We’re just getting to the time of year when you can see butterflies outside, but in the meantime, check out these awesome butterflies that our readers made!

Runt_and_PaxieWe think of rabbits as tiny animals, but some of them are actually pretty big! The largest rabbits in the world can be up to four feet long and weigh up to 55 pounds. (Though, we should note, the one in this picture, while a huge rabbit, is next to a Shetland Sheepdog, which is much smaller than a full-sized Collie. Still—that’s a big bunny.)

These giant rabbits were selectively bred to be big—they were originally used by humans for fur and meat. The biggest rabbits in the wild are much smaller. One of the biggest species, the antelope jackrabbit, is “only” 24 inches long.

Photo by Stamatisclan

butterfly minnesota zooIt’s easy to be impressed by the biggest animals at the zoo—tall, graceful giraffes, roaring lions, and gentle elephants are always crowd-pleasers. But the Minnesota Zoo is home to some tiny animals that are none the less amazing: butterflies. Their butterfly garden is home to beautiful insects from near and far, and their website is home to tons of fun facts about them. For example, did you know that some butterflies, like this mourning cloak butterfly, hibernate during the winter? Or that butterflies see all the colors that we do, but also ultraviolet colors whose wavelengths are too long for us to see? The more you learn about these incredible animals, the more you’ll realize that the biggest zoo animals aren’t the only ones that are cool!

Photo by SD Dirk

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!

Blue_Morpho_(7974443510) (1)

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

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