Saturday, May 29, 2010

Antarctic Visitor

Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula

Don’t bother reading another word if you are expecting me to add to the volumes already written on the subject of penguins. Sure, when sailing around the Antarctic Peninsula penguins dominate the bird stage- but they truthfully lack spunk when compared to one of the most overlooked animals on this continent.

Little-known Sheathbills are also prototypical birds of the Antarctic, though their design philosophy differs from most other polar animals. Rather than being specialized at doing one thing superbly, these birds are generalists. This means that in order to survive, Sheathbills will do anything, eat everything and go anywhere.

This last trait is not only the least disgusting of the lot- but also the one that brings them face-to-face with you and I.
Whether you make a shore side landing or not- most ships passing a penguin colony will be visited by a snow-white guest. Pale-faced Sheathbills spend most of their lives living off the table and toilet scraps of penguins, so the chance to experience some unprocessed grub is clearly too much to resist. Typically they fly over to meet passing ships to have a look at what might be found. Upon landing, they investigate and peck at anything remotely digestible, from rubber caulking and rusty hinges to the aged passengers.

They show no fear walking around the ship. Instead Sheathbills seem disappointed that in spite of the size of the ship's human colony, not a single corpse is to be found. With this disappointment realized, the appeal of shore side life wins out and the Antarctic visitor flies off.

No comments:

Post a Comment