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The weirdest bird you’ve never heard of

April 30, 2013

In Tampa, we have some lovely community radio stations. In the car this morning, our local 89.7 WUSF was running a really nice piece on Alfred Russel Wallace (who, like Darwin, developed an evolution-by-natural-selection framework, but was beat to the publisher). Wallace worked throughout the Indo-Pacific islands and, among many other animals, studied megapodes. What’s a megapode? Literally it means “giant feet,” but in practicality, well, it’s one freaky bird.

Australian_Brush_turkey2

OK, so they’re dramatic-looking turkeys. NO. They also sound like a damn Dilophosaurus from Jurassic Park. Not impressed? They build giant nest mounds where heat from what is essentially a giant compost pile incubates their eggs for them. Some of them aren’t even afraid to harvest a little geothermal energy – these species seek out sources of volcanic heat and let the Earth’s core do the incubating. Also, the megapode chicks are completely badass. After spending two days digging out of their nest, they emerge victorious and fly away. Yes. Two-day-old chicks stand up and fly off.

Let’s all take a moment and be thankful for such weird, wonderful creatures. And also that they’re not any bigger, or we’d have baby megapodes a la Tremors 3.

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