Butterflies and their cousins, moths, are the only insects with scales—their wings are covered with them. These scales are responsible for butterflies’ amazing colors, like the brilliant hue of the blue morpho. That dazzling blue isn’t the result of pigment—it’s all how the light hits their prismatic scales.

Butterflies’ color is even responsible for their name. A common European butterfly, the yellow brimstone, is a bright, sunny color. It’s believed that people once referred to it as a “butter-colored fly,” which got shortened to “butterfly.” This spring, see how many different colors of butterflies you can find!

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Photo by Tony Higsett

One of our favorite things about hosting our regular Kids’ Zooworks contests is seeing young writers and poets stretch their wings. It’s truly wonderful to see our next generation of children work out the rhythm and  cadence of good writing, and put their imaginations to paper. Here are some of our winners for Parrots…

 

It may surprise you to learn that the story “Almost Grown” in Zootles Tigers originally had a very different ending. The first idea presented was that the two little tiger cub sisters, Lila and Nell, were going to catch their prey rather than stumble into the river and let it get away. Reality, or course, is that tigers catch animals and eat them; but in this story we found a way to get this idea across without having to concern our youngest readers about the fate of the beautiful deer in the pictures.

Everything about a tiger demonstrates strength and power, and they are skilled hunters. Teeth and claws of course are essential, but there are more subtle advantages, too. Their coats hide them so they can sneak up close; their tails help them steer mid-leap; their eyesight in the dark is much better than ours. One day soon, Lila and Nell are going to accomplish their goal!ZT_Tigers_Art_pg13

Pretty much everyone who’s ever been in a pet shop has seen a parrot, but we bet you’ve never seen anything like this one! This is a hawk-headed parrot, also known as the red fan parrot. It’s easy to see how it got that name– it raises up the bright scarlet feathers on the back of its head and neck when threatened. Looking bigger can help scare off intruders; it also sways back and forth and makes noises to scare them away.

When not fluffing up their colorful neck ruffs, hawk-headed parrots live in abandoned woodpecker nests, where they raise small broods of chicks. You can learn more about them and their parrot relatives on the St. Louis Zoo website (http://www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/birds/parrots) — which of their parrots is your favorite?

 

If you’ve enjoyed sharing Zoobies with the toddler in your life (or even if you don’t have a Zoobies reader in your house), here are some fun whale photos for you and your family to enjoy. Talk about your favorite whale, find similarities and differences, and maybe even encourage your kids to make believe a game about whales—one of the great things about nature is the way that it can engage our imaginations.

Photos by Steve Snodgrass, Gabriel Barathieu, and Robert PittmanNOAA

Our Zoobooks readers did an amazing job with these drawings of parrots—check it out!

Agapornis_fischeri_-Ueno_Zoo,_Japan_-three-8a-4cIt’s not every Zoobooks and Zootles animal that we can talk about as pets– most of our featured animals are too big or too dangerous to keep in your house. But as you can learn on the San Diego Zoo’s website, parrots, when properly cared for, can make great companions.

If you’ve ever met a parrot, you know they’re social animals– they mimic our speech and interact with us. Their social natures are even clearer in their natural habitats– some parrots live in flocks of up to one hundred birds.

Since parrots are so smart and social, if you decide to get a pet parrot, you need to make sure that you can give it the attention and mental stimulation that it needs– otherwise, it will grow bored and develop behavioral problems. Also, if you’re considering getting a pet parrot, make sure to buy one that’s from a reputable breeder and not captured from the wild, as poaching wild parrots for pets is a serious problem. And of course, you need to be in it for the long haul– parrots can live in captivity for sixty years or even longer!

 

Photo by Takashi Hososhima

Lots of animals have camouflage, colors and textures that help them blend into their environments– think of dull brown ducks that blend into the ground where they nest, or green katydid insects that blend into the leaves. But what about tigers?

At first glance, their bright orange coats don’t seem like they’d be good for blending into anything!

However, their orange coloring and black stripes actually provide excellent camouflage in the grassy forests where they live. Their stripes blend in with the tall grasses that

they crouch behind, and their orange color actually provides pretty good cover when they’re hunting at dusk when the sun is setting. Check it out!

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Photo by Hanzasoukup

The latest issue of Zoobooks features Old World Monkeys. But what exactly are they?

First of all, let’s go over the difference between monkeys and apes. Chimps, gorillas, and humans are all examples of apes; langurs and tamarins are types of monkeys. What’s the difference? One good rule of thumb is that most monkeys have tails, while apes don’t. Apes are often larger than monkeys, too. In general, apes rely more on their sense of sight, while monkeys rely more on smell, and apes tend to have broader, shorter noses.

When it comes to Old World Monkeys found in Africa and Asia and the New World Monkeys in the Americas, one difference is in their tails—generally speaking, Old World Monkeys don’t have prehensile tails, but New World Monkeys do. There are also differences in the monkeys’ teeth, and Old World Monkeys have nostrils that face sideways (they face downward in New World Monkeys). See if you can spot some of these differences the next time you see monkeys at the zoo!

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Photo by J. Patrick Fisher

We’re going bananas over these great pictures of monkeys- great job, Zooworks winners!

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