Friday, June 08, 2007

Speaking of Tails That Pull the Eye

What about these famous tails? Why is a Red-tailed hawk's tail red and their youngsters aren't?

Quicksilver's tail is the one that made me start thinking seriously about sharply contrasting tails and their purpose in the first place. I've often wondered why the red tail? A Grey Parrot in a leafed out tree completely disappears in the shadows except for that bright red tail. I considered it as a possible flower motif. It certainly draws the eye onto the hind most end of the bird and African Greys are prey as well as possible predators. (When Quicksilver was three months old he would jump on his toys and mantle them. Though no one has managed to see anything like that in the wild so far.)

Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Here are some examples of the White-tailed Deer tail. (Besides I couldn't resist the leap.) When a deer is alarmed it "flags" its tail. The tail flips straight up exposing it's bright white underside. It attracts the eye to the absolute rear of the animal reducing the chance of a successful pounce.

Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife
A second bonus. It's proposed that a doe's white flashing tail when she's on the run helps her fawn to follow her.
And now back to Bunnies---
Christopher Walters who lives in Madison, Wisconsin, in a two story apartment complex in the middle of town, noticed a strange thing in his yard on the way across from the parking lot. Some matted grass in a roughly circular shape. Something was going on. He went over and moved the mat aside with a stick. What should he discover? A rabbit nest. And in it, as he said, "A daisy of baby bunnies". Six of them, all noses to the center all white cottontails to the outside of the circle. So even in the nest, Cottontail Rabbits are wired to show that flash of white first to a predator.
By the way, Christopher carefully put the mat back in place and the bunnies grew up successfully. In fact one of the little guys has since taken up residence in the hedge.
Donegal Browne

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