Encountering Balaeniceps... in art

Do you remember this post, all about a birthday card I received in 2009? (go check, then come straight back here). The picture - which I like very much - is by Elizabeth Diggins of Oakwood Artists, and I'm not the only one who likes it: it was placed runner-up in BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year competition 2010. Well, here's me, with Liz and the illustration itself, at an exhibition last night...


Funnily enough, there are a few personally relevant things here. Firstly, a Shoebill also appears on the cover of Tetrapod Zoology Book One. Secondly, the model that Liz used for her drawing has itself featured on Tet Zoo before: go here and scroll down, and it also appears in the Tet Zoo book as well. Here it is again: it's a very nice taxiderm specimen on display at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History...


Thanks to Liz for the invite and for making contact, to Tina for the card, and Tone for taking the photo. And if you want to know more about shoebills, do check out this Tet Zoo article. Finally, here's another museum shoebill, this time photographed (by Markus Bühler) at the Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna...


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Damn strange bird.
Still cool looking though.

By Zach Hawkins (not verified) on 09 Oct 2010 #permalink

I've read in several ornithology books that the shoebill always has to rest its head to the side on its shoulderwhen not feeding, because its head is so massive. Is this true? And if so, are the two taxidermied specimens shown posed in a normal life position?

By Anonymous (not verified) on 09 Oct 2010 #permalink

This guy still reminds me of a terror bird. Incidentally, Gregory Paul said that Gastornis may have had a diet of small riparian vertebrates in the same way as the shoebill does.

By Tim Morris (not verified) on 09 Oct 2010 #permalink

Thanks for comments... I love that pic of the person in the Shoebill suit - wow! Anonymous (comment 3): no, the bird is not forced into supporting its bill on its side or anything like that, it adopts the full range of postures normal for a bird. Use google to see for yourself.

As for Greg Paul (comment 4)... he's also suggested that teratornithids picked up small vertebrates from along watercourses. A bit of this behaviour is plausible I suppose (for both gastornithids and teratornithids), but it's unlikely that this was their primary mode of foraging. Species in both groups lack features associated with regular walking on wet/marshy ground (like long toes, long claws, proportionally gracile legs etc.). Regarding comparisons between Balaeniceps and phorusrhacids, note that the former has a wide, rather shallow bill, while phorusrhacids have narrow, deep or very deep bills.

Awesome photo! They more normally use this trick to drop water on their chicks during the heat of the day, a behaviour also practised by storks.

There are no Shoebills in the UK, but there are a few in the US and mainland Europe. Prague, Frankfurt, and Zurich have pairs, and so do Dallas, Houston, and San Diego, but Lowry in Florida is the only one with breeding recorded on ISIS in the last year.

The one in Oxford is unbelievably smug!!! :-) I showed it to my sister, and she just laughed...

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 18 Oct 2010 #permalink