The barn owl (Tyto alba) is the most widely distributed species of owl and one of the most widespread of all birds. It is also referred to as the common barn owl, to distinguish it from other species in its family, Tytonidae, which forms one of the two main lineages of living owls, the other being the typical owls (Strigidae). The barn owl is found almost everywhere in the world except polar and desert regions, Asia north of the Himalayas, most of Indonesia, and some Pacific islands.
Phylogenetic evidence shows that there are at least three major lineages of barn owl, one in Europe, western Asia and Africa, one in southeast Asia and Australasia, and one in the Americas, and some highly divergent taxa on islands. Accordingly some authorities split the group into the western barn owl for the group in Europe, western Asia and Africa, the American barn owl for the group in the Americas, and the eastern barn owl for the group in southeast Asia and Australasia. Some taxonomic authorities further split the group, recognising up to five species, and further research needs to be done to clarify the position. There is a considerable variation between the sizes and colour of the approximately 28 subspecies but most are between 33 and 39 cm (13 and 15 in) in length with wingspans ranging from 80 to 95 cm (31 to 37 in). The plumage on head and back is a mottled shade of grey or brown, the underparts vary from white to brown and are sometimes speckled with dark markings. The face is characteristically heart-shaped and is white in most subspecies. This owl does not hoot, but utters an eerie, drawn-out shriek.
The barn owl is nocturnal over most of its range, but in Britain and some Pacific islands, it also hunts by day. Barn owls specialise in hunting animals on the ground and nearly all of their food consists of small mammals which they locate by sound, their hearing being very acute. They mate for life unless one of the pair gets killed, when a new pair bond may be formed. Breeding takes place at varying times of year according to locality, with a clutch, averaging about four eggs, being laid in a nest in a hollow tree, old building or fissure in a cliff. The female does all the incubation, and she and the young chicks are reliant on the male for food. When large numbers of small prey are readily available, barn owl populations can expand rapidly, and globally the bird is considered to be of least conservation concern. Some subspecies with restricted ranges are more threatened. [Credit: Wikipedia]
The Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo) is a species of eagle-owl that resides in much of Eurasia. It is also called the European eagle-owl and in Europe, it is occasionally abbreviated to just eagle-owl. It is one of the largest species of owl, and females can grow to a total length of 75 cm (30 in), with a wingspan of 188 cm (6 ft 2 in), males being slightly smaller. This bird has distinctive ear tufts, with upper parts that are mottled with darker blackish colouring and tawny. The wings and tail are barred. The underparts are a variably hued buff, streaked with darker colour. The facial disc is poorly developed and the orange eyes are distinctive. [Credit: Wikipedia]
The snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large, white owl of the typical owl family. Snowy owls are native to Arctic regions in North America and Eurasia. Males are almost all white, while females have more flecks of black plumage. Juvenile snowy owls have black feathers until they turn white. The snowy owl is a ground nester that primarily hunts rodents and waterfowl, and opportunistically eats carrion. Most owls sleep during the day and hunt at night, but the snowy owl is active during the day, especially in the summertime. [Source: Wikipedia]
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The great horned owl is generally colored for camouflage. The underparts of the species are usually light with some brown horizontal barring; the upper parts and upper wings are generally a mottled brown usually bearing heavy, complex darker markings. All subspecies are darkly barred to some extent along the sides as well. There is a variable sized white patch on the throat.
The white throat may continue as a streak running down the middle of the breast even when the birds are not displaying, which in particularly pale individuals can widen at the belly into a large white area. South American horned owls typically have a smaller white throat patch, often unseen unless actively displaying, and rarely display the white area on the chest. [credits: Wikipedia]
The brown wood owl (Strix leptogrammica) is an owl which is a resident breeder in south Asia from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka east to western Indonesia and south China. This species is a part of the family of owls known as typical owls (Strigidae), which contains most species of owl. It belongs to the earless owl genus Strix.
The brown wood owl is medium large (45–57 cm), with upperparts uniformly dark brown, with faint white spotting on the shoulders. The underparts are buff with brown streaking. The facial disc is brown or rufous, edged with white and without concentric barring, and the eyes are dark brown. There is a white neckband. The sexes are similar. [Credit: Wikipedia]
The Harris’s hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) formerly known as the bay-winged hawk or dusky hawk, is a medium-large bird of prey that breeds from the southwestern United States south to Chile, central Argentina, and Brazil. Birds are sometimes reported at large in Western Europe, especially Britain, but it is a popular species in falconry and these records almost certainly all refer to escapes from captivity.
The name is derived from the Greek para, meaning beside, near or like, and the Latin buteo, referring to a kind of buzzard; uni meaning once; and cinctus meaning girdled, referring to the white band at the tip of the tail. John James Audubon gave this bird its English name in honor of his ornithological companion, financial supporter, and friend Edward Harris.
The Harris’s hawk is notable for its behaviour of hunting cooperatively in packs consisting of tolerant groups, while other raptors often hunt alone. Harris hawks’ social nature has been attributed to their intelligence, which makes them easy to train and have made them a popular bird for use in falconry. [Credit: Wikipedia]
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The spotted eagle-owl (Bubo africanus) is a medium-sized species of owl, one of the smallest of the eagle owls. Its length is 45 centimetres (18 in) and its weight is from 480 to 850 grams (1.1 to 1.9 lb). It has a 100 to 140 centimetres (39 to 55 in) wingspan. The facial disk is off white to pale ochre and the eyes are yellow. It has prominent ear tufts, and the upper body is dusky brown, the lower parts off-white with brown bars. Prior to 1999 the spotted eagle-owl was considered conspecific with the greyish eagle-owl, but now it is classed as a separate species. [credits: Wikipedia]
The spectacled owl is found in Mexico, Central America (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama), Trinidad and Tobago, and South America (Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina). The spectacled owl is primarily a bird of tropical rainforests, being found mostly in areas where dense, old-growth forest is profuse. However, it may enter secondary habitats, such as forest edges, especially while hunting. On occasion, they have been found in dry forests, treed savanna plains, plantations and semi-open areas with trees. In areas such as Costa Rica, they may inhabit subtropical montane cloud forests of up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft), although are generally associated with lowland forests. [Credit: Wikipedia]
Kookaburras are terrestrial tree kingfishers of the genus Dacelo native to Australia and New Guinea, which grow to between 28–42 cm (11–17 in) in length. The name is a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra, onomatopoeic of its call. The loud distinctive call of the laughing kookaburra is widely used as a stock sound effect in situations that involve an Australian bush setting or tropical jungle, especially in older movies.
They are found in habitats ranging from humid forest to arid savanna, as well as in suburban areas with tall trees or near running water. Even though they belong to the larger group known as “kingfishers”, kookaburras are not closely associated with water. [Credit: Wikipedia]
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The serval /ˈsɜːrvəl/ (Leptailurus serval), also known as the tierboskat, is a wild cat found in Africa. The sole member of the genus Leptailurus, it was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1776. Eighteen subspecies are recognised. The serval is a slender, medium-sized cat that stands 54–62 centimetres (21–24 in) at the shoulder and weighs 8–18 kilograms (18–40 lb). It is characterised by a small head, large ears, a golden-yellow to buff coat spotted and striped with black, and a short, black-tipped tail. The serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size. [credits: Wikipedia]
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The caracal is a medium-sized wild cat that lives in Africa, the Middle East, Persia and the Indian subcontinent. It reaches 40–50 centimetres (16–20 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 8–18 kilograms (18–40 lb). The coat is uniformly reddish tan or sandy, while the ventral parts are lighter with small reddish markings. The caracal is characterised by a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears, and long canine teeth. It was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1777. Eight subspecies are recognised. [credits: Wikipedia]
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Fishing cats are the largest of the Prionailurus cats. They are about twice the size of a domestic cat and have a stocky, muscular build with medium to short legs. The coarse fur is olive-grey with dark spots arranged in horizontal streaks running along the length of the body. The face is elongated with a distinctly flat nose and ears set far back on the head. The underside is white, and the back of the ears are black with central white spots.
There are a pair of dark stripes around the throat, and a number of black rings on the tail. Their head-to-body length typically ranges from 57–78 cm (22–31 in), with a short tail of 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 in), which is one half to one third the length of the rest of the animal. They weigh from 5–16 kg (11–35 lb). The face is spotted and the ears are short and rounded. Black spots run longitudinally across the body, and six to eight dark stripes run from behind the eyes to the nape. The underside fur is longer and often overlaid with spots. [credits: Wikipedia]
The European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) is the nominate subspecies of the wildcat that inhabits forests of Western, Southern, Central and Eastern Europe up to the Caucasus Mountains. It is absent in Scandinavia and has been extirpated in England and Wales.
In France and Italy, the European wildcat is predominantly nocturnal, but also active in the daytime when undisturbed by human activities. [Credit: Wikipedia]
The rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is one of the cat family’s smallest members, of which historical records are known only from India and Sri Lanka. In 2012, it was also recorded in the western Terai of Nepal. Since 2016, the global wild population is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List as it is fragmented and affected by loss and destruction of prime habitat, deciduous forests. [Credit: Wikipedia]
The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a medium-sized North American cat that first appeared during the Irvingtonian stage around 1.8 million years ago (AEO). Containing two recognized subspecies, it ranges from southern Canada to central Mexico, including most of the contiguous United States. The bobcat is an adaptable predator that inhabits wooded areas, as well as semidesert, urban edge, forest edge, and swampland environments. It remains in some of its original range, but populations are vulnerable to local extinction (“extirpation”) by coyotes and domestic animals. With a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears, the bobcat resembles the other species of the midsized genus Lynx. It is smaller on average than the Canada lynx, with which it shares parts of its range, but is about twice as large as the domestic cat. It has distinctive black bars on its forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby (or “bobbed”) tail, from which it derives its name.[Credit: Wikipedia]
The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is a skunk of the genus Mephitis that is native to southern Canada, the United States and northern Mexico. It is currently listed as least concern by the IUCN on account of its wide range and ability to adapt to human-modified environments.
It is a polygamous omnivore with few natural predators, save for birds of prey. The striped skunk has a long history of association with humans, having been trapped and captively bred for its fur and kept as an exotic pet. It is one of the most recognizable of North America’s animals, and is a popular figure in cartoons and children’s books. [Credit: Wikipedia]
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Coatis, genera Nasua and Nasuella, also known as the coatimundi hog-nosed coon, Mexican tejón, cholugo, or moncún, Guatemalan and Costa Rican pizote, Colombian cusumbo, and other names, are members of the raccoon family (Procyonidae). They are diurnal mammals native to South America, Central America, and south-western North America. The term is reported to be derived from the Tupi language (Brazil). [credits: Wikipedia]
The raccoon (Procyon lotor), is a medium-sized mammal native to North America. The raccoon is the largest of the procyonid family, having a body length of 40 to 70 cm (16 to 28 in) and a body weight of 3.5 to 9 kg (8 to 20 lb). Its grayish coat mostly consists of dense underfur which insulates it against cold weather. Two of the raccoon’s most distinctive features are its extremely dexterous front paws and its facial mask, which are themes in the mythology of several Native American ethnic groups. Raccoons are noted for their intelligence, with studies showing that they are able to remember the solution to tasks for up to three years. The diet of the omnivorous raccoon, which is usually nocturnal, consists of about 40% invertebrates, 33% plant foods, and 27% vertebrates.
The original habitats of the raccoon are deciduous and mixed forests, but due to their adaptability they have extended their range to mountainous areas, coastal marshes, and urban areas, where some homeowners consider them to be pests. As a result of escapes and deliberate introductions in the mid-20th century, raccoons are now also distributed across mainland Europe, Caucasia, and Japan.
Though previously thought to be solitary, there is now evidence that raccoons engage in gender-specific social behavior. Related females often share a common area, while unrelated males live together in groups of up to four animals to maintain their positions against foreign males during the mating season, and other potential invaders. Home range sizes vary anywhere from 3 hectares (7.4 acres) for females in cities to 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) for males in prairies. After a gestation period of about 65 days, two to five young, known as “kits”, are born in spring. The kits are subsequently raised by their mother until dispersal in late fall. Although captive raccoons have been known to live over 20 years, their life expectancy in the wild is only 1.8 to 3.1 years. In many areas, hunting and vehicular injury are the two most common causes of death. [Credit: Wikipedia]
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The raccoon dog, also known as the mangut or tanuki, is a canid indigenous to East Asia. It is the only extant species in the genus Nyctereutes. It is considered a basal canid species, resembling ancestral forms of the family.
Among the Canidae, the raccoon dog shares the habit of regularly climbing trees only with the North American gray fox, another basal species. The raccoon dog is named for its superficial resemblance to the raccoon (Procyon lotor), to which it is not closely related.
Native East Asian raccoon dog populations have declined in recent years due to hunting, fur trade, urbanization, the increase of animals associated with human civilization (such as pets and abandoned animals) and diseases that may be transmitted between them. Following its introduction into central and western Europe, however, it has been treated as a potentially hazardous invasive species. [credits: Wikipedia]
The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox, is a small fox native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. It is well adapted to living in cold environments, and is best known for its thick, warm fur that is also used as camouflage. On average, Arctic foxes only live 3–4 years in the wild. Its body length ranges from 46 to 68 cm (18 to 27 in), with a generally rounded body shape to minimize the escape of body heat.
The Arctic fox preys on many small creatures such as lemmings, voles, ringed seal pups, fish, waterfowl, and seabirds. It also eats carrion, berries, seaweed, and insects and other small invertebrates. Arctic foxes form monogamous pairs during the breeding season and they stay together to raise their young in complex underground dens. Occasionally, other family members may assist in raising their young. Natural predators of the Arctic fox are the red fox, golden eagles, wolverines, wolves, and grizzly bears. [Credit: Wikipedia]
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The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes and the most abundant wild member of the Carnivora, being present across the entire Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, North America and Eurasia. It is listed as least concern by the IUCN.
Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia, where it is considered harmful to native mammals and bird populations. Due to its presence in Australia, it is included among the list of the “world’s 100 worst invasive species”. [credits: Wikipedia]
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The body of the binturong is long and heavy, with short, stout legs. It has a thick fur of strong black hair. The bushy and prehensile tail is thick at the root, gradually diminishing in size to the extremity, where it curls inwards. The muzzle is short and pointed, somewhat turned up at the nose, and is covered with bristly hairs, brown at the points, which lengthen as they diverge, and form a peculiar radiated circle round the face.
The eyes are large, black and prominent. The ears are short, rounded, edged with white, and terminated by tufts of black hair. There are six short rounded incisors in each jaw, two canines, which are long and sharp, and six molars on each side. The hair on the legs is short and of a yellowish tinge. The feet are five-toed, with large strong claws; the soles are bare, and applied to the ground throughout the whole of their length; the hind ones are longer than the fore. [credits: Wikipedia]
It is primarily nocturnal and spends the day sleeping in dense vegetation. The mammal is awake at sunset. It is a solitary mammal that has a unique coloration: the black and white stripes and blotches covering the coarse pelage of the animal are extremely variable and allow it to be cryptic. The black bands surrounding its eyes closely resemble those of the raccoon. Other distinguishing features are its disproportionately large hindquarters and its erectile dorsal crest.
The African civet is an omnivorous generalist, taking small vertebrates, invertebrates, eggs, carrion, and vegetable matter. It is capable of taking on poisonous invertebrates and snakes. Prey is primarily detected by smell and sound rather than by sight. It prefers riverine habitats and woodlands.
The striped polecat (Ictonyx striatus) – also called the African polecat, zoril, zorille, zorilla, Cape polecat, and African skunk – is a member of the family Mustelidae that resembles a skunk (of the family Mephitidae). The name “zorilla” comes from the word “zorro”, which in Spanish means “fox”. It lives predominantly in dry and arid climates, such as the savannahs and open country of Central, Southern, and sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the Congo basin and the more coastal areas of West Africa. [Credit: Wikipedia]
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he meerkat is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family (Herpestidae). It is the only member of the genus Suricata. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan”. A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild. [credits: Wikipedia]
The common genet (Genetta genetta) is a small viverrid indigenous to Africa that was introduced to southwestern Europe and the Balearic Islands. As it is widely distributed north of the Sahara, in savanna zones south of the Sahara to southern Africa and along the coast of Arabia, Yemen and Oman, it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. It has also been recorded in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. [Credit: Wikipedia]
The Indian crested porcupine is a large rodent, weighing 11–18 kg. Their body (from the nose to the base of the tail) measures between 70–90 cm, with the tail adding an additional 8–10 cm. The lifespan of wild Indian crested porcupines is unknown, but the oldest known captive individual was a female that lived to be 27.1 years old.
It is covered in multiple layers of modified hair called quills, with longer, thinner quills covering a layer of shorter, thicker ones. The quills are brown or black with alternating white and black bands. They are made of keratin and are relatively flexible. Each quill is connected to a muscle at its base, allowing the porcupine to raise its quills when it feels threatened. The longest quills are located on the neck and shoulder, where the quills form a “skirt” around the animal. These quills can grow up to 51 cm (20 in) long, with most measuring between 15–30 cm. Smaller (20 cm) and more rigid quills are packed densely on the back and rump. These smaller quills are used to stab at potential threats. The base of the tail contains shorter quills that appear white in color, with longer, hollow quills that the porcupine can rattle to produce a warning sound when threatened. Contrary to popular belief, Indian crested porcupines (like all porcupines) cannot shoot their quills.
The Indian crested porcupine has a stocky build with a low surface area to volume ratio, which aids in heat conservation. It has broad feet with long claws used for burrowing. Like all porcupines, the Indian crested porcupine has a good sense of smell and sharp, chisel-like incisors. [Credit: Wikipedia]
The oriental small-clawed otter (Amblonyx cinerea), also known as the Asian small-clawed otter, is the smallest otter species in the world, weighing less than 5 kg. It lives in mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands of Bangladesh, Burma, India, southern China, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Its paws are a distinctive feature, its claws not extending beyond the fleshy end pads of its partially webbed fingers and toes. This gives it a high degree of manual dexterity so that it can use its paws to feed on molluscs, crabs and other small aquatic animals. [credits: Wikipedia]
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The common brushtail possum has large and pointed ears. It has a bushy tail (hence its name) that is adapted to grasping branches, prehensile at the end with a hairless ventral patch. Its forefeet have sharp claws and the first toe of each hind foot is clawless but has a strong grasp. The possum grooms itself with the third and fourth toes which are fused together. It has a thick and woolly pelage that varies in colour depending on the subspecies. Colour patterns tend to be silver-gray, brown, black, red or cream. The ventral areas are typically lighter and the tail is usually brown or black. The muzzle is marked with dark patches.
The common brushtail possum has a head and body length of 32–58 cm with a tail length of 24–40 cm. It weighs 1.2-4.5 kg. Males are generally larger than females. In addition, the coat of the male tends to be reddish at the shoulders. As with most marsupials, the female brushtail possum has a forward-opening, well-developed pouch. The chest of both sexes has a scent gland that emits a reddish secretion which stains that fur around it. It marks its territory with these secretions. [credits: Wikipedia]