Six restored paintings from Dutch bird painter Melchior d’Hondecoeter will be on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam until March 9, 2009. Hondecoeter was the first Dutch artist to paint realistic images of wild native and exotic birds. We just visited the Rijksmuseum in September, too bad this exhibit didn’t start until this month. You can read more about the paintings and exhibit here.
Doves that have ‘affairs’ with different species of dove don’t have to worry about their posterity. Dutch Biologiest Paula den Hartog showed that descendants of two different species of dove had no special health issues and were able to reproduce. Den Hartog presented her research last Thursday at the University of Leiden.
Descendants of two different animal species are frequently infertile or they die while an embryo. Examples of this are the mule, a cross between a horse and a donkey, which is infertile; offspring between goats and sheep usually die before birth.
Den Hartog discovered that offspring from two different species of dove have a different call than either parent species. Because of their exotic voice they attract mates and are able to reproduce.
Yesterday a team of paleontologists from the Netherlands’ natural history museum Naturalis traveled to Mauritius on a new expedition. During previous expeditions the Dutch team discovered a mass grave of Dodo bones and they are returning to the site to do more intensive research. Within the bones that were previously discovered, two distinct different sizes of birds can be identified. This indicates more than one species of Dodo.
Scientists from Naturalis and the Natural Heritage Fund Mauritius speculate the Dodo may have experienced adaptive radiation, similar to what occurred with finch species on the Galapagos Archipelago. The difference in the found Dodo bone sizes might also indicate a difference in the size between males and females of the same species. The smaller bones are not likely to be from young birds as the birds matured to adulthood after a year. The team of scientists hopes to answer the question during their expedition.
During the initial discovery of bones on Mauritius in August 2007, a total of 80 large sacks of material was removed from the site. So far half of the material has been inspected. Besides a great number of Dodo bones, material from other animals and plants was also found in the mass grave.
The cause of death for the animals whose remains were found in the mass grave is still a mystery. After the current expedition, in July 2009 the grave will be further dug out.
The team will keep a weblog during their expedition, a portion of which is available in English.
Wednesday morning a White Pelican escaped from the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam. White Pelicans are native to Russia, Eastern Europe and Africa. According to a zoo spokesperson, although Amsterdam is not an ideal habitat for a White Pelican, the bird should be able to survive in the wild.
Great White Pelican by ~Shanth, Creative Commons on Flickr
In 2005 another Pelican escaped from Artis. The bird left the area and settled in Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands. The Pelican thrived at first but later fell into ill health and the zoo was able to recapture it and return it to Artis.
The Boreal Owl (aka Tengnmalm’s Owl) has raised a brood in the Netherlands for the first time in 30 years, according to the Dutch Forestry Department (Staatsbosbeheer). The Boreal Owl is about the same size as the Little Owl, which is common in the Netherlands.
In 1971 a dead Boreal Owl was found in the Netherlands, and in 1974 and 1977 unsuccessful Boreal Owl nests were seen in the country. Since the mid-1980’s male Boreal Owls have been heard calling, although none had been seen. After a group of interested birders reported hearing males and possibly females calling, the Dutch Forestry Dept. blocked off an area of forest. In April a nest was discovered although both chicks were killed by birds of prey. A second nest was found in June, where apparently at least two chicks survived to fledge.
The increasing population of wild, feral raccoons living in the Netherlands is a serious threat to Dutch bird life, according to AAP, a sanctuary for exotic animals. The center, located in Almere, is currently caring for over 20 raccoons, its maximum capacity.
Raccoons are an invasive species not native to Europe. Groups are established in the wild in Drenthe, Groningen, and other locations. They are omnivorous, eating everything from shellfish to fruit. They also dine on the eggs of prairire birds, waders and waterfowl.
The masked animals are descendants of escaped or released pets, many originating in Germany.
Earlier this week we visited the Dutch Wadden island Texel. We spent some time at Ecomare, a visitor center and natural history museum that also has a seal and wild bird shelter. There were several Gannets in the bird enclosure, like this one:
Seven of the Gannets at Ecomare are permanent residents. They help newcomers deal with the stress of being in ‘rehab’. There were four other Gannets in the enclosure that will be released when they are healthy.
An orange-colored Eurasian Spoonbill has been spotted on the Dutch Wadden Island of Texel. Eurasian Spoonbills are normally white.
The strangely-colored Spoonbill has been identified by Vogelbescherming, the Dutch partner of BirdLife International, but the reason for its coloring is a mystery. Shrimps, which cause the pinkish coloring in Roseate Spoonbills, Flamingos and other species, are also part of the diet of Eurasian Spoonbills in the Netherlands. However, the birds here normally do not eat the part of the shrimp which gives the coloring. Did this bird eat that part of some shrimp?
The orange Spoonbill was discovered during the height of the Netherlands’s football (soccer) frenzy as they advanced to the second round in the Euro 2008 championship. During this time people decorate their homes, gardens, cars and selves in orange, the national color (from the royal House of Orange). Another theory as to the orange coloring is that this individual bird came in contact with some orange substance – dye, powder, or makeup – and during regular preening managed to spread the coloring over the entire body. If this is the case, was the contact accidental, or did someone deliberately dye this bird Oranje?