Walking Rocks?

Query: When I was in Death Valley earlier this year, I saw some enormous 750-pound rocks that appear to travel across the desert on their own. I remembered your article about rock tortoises, and wondered if that’s what these rocks could be?

Corn of Plenty (Part 4 of 4): A Field Guide by Dr. Midas Welby

Corns of the Air: Air-corns utilize their horns for jousting, playing tic-tac-toe, and spearing food in mid-flight. Air-corns often lurk undetected in trees, wood piles, and rain gutters. When bored, they use their horns to ring the doorbells of unsuspecting humans. When the door begins to open, the air-corn flies away.


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Going On Hiatus

December 6, 2014: I am loving college, but I have to admit, I’m overwhelmed.

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Pine Cone Feeders

A Present For Imaginaries: When winter comes, I get concerned about providing extra shelter from the elements for Imaginaries. Recently, I read about people who build wildlife brush shelters out of branches and plants in their yards, and thought this was a great idea.

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Bird Hoaxes

Seen Any Square Eggs Lately? This month, Have You Seen features a rare Imaginary bird. Sorting fiction out from fact around Imaginary birds is an ongoing project of those of us who serve as Iranigami’s ornithologists.

Hoaxes about Imaginaries are common. For example, in the 1920s, a famous hoax involved a photo showing the square, spotted eggs of the fatu-liva bird from the Filbert Islands (see photo). In a related hoax, an Australian bird named the “oo-er” bird was said to lay square eggs in Australia, so named because it said “Ooh! Er!” when laying these eggs. And gold miners of the 1850s in California claimed to hard-boil the square eggs of the American gillygaloo bird and mark them up for gaming.

These tales are obviously hoaxes. Anybody can see that the eggs in the nest are dice.

Similar tall tales have been told about the philamaloo (see Archives/Have You Seen/Philamaloo) and the ouzelum birds. These two distinct subspecies have often been confused, with flying backwards attributed to the philamaloo and flying upside-down attributed to the ouzelum. It is the other way around.

Folk tales describe the philamaloo as a brightly-colored, turkey-like bird, with wings of two different colors. This is untrue. The philamaloo is a small, hard-to-see bird that blends in with all the other little brown birds out there except when it is actively flying or hanging upside down at the time it is sighted. The rumors that philamaloos are particularly stupid birds, that they build their nests completely upside down, and that they always lay seven eggs in a clutch are also untrue. Philamaloos seem no more or less intelligent than any other small brown bird, with an inverted nest structure no unlike the nests of many wrens, and they lay between two to four eggs in a clutch.

As for the ouzelum, while it is true that it flies backwards for reasons we do not understand, it is a myth that it can fly at supersonic speeds or that it is a featherless bird. It is also false that a startled ouzelum will fly in ever-tightening circles until it flies into itself and disappears. A panicked ouzelum will fly in ascending spirals to escape danger, but doesn’t disappear into itself. Finally, the ouzelum does not have only one wing – that would be the manman bird of China, now possibly extinct. That rumor began in the 1800s when an ouzelum who had lost a wing to a predator was found by hunters and kept alive for 24 hours before it succumbed to its injuries.

For a long time, Iranigami supported the myths and tall tales told about Imaginaries because fanciful stories helped to protect these rare and beautiful creatures from detection. But the fictions about Imaginary birds such as the philamaloo and the ouzelum have become so common, they’re beginning to replace the truth entirely. I, for one, am happy to have this chance to help set the record straight about our Imaginary bird friends. - FEATHER, Field Agent (Birding Division), Iranigami


Copyright © 2012, 2013, 2014 by Penelope Stowell. All rights reserved. This website is a work of fiction and does not depict any actual persons, creatures, places or events.