an almost hypnotic fashion, as seen above. 

5. King of Saxony

Male King of Saxony birds look like they have some really intense eyebrows. They use these head wires to attract females, by bouncing and inflating their feathers. To lure females in to the display, males will perch above their territory and call out to potential mates. The call sounds less like a bird, and more like a futuristic call alarm: 

6. Hoopoe

The Hoopoe lacks the vibrant colors of the other birds on the this list, but its black and white striped feathers are certainly eye-popping. Named for the sound it makes—a low "hoop, hoop"—the Eurasian Hoopoe is the national bird of Israel. The birds are fond of dust baths and sunbathing by spreading out their feathers. The crested avians are very territorial, and make their nests in holes in trees or walls. For added safety, females and nestlings contain a gland that smells like rotting meat to ward off predators and parasites. 

7. Wire-Crested Thorntail

Wire-crested thorntails are named for the tiny spike of feathers donned by the males of the species. Considered one of the smallest existing birds, they weigh in at 2.5g. Both sexes display iridescent coloring, but the males have crests and longer tails. Like most other hummingbirds, these tiny birds lead solitary lives and do not travel in flocks. Males and females will likely mate with several partners, and males have no involvement with nesting or raising the chicks. 

8. Golden Pheasant

Golden pheasants are native to China, but can also be found in the United Kingdom. The males look like tiny avian pharaohs with their nemes-like striped feathers. They use their vibrant plumage to attract the brown-and-black-feathered females by fanning out their neck feathers. The game birds have the ability to fly, but aren't very good at it, so most of their lives are spent on the ground.

9. Parotia

Males in the Parotia genus have brightly colored chests and distinctive blue eyes. Also known as the six-plumed bird of paradise, the bird has six plumes that emerge from the back of its head. When attracting a mate, the male will tidy up a space in the forest to set the stage. The bird will clear the floor of any debris, and will even use tools to scrub the branches. When everything is spick and span, the parotia will perform an impossibly silly dance that involves a lot of shaking and head bobbing.

10. Blue Crowned Pigeon

The blue crowned pigeon is the second largest type of pigeon in the world, and possibly one of the fanciest. The giant bird can weigh nearly five pounds. Its plumage is a nice toasty purplish blue with a fluffy crest on its head. Females are equally ornate to the males, but the males tend to be a little bit larger. 

11. Black Crowned Crane

Black crowned cranes live in the savannahs of Africa. They are black with pops of white and red, and a gold crown of feathers. The red pouch that hangs below their beak is called a gular sac, which is inflated to allow for loud mating calls. The elegant birds nest in the wetlands and eat small animals and bugs. Due to their disappearing habitat, the cranes are unfortunately considered a vulnerable species. 

12. Great Hornbill

The great hornbill is a big bird: they can be as tall as four feet and weigh as much as seven pounds. With a wingspan of five feet, its flapping can be heard from half a mile away. Their impressive beaks feature a fixture known as a casque, which is hollow; the rest of beak is also light, and filled with air pockets. The casque serves no known purpose, although some suspect it helps when finding a mate. Once courtship is completed, the female will imprison herself in a tree with a small opening for the male to bring her food. She will stay in the tree until her chicks grow feathers.

13. Cassowary

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These prehistoric-looking birds stand at six and a half feet tall, weigh over 100 pounds, and can run over 30 miles per hour; they are the second largest bird in the world (ostriches being the first). Similar to the hornbill, they have an impressive casque on top of their heads. The giant dinosaur-birds are generally peaceful, but shouldn't be taken lightly: they have claws and powerful kicks, and have been known to kill dogs. 

14. Red-whiskered bulbul

These punky birds sport tiny feathered mohawks. Both sexes have these black crests and will raise and lower them during courtship, like miniature curtsies. They originated from India, but have been established in Florida after some domestic bulbuls escaped a Miami aviary in 1960. 

15. Hawk Headed Parrot

The charming hawk headed parrot comes from the Amazon Basin, but you can find one at your local pet store. Hawk-heads look like normal parrots, but they have colorful feathers that they can raise into a colorful mane to look more threatening. 

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14 Bold Facts About Bald Eagles
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Bald eagles are powerful symbols of America—but there’s a whole lot more to these quirky birds.

1. YOUNG BALD EAGLES AREN'T BALD.

A young bald eagle with a brown head on a beach.
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So obviously adult bald eagles aren't really bald, either—their heads have bright white plumage that contrasts with their dark body feathers, giving them a "bald" look. But young bald eagles have mostly brown heads. In fact, for the first four or five years of their lives, they move through a complicated series of different plumage patterns; in their second year, for instance, they have white bellies.

2. BALD EAGLES SOUND SO SILLY THAT HOLLYWOOD DUBS OVER THEIR VOICES.

A red-tailed hawk.
A red-tailed hawk's screech is usually dubbed over the bald eagle's weaker scream.
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It's a scene you’ve probably seen countless times in movies and on TV: An eagle flies overhead and emits a rough, piercing scream. It's a classic symbol of wilderness and adventure. The only problem? Bald eagles don't make that sound.

Instead, they emit a sort of high-pitched giggle or a weak scream. These noises are so unimpressive that Hollywood sound editors often dub over bald eagle calls with far more impressive sounds: the piercing, earthy screams of a smaller bird, the red-tailed hawk. If you were a fan of The Colbert Report, you might remember the show's iconic CGI eagle from the opener—it, too, is making that red-tailed hawk cry. Listen for yourself and decide who sounds more impressive.

3. THEY EAT TRASH AND STOLEN FOOD.

Two bald eagles guard their prey against two magpies on a snowy field.
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Picture a majestic bald eagle swooping low over a lake and catching a fish in its powerful claws. Yes, bald eagles eat a lot of fish—but they don't always catch them themselves. They've perfected the art of stealing fish from other birds such as ospreys, chasing them down until they drop their prey.

Bald eagles will also snack on gulls, ducks, rabbits, crabs, amphibians, and more. They'll scavenge in dumpsters, feed on waste from fish processing plants, and even gorge on carrion (dead, decaying animals).

4. BALD EAGLES USUALLY MATE FOR LIFE ...

Two bald eagles perched on a tree.
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Trash and carrion aside, they're pretty romantic animals. Bald eagles tend to pair up for life, and they share parenting duties: The male and the female take turns incubating the eggs, and they both feed their young.

5. … AND THEY LIVE PRETTY LONG LIVES.

Two bald eagles sitting on a rock.
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Those romantic partnerships are even more impressive because bald eagles can survive for decades. In 2015, a wild eagle in Henrietta, New York, died at the record age of 38. Considering that these birds pair up at 4 or 5 years of age, that's a lot of Valentine's Days.

6. THEY HOLD THE RECORD FOR THE LARGEST BIRD'S NEST.

Two bald eagles in their large nest.
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Bald eagles build enormous nests high in the treetops. The male and female work on the nest together, and this quality time helps them cement their lifelong bond. Their cozy nurseries consist of a framework of sticks lined with softer stuff such as grass and feathers. If the nest serves them well during the breeding season, they'll keep using it year after year. And, like all homeowners, they can't resist the thought of renovating and adding to their abode. Every year, they'll spruce it up with a whopping foot or two of new material.

On average, bald eagle nests are 2-4 feet deep and 4-5 feet wide. But one pair of eagles near St. Petersburg, Florida, earned the Guinness World Record for largest bird’s nest: 20 feet deep and 9.5 feet wide. The nest weighed over two tons.

7. FEMALES ARE LARGER THAN MALES.

Two bald eagles in their large nest.
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In many animal species, males are (on average) larger than females. Male gorillas, for example, dwarf their female counterparts. But for most birds of prey, it's the opposite. Male bald eagles weigh about 25 percent less than females.

Scientists aren't sure why there's such a size difference. One reason might be the way they divide up their nesting duties. Females take the lead in arranging the nesting material, so being bigger might help them take charge. Also, they spend longer incubating the eggs than males, so their size could intimidate would-be egg thieves.

If you're trying to tell male and female eagles apart, this size difference may help you—especially since both sexes have the same plumage patterns.

8. TO IDENTIFY THEM, LOOK AT THE WINGS.

A bald eagle flies across the water.
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People often get excited about a big soaring bird and yell "It's an eagle!” just before it swoops closer and … oops, it's a vulture. Here's a handy identification tip. Bald eagles usually soar with their wings almost flat. On the other hand, the turkey vulture—another dark, soaring bird—holds its wings up in a shallow V shape called a dihedral. A lot of large hawks also soar with slightly raised wings.

9. THEY'RE COMEBACK KIDS.

Baby eagle chicks in a nest.
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Before European settlers arrived, bald eagles were abundant across the U.S. But with settlement came habitat destruction, and the settlers viewed the eagles as competition for game and as a threat to livestock. So many eagles were killed that in 1940 Congress passed an act to protect the birds.

Unfortunately, another threat rose up at about that time. Starting after World War II, farmers and public health officials used an insecticide called DDT. The chemical worked well to eradicate mosquitos and agricultural pests—but as it traveled up the food chain, it began to heavily affect birds of prey. DDT made eagle eggshells too thin and caused the eggs to break. A 1963 survey found just 471 bald eagle pairs in the lower 48 states.

DDT was banned in the early 1970s, and conservationists began to breed bald eagles in captivity and reintroduce them in places across America. Luckily, this species made a spectacular recovery. Now the lower 48 states boast over 9700 nesting pairs.

10. THEY'RE UNIQUELY NORTH AMERICAN.

An African fish eagle flies over the water.
The African fish eagle is a relative of the North American bald eagle.
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You've probably heard of America's other eagle: the golden eagle. This bird lives throughout much of the northern hemisphere. But the bald eagle is only found in North America. It lives across much of Canada and the U.S., as well as northern parts of Mexico.

Though it may be North American, the bald eagle has seven close relatives that are found throughout the world. They all belong to the genus Haliaeetus, which comes—pretty unimaginatively—from the Latin words for "sea" and "eagle." One relative, the African fish eagle, is a powerful symbol in its own right. It represents several countries; for example, it's the national symbol of Zambia, and graces the South Sudanese, Malawian, and Namibian coats of arms.

11. THEY'RE AERIAL DAREDEVILS.

A bald eagle carries a fish off in its talons.
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It seems too weird to be true: While flying, bald eagles sometimes grab each other's feet and spin while plummeting to the earth. Scientists aren't sure why they do this—perhaps it's a courtship ritual or a territorial battle. Usually, the pair will separate before hitting the ground (as seen in this remarkable set of photographs). But sometimes they hold tight and don't let go. These two male bald eagles locked talons and hit the ground with their feet still connected. One subsequently escaped and the other was treated for talon wounds.

12. THEIR EYES ARE AMAZING.

Close-up of a bald eagle's face.
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What if you could close your eyes and still see? Besides the usual pair of eyelids, bald eagles have a see-through eyelid called a nictitating membrane. They can close this membrane to protect their eyes while their main eyelids remain open. The membrane also helps moisten and clean their eyes.

Eagles also have sharper vision than people, and their field of vision is wider. Plus, they can see ultraviolet light. Both of those things mean the expression "eagle eye" is spot-on.

13. THEY MIGRATE … SORT OF.

A bald eagle sits in a snowy tree.
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If you're a bald eagle that nests in northern Canada, you'll probably head south for the winter to avoid the punishing cold. Many eagles fly south for the winter and return north for the summer—as do plenty of other bird species (and retired Canadians). But not all bald eagles migrate. Some of them, including individuals in New England and Canada's Maritime provinces, stick around all year. Whether or not a bird migrates depends on how old it is and how much food is available.

14. THEY CAN SWIM … SORT OF.

A bald eagle
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There are several videos online—like the one above—that show a bald eagle swimming in the sea, rowing itself to shore with its huge wings. Eagles have hollow bones and fluffy down, so they can float pretty well. But why swim instead of soar? Sometimes, an eagle will swoop down and grab an especially weighty fish, then paddle it to shore to eat.

Note that the announcer in the video above says that the eagle's talons are "locked" on a fish that's too heavy to carry. In fact, those lockable talons are an urban legend.

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New Health-Monitoring Litter Box Could Save You a Trip to the Vet
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Unsure if your cat is sick or just acting aloof per usual? A “smart toilet” for your fur baby could help you decide whether a trip to the vet is really necessary.

Enter the Pet Care Monitor: More than a litter box, the receptacle is designed to analyze cat urine for health issues, The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo reports. Created by the Japan-based Sharp Corporation—better known for consumer electronics such as TVs, mobile phones, and the world's first LCD calculator—the product will be available for purchase on the company’s website starting July 30 (although shipping limitations may apply).

Sensors embedded in the monitor can measure your cat’s weight and urine volume, as well as the frequency and duration of toilet trips. That information is then analyzed by an AI program that compares it to data gleaned from a joint study between Sharp Corp and Tottori University in Japan. If there are any red flags, a report will be sent directly to your smartphone via an application called Cocoro Pet. The monitor could be especially useful for keeping an eye on cats with a history of kidney and urinary tract problems.

If you have several cats, the company offers sensors to identify each pet, allowing separate data sets to be collected and analyzed. (Each smart litter box can record the data of up to three cats.)

The Pet Care Monitor costs about $225, and there’s an additional monthly fee of roughly $3 for the service. Sharp Corporation says it will continue developing health products for pets, and it has already created a leg sensor that can tell if a dog is nervous by measuring its heart and respiratory rates.

[h/t The Asahi Shimbun]

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