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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Having a Drink

As I write, it's 36 degrees Celsius here in Canberra (and close to that here in my study!); the coming days are predicted to be 39, 39, 38 and 37. In Adelaide, my birth town on the south coast of Australia, it's currently 43, with predicted maxima of over 40 for the next three days. This is normally the hot time of year for southern Australia in particular, but we are grimly aware (as are our North American friends at present) that climatic extremes are the norm of the future, given our unwillingness to do anything about them.

The radio has been reminding me to keep up my water intake, and the bird bath outside is hosting a stream of heavy drinkers. Their styles vary however. Pigeons can suck up water, enabling them to drink quickly and leave again - waterholes are magnets to predators and thus very dangerous places to hang about. (And no, none of the following pics were taken at our bird bath!)

Bar-shouldered Doves Geopelia humeralis, Idalia National Park, central Queensland.

Diamond Doves Geopelia cuneata, West MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory.
Most however have to scoop up a beakful of water and tip it back.
White-winged Choughs Corcorax melanorhamphos, Canberra.

Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae, near Esperance, Western Australia.

Zebra Finches Taeniopygia guttata, Serpentine Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory.
Like other desert seed-eaters (including pigeons and parrots) Zebbies must drink daily.

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus, Waza National Park, northern Cameroon.
It was long believed that sandgrouse sucked up water, like pigeons, but this is now known not to be so, as the bird on the left is demonstrating.
More dramatically, some birds will swoop onto water to scoop it up in flight, or by skimming the water.
Magnificent Frigatebirds Fregata magnificens, Isla Isabela, Galapagos.
Like many other seabirds, frigatebirds also drink seawater, so have salt glands above the eyes to filter salt out of the blood, but welcome fresh water when it is available.
Predatory and fruit-eating birds can get most of their needs from their food, and rarely need to drink.

Mammals too have different approaches to drinking. Carnivores, which are not generally threatened when drinking, tend to lie down and lap water in a leisurely fashion, using the tongue to scoop it up.
Sumatran Tiger Panthera tigris sumatrae, Adelaide Zoo.
Its prey however must be more efficient than that, and many antelope and horses for instance form a tube with their lips and 'suck' by using the tongue as a pump. (The following photos have been scanned from old slides, hence the ordinary quality.)

Black-faced Impala Aepyceros melampus petersi, Etosha NP, Namibia.
Gemsbok Oryx gazella, Etosha NP, Namibia.
This desert antelope rarely needs to drink.
male Kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros, Etosha NP, Namibia.
Springbok Antidorcas marsupialis, Etosha NP, Namibia.
It is quite likely that fully entering the water makes it safer with regard to lions and other predators
- though not crocodiles!

Plains Zebras Equus quagga, Etosha NP, Namibia.
Giraffe drink similarly, but must go to much more trouble to get down, and are particularly vulnerable once in the drinking position.
Giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis, Etosha NP, Namibia.
And elephants of course have a particular advantage.
African Bush Elephant Loxodonta africana drinking, Okavango Delta, Botswana.
Closer to (my) home it seems that kangaroos have evolved the same drinking method, though I can't be sure that they don't discretely lap.
Euro Macropus robustus, Idalia NP, central Queensland.
And finally for vertebrates today, this big goanna just walked in and gulped!
Lace Monitor Varanus varius, Pilliga forest, New South Wales.
Butterflies have a proboscis primarily for absorbing nectar by osmosis, but it works equally well for water. 
Butterflies taking water from Amazonian riverbank mud;
Manu River, Peru (above) and
Yasuni NP, Ecuador (below).
The proboscis of the animal below is clearly visible.

All this blogging has made me thirsty, and the temperature here has crept up to 37, so I might say 'cheers' for now. But I'll be back later in the week, when it will be at least as hot, to look at animals bathing.



Susan said...

You might like the recent photos on Le Jardin de Lucie. She's been doing a series of posts on the pigeons and doves she photographed on her 2012 Australian trip.

Ian Fraser said...

Yes, her pics are excellent - thanks for the heads-up Susan.

Flabmeister said...

Do you have any comment about Sandgrouse "loading up" their feathers with water to transport it around? This may be another legend!

The tale is from tropical Africa, so highly appropriate to what is currently on offer as weather around here!!


Ian Fraser said...

No, that one's absolutely true Martin, at least in as far as males carry water absorbed in their breast feathers to chicks. However they don't just carry spare with them, just in case...

Swan Pond said...

Friends tell me that some birds also make use of swimming pools, but I'm not sure whether for drinking or washing.