March 8, 2010

Blood and Gore.

While Dar es Salaam has Indian Crows, Mwanza, Tanzania's second largest city, has Marabou Storks. However, these are not the fairytale-like storks believed to gracefully deliver babies in a swaddling blanket, rather these storks are downright ugly, even offensive in appearance. Their presence in Mwanza is commanding. They are large, both in size and number, especially around the city's trash dumps. Marabou Storks will eat just about any kind of animal, dead or alive. In fact, their appearance has evolved to adapt to this fact, as their naked heads and necks allow feeding on large animal carcasses without getting their head feathers soiled with blood and gore. Although, despite their offensive appearance, the benefits of their presence are worthy of appreciation, they are notably efficient in reducing disease by cleaning up carcasses and other rubbish.

In doing some follow-up research on these strikingly looking birds, I came across this quote, which elicited laughter on my part:

"To the casual observer the massive Marabou Stork with its balding, scabby head and pendulous pink air sac may appear to be one of the ugliest creatures in the world. If this same observer were to notice the Marabou's fondness for carrion and its habit of squirting excrement onto its own legs he or she would probably consider the original opinion to be justified. It takes a real bird lover to see past all of this stork's bizarre adornments to recognize the scruffy charm underneath." (Smithsonian National Zoo)

And so it seems, my propensity to label these birds as truly grotesque creatures puts me in the category of not being a real bird lover at heart. Strange defeat.



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