Strange but True

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From Xplor: January/February 2019

Your guide to all the unusual, unique, and unbelieveable stuff that goes on in nature.

  • A northern cardinal can sing a duet all by itself. Your voice box can make only one sound at a time. But many birds have a two-tubed syrinx (seer-inks)
  • that can produce two sounds at once.
  • Shakespeare featured birds in many of his plays and poems. On a cold winter’s day in 1890, a Shakespeare fan released 60 European starlings into New York City. Today, more than 200 million starlings live across the United States.
  • In frigid winter weather, striped skunks curl up for power naps that can last several weeks. During these supersized slumbers, the chubby mammals burn fat like marathon runners. Female skunks, in particular, may drop 40 percent of their weight.
  • Trumpeter swans aren’t featherweights. Missouri’s heaviest bird often tips the scales at more than 26 pounds. To get their feathered fannies airborne, swans must gallop over 100 yards across the water’s surface, flapping their wings furiously.
  • Fishmas trees: Many people, including Conservation Department biologists, sink their Christmas trees — minus the ornaments and tinsel, of course — into lakes and ponds. The dense branches provide hiding places for fish and other aquatic creatures.
  • White-tailed deer wear different gear throughout the year. In summer, deer have a lightweight coat of reddish-tan fur. When the weather turns colder, deer grow a shaggier coat that looks grayish-brown.
  • Barely bigger than a soda can, the northern saw-whet owl is Missouri’s smallest bird of prey. Larger owls, such as barred owls, often swallow mice in a single gulp, but dainty sawwhets usually require two meals to polish off a rodent.

Also In This Issue

Skunk in a trash can
Striped skunks won’t raise a stink — unless it’s absolutely necessary.
These Missouri critters have won the fight for survival.

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White