Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Extinct is (mostly) forever

We spent a day and change at the San Diego Zoo where the kids again enjoyed the "amimals."

On the tram ride we went by a condor exhibit. The saga of the California Condor is well known. I was really surprised by their size however. The birds were the length of a hen turkey but appeared to have twice the bulk. I can easily see how condors would have made simple aerial targets for bored hunters (the ones that didn't die of ingested, rather than high velocity, lead poisoning at least).

Andean condors are also apparently endangered, this young one was part of one of their shows and flew right past us.

This is a Guam Rail.
It's in the same situation as the California Condor; extinct in the wild. As a smaller bird I suppose it might be easier to propogate more of them in captivity. I don't know, however, whether there is any social impetus to do this. Given that their natural habitat is still over-run by introduced cats, rats, and snakes, I doubt that these flightless birds could ever be re-introduced.

I know that a re-introduction of captive-raised thick-billed parrots was attempted in the Chiricahua's a decade or so ago. If memory serves, most of these were picked off by great horned owls when they selected exposed perches for roosting. I don't know what the status of the Mexican population is though I'm sure they're threatened at minimum.

I've always thought red-breasted geese were one of the more attractive waterfowl, at least in my mental picture of one. Up close they take on more of a bizarre appearance.

Finally, a member of their menagerie that was not quite so endangered, a (drumroll please) red-breasted merganser.

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