American Black bears live in forested areas of North America and Canada. Despite being the closest other species geographically, black bears are not closely related to brown bears or polar bears, but broke away from a common ancestor around 5 million years ago. They are in fact more closely related to Asiatic black and Sun bears. Despite their name, black bears can be found in a range of colours, from brown to cinnamon right up to white.
this white colouration occurs in 1/10 bears in British Columbia within a subspecies called ‘Kermode bears’. They feature heavily within native Indian folklore and are known by tribes as ‘Spirit Bears’. due to their lighter colouring these Spirit bears are found to be 30% more successful at catching fish than their darker furred relatives.
Up to 85% of the black bear’s diet is vegetarian, and is made up of grasses, roots, berries, and insects. They will also eat fish and mammals—including carrion. As they are so common in North America, they often wander into nearby human-populated areas to scavenge from rubbish bins etc, but are generally not regarded as being aggressive towards humans unless threatened (especially mothers with cubs) and even then, they will rarely attack, just mock-charge.
American black bears are expert climbers and swimmers, and contrary to popular belief, like all other bears don’t actually hibernate as such, but instead lay dormant without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating for several months. They will awaken however, if disturbed.
Brown Pelican (pelecanus occidentalis) ltd edition giclee print.
This illustration and some of my others will be on display at the London Framing Shop (12 Felstead Street, Hackney Wick) as part of Hackney WickED arts festival this weekend (17th/18th August) in London.
Private view Fri 16th August 6-9pm. Come down! : )
The Red Fox is highly adaptable and as such is the most wide-spread of all Carnivora (land carnivores). It is found from the Arctic Circle down as far south as North Africa. It is native to North America, throughout Europe and most of Asia right the way to Japan. Red Foxes were also introduced by the British colonies to Australia in 1830s. The Red fox can adapt very quickly to new environments as diverse as grasslands, mountain ranges and cities where they scavenge from dust bins and are reported to thrive in affluent neighborhoods.
The Red Fox is a member of the dog family, but also shares some similar characteristics with cats, such as semi-retractable claws, almond- shaped pupils rather than round, and the agility to climb large obstacles such as fences and the occasional tree! It owes it’s balancing abilities to it’s thick furry tail or ‘Brush’ which also provides it with warm cover in winter.
Vulpes Vulpes’ diet is primarily made up of small mammals including rodents such as mice, voles and rabbits, but is otherwise very varied and includes berries, plants, invertebrates and birds. To hunt small rodents they adopt the “mousing leap” technique which involves leaping upwards and descending into a pounce to catch the rodent producing minimal noise. Foxes have exceptional hearing, eyesight and even whiskers around their knees to help detect prey. In wintry seasons/habitats using the “mousing leap” to catch prey under the cover of snow. Red Foxes are ‘cache hunters’ meaning they will bury and store food when it is plentiful in order to feed on it in harder times.
King Penguin (Aptenodytes Patagonicus) Hand-drawn Pen, Ink and Watercolour Illustration. Fine art prints available at www.furfeathersandtails.co.uk
The King Penguin is the second largest penguin in the world. As expert swimmers, these penguins spend a lot of time in sub-Antarctic waters catching mainly fish and squid to feed themselves and their young. They generally dive down to 50M, swimming up to 12Km/hr, but can dive up to 300M in pursuit of food when its scarce.
During the breeding season, King Penguins are found on the islands of SouthEast Australia, South-West New Zealand, South Georgia, Crozet and the Falklands. After King Penguin chicks molt their first downy feathers, they grown a thick brown woolly coat that they wear for the first 2 years of their lives. As this coat isn’t oily or waterproof, the chick is unable to hunt it’s own food and so relies upon it’s parents entirely for food who in turn can travel up to In the wild, King Penguins typically live for 15-20 years.
When ready to mate, a pair of penguins will partake in a series of behaviours starting with the male communicating his availability by stretching up as tall as he can, and trumpeting a call with his beak pointing upwards. Towards the climax of this ritual, both penguins will engage in head-shaking, bill-pointing, strutting, bowing and eventually facing each other head on, standing up as tall as they can before relaxing again.
Giant Pandas can be found living in 6 separate mountain ranges in western China, on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, in the provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan. Pandas are usually solitary animals and tend to only meet with others during the mating season (between March and May). Giant Panda Pups are born very immature and are completely helpless, depending completely on their mothers for the first 18 months of their lives.
Despite having the same carnivorous digestive system as other bears, Pandas live on an almost exclusive diet of bamboo but as their digestive systems can only absorb a limited amount of nutrition from eating bamboo alone, Pandas must eat it in large quantities-between 12-38kg per day! They have evolved unique characteristics like significantly flattener molars to help grind leaves and a wrist bone that acts as a ‘thumb’ to allow them to dextrously grasp bamboo stalks. The fact that they cannot extract optimum amounts of nutrition from their diet may also explain why they don’t sleep during winter. It was debated amongst scientists for a long time as to whether pandas were ‘true’ bears at all due to their unique evolutionary characteristics.
The Giant Panda is synonymous with conservation work, and while still endangered, conservation work has created larger regions of protected forests and greatly improved the number of wild pandas over the past decade or so as well as many captively born Pups. Interestingly, although pandas are often been thought to be poor at breeding, this is true only of captive pandas.
Northern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes Moseleyi) Hand-drawn Pen, Ink and Watercolour Illustration. Fine art prints available at www.furfeathersandtails.co.uk
The Northern Rockhopper penguin breeds on a number of Southern Ocean islands, with the largest populations found on the remote islands of Tristan da Cunha and Gough, and smaller populations on the islands of Amsterdam and St Paul in the Indian Ocean. The monogamous penguin pairs nest in colonies that contain over 100,000 nests on sites such as cliffs, rocky gullies or grasslands close to sources of fresh water.
Northern Rockhopper penguins are very distinguishable from their cousins the Southern Rockhopper penguins by the much longer, thicker yellow plumage that extend from above their bright red eyes.
They have a varied diet that consists mainly of krill, squid, crustaceans and octopus and sometimes fish. They often dive in groups as deep as 100 metres to catch food!
N.Rockhoppers are listed as endangered. In 2009 a study showed that the Northern Rockhopper’s population had declined by 90% since 1955. Main threats are from pollution, egg-harvesting, over-fishing of their prey and climate change which is increasing competition for food from Antarctic fur seals.
Vulturine guineafowl, sometimes referred to as ‘royal guineafowl’ due to their striking appearance generally inhabit the scrub and lowland forests of Central and Sub-Saharan Africa from Uganda south into Eastern Kenya in flocks of around 25 birds. They are Terrestrial or ‘land-loving’ birds and tend to run rather than fly when alarmed, only really flying to reach their roosts at night.
Vulturine guineafowl are the largest variety of guinea fowl and can grow up to around 60-70cm tall. They spend most of their time digging and foraging for food, feeding on seeds and small invertebrates, particularly insects. These guinea fowl like most, are quite vocal and can be heard making repetitive noises that have been likened to that of a squeaky cart wheel going round as they forage for food.
A mother Vulturine guineafowl will lay a clutch of between 8-15 eggs. These eggs are often laid in a communal nest as incubating duties are sometimes shared. The egg shells themselves are particularly thick and rather than peck their way out, chicks must ‘break’ their way out of the egg when hatching.
Sloth bears usually give birth to 1-3 cubs, which uniquely to this species will hitch a ride on their mother’s back. The cubs will then stay with their Mothers for the first 1.5-2 years of their lives. If the litter is of more than two cubs, one will have to travel by foot.
The Sloth bear’s main choice of food are ants and termites which they locate using their excellent sense of smell. They use their long claws to scratch away at mounds and nests, then using their long snouts and mobile lips as a kind of vacuum to blow dirt out of the way and suck the insects up through a gap in their teeth. This ‘vacuuming’ is a noisy business and can be heard over 180 metres away. They also eat other foods such as fruits, flowers, berries, bees, honey comb, carrion and sometimes small vertebrates.
Sloth bears are classified as Vulnerable as they are hunted by farmers due to the damage they cause to crops, and also by hunters for their gall bladders and other body parts which are used in traditional Asian medicine. Sloth bears were traditionally trained using cruelty and starvation for entertainment as dancing bears. This was banned in 1972, and amazingly, the last Kalandar dancing bear was rescued in 2009 through a campaign led by animal welfare groups who helped handlers find jobs and education to reduce their reliance on dancing bear income. These rescued bears are now in sanctuaries where they are able to live out the rest of their natural lives, but sadly the fate of all other Sloth bears remains unstable.
Brown bears are the most widespread species of bear, and are found in Europe, Japan, North Asia, Western Canada, and North America. They are distinguished by their prominent shoulders and large back humps. Grizzly bears are brown bears, their name comes from the ‘grizzled’ appearance of their fur which is lighter at the tips.
Although Brown bears are the largest land predators in the world, their diet is omnivorous and changes throughout the year based on the season and location. They eat sedges, grasses, bulbs, seeds, berries, roots, insects, fish, small mammals and very occasionally larger prey such as moose, caribou and elk.
The largest Brown bear sub-species are the Kodiak bears who live on Kodiak Island, Alaska. These bears grow to be the largest because between May and September their diet is nutritiously high in fat and protein, mainly consisting of Pacific Salmon who migrate to the Kodiak Islands to spawn. The largest Kodiak bear on record weighed over 757Kg which is about the same weight as about 12 adult humans combined!
Also known as the ‘Andean bear’, the Spectacled Bear is one of the smallest of the bear family at around 5 foot fully grown, and is the only bear to live in South America. Spectacled Bears primarily in the Andean jungle, existing across a diverse range of habitats such as cloud forests, high altitude grasslands, dry forest and scrub desert. It’s name refers to the sandy coloured markings around it’s eyes, although not all spectacled bears have these markings if any at all.
Spectacled bears main diet consists of fruit, palm nuts, bamboo hearts, cacti, berries, bark, and other vegetation; although they are recorded to prey on small rodents, birds, insects and carrion such as cattle. These shy bears are nocturnal and have been known to make platforms in trees for many days waiting for the fruit of that tree to ripen.
A spectacled bears’ diet consists of around 5% meat, meaning that due to loss of habitat they will often scavenge farmer’s cornfields along with a misconception that they will eat livestock, farmers will often shoot them as pests. They are also illegally poached for their body parts and fur. For these reasons, and due to loss of habitat through logging and deforestation, Spectacled bears are listed as critically endangered.