Rainforest Birds – Cape Dove

Bird Name:

Cape Dove

Latin Name:

Oena capensis

Status:

Least Concern

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Columbiformes

Family: Columbidae

Genus: Oena

Species: O. capensis

General Information:

The Cape Dove is the only species in this genus. Other names for this species include the Masked Dove, Long-tailed Dove and Namaqua Dove. It is very easy to identify, as no other doves look similar to it. It is usually a solitary bird, but will form large flocks by watering holes.

Physical Description:

The Cape Dove is between 20 and 25 cm in length, including its tail, and weighs about 40 gm. The tail is black, long and tapered. The plumage is mostly gray apart from the white belly. They have brownish primary feathers that are visible during flight. Adult males have a black face, throat and breast. Their bills are yellow and red. The females lack the black face and their bills are gray with a red base. Young birds show blotching on the wings and shoulders, but otherwise they resemble the females.

Diet:

Cape Doves forage for food on open ground and roadside. They feed almost exclusively on small seeds.

Habitat:

The Cape Dove is a widespread African species ranging from the deserts of Ethiopia and Somalia to the grasslands of South Africa. It resides in arid and semi-arid habitats, and moves to more humid areas during breeding.

Reproduction:

Builds stick nests in bushes. Clutch is usually 2 eggs, white in color. They are incubated by the female for about 16 days.

A Journey Into the Never Ending World of Books

A journey into the never-ending world of books

I stumbled upon books two decades ago at a leading bookstore on the Mount road, Chennai. My quest on books for competitive exams, instead, slowly started my journey into the unfathomable world of English literature. Having read only a handful of novels till then and introduced to hundreds of titles five years back while equipping myself with general knowledge for my professional courses interview, it was almost like my ending up in a dream world.

To me, book titles always held a charm. Like a solitary tree on a barren plain or an unforgettable melody. Seeing the titles that often lingered in my mind for the past five years in an unending array on the shelves slowly led me into a wonderland of different genres to amuse my different frames of mind.

A novel is a funny or dramatic world comfortably put between covers. A novel presents the reader (and more often than not the novelist too) a vicarious world, which he could not live in in practice. The world introduced to by a fine book would live in one’s memory for the rest of his or her life. No doubt, a good novel introduces one to characters that end up intimate, long-standing relationships with the reader than with their real life kindreds.

Shakespeare suggested through his ever-famous Juliet, ‘what is in a name? That which we will call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet’. But except the immortal writers whose works smell as sweet no matter whether they carry a title at all, which makes the confident publisher highlight the author’s name more than the title itself on the cover page, a book has to woo an occasional browser and spur his interest on it.

Book titles often narrate the stories themselves – like ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird,’ ‘East of Eden,’ ‘Gone With The Wind,’ ‘The Thorn Birds,’ ‘How Green Was My Valley’ etc., Some titles are enthusing inasmuch as to make the reader wonder at what makes ‘The House on the Strand’ unique or what mysteries are hidden in ‘The Shrouded Walls.’

The cover portraits also have their say. A vast landscape that arises the reader’s interest and imagination or a portrait of a character with a facial expression that speaks volumes encourages the browser’s interest on the book if the author is quite unknown.

Blurbs on back cover of books come in handy to selectors whether it is worth a while to give the book a try or not. But what if the publisher intends to over estimate his publication by a catchy recommendation? Nevertheless, books carrying laurels of prominent publishers and novelists will never let one down.

Like a good start that is imperative to a sprinter, a fine beginning would keep a writer in good stead. Who can forget Thomas Hardy’s description about farmer Oak in ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ or for that matter the circumstances leading Philip to be known in the county as Pip, Charles Dickens central character in ‘The Great Expectations?’

Interestingly bookworms with an unquenchable thirst for the printed word identify each other while keenly surveying the corners of dusty bookshelves. Years back when I was cravingly flipping titles in a book shop, a foreign tourist identified my appetite for a good book and recommended me a bulky volume that famously starts as ‘The Small Boys Were Early for the Hanging.’ Ever since I completed the epic titled ‘The pillars of the earth’ that ran into a thousand plus pages, I have been longing for a sequel. Fortunately, Ken Folett fulfilled my yearning through his second volume ‘THe World Without End.’ A sequel by the author himself would do justice to the original masterpiece and it was proven once again.

Publishers could save weak hearts by appending the blurb with few words of caution. Rohinton Mistry’s ‘A Fine Balance’ gave me a traumatic night filled with nightmares after finishing it in a late night. I later recommend the book to a few friends with a due warning never to read the last few pages of the novel alone late into the night before calling it a day (or night).

As one attires different outfits for different occasions, books too are occasion-specific. To beat the boredom of either seeing the parched country landscape or having to get along with strange and loquacious co-passengers during a long train journey, thrillers plaited with anxiety and hair-raising adventures would be of great service. The tribe of authors who can make a journey fascinating goes endless with authors like Wilbur Smith, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Robin Cook, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum etc., While convalescing from an illness, a romantic hit with diverse genres ranging from the Elizabethan drama ‘Jane Eyre’ to the voluminous ‘The Far Pavilion’ will help one keep his cool. A Nora Roberts or Danielle Steel title would cheer up young minds during a recession and so on.

Though virtual online shops have come up today with an assortment of books, nothing can match the thrill of finding a long-craved title after hours of fumbling about crowded bookshelves in a store. The most thrilling moment in my life is finding a long-pursued book, mostly a single copy, humbly bedecking the corner of a shelf, unwanted by the busy shoppers. I cannot imagine of anything but books that sells like hot cakes without advertisement in today’s consumer market. For good books the word of mouth is more powerful than millions of rupees that might be required for a colorful promotion campaigning.

Evolution – The Devil Is in the Details (Part Four of Six)

Mutations: Facts and Figures

Let’s start off where naturalists usually begin – with something like a bacteria. Never mind how those three million nucleotides got together and organized into a living system. Let’s just say the bacteria-like life form is a given.

How is the bacteria suppose to change? Answer: by mutation. Immediately we run into a problem. Mutations are very rare. Even more discouraging, the simpler the organism, the fewer the mutations. And nothing alive is more simple than a one-celled bacteria type of organism.

On the average, one mutation would show up in every 500,000 of these creatures. That’s a slow start. But coming up with a mutation is only the first of many hurdles. The second hurdle is finding a beneficial mutation. (See: Those Elusive Beneficial Mutations.) Geneticists claim 0.1 per cent of them are beneficial. Okay, lets go with it.

Cranking out the numbers shows that on the average one out of every 500,000,000 (500,000 X 1,000) single-celled organisms may have a beneficial mutation. Which brings to question: How long did it take these life forms to build up to a population of 500,000,000?

Evolution by mutation is full of hazards and complications. Here is one: Most animals don’t live long enough to reproduce. Something, usually another animal, comes along and kills them before they reach maturity.

Infant mortality varies greatly from species to species. We know that as far as sea creatures go, only a few, just a small percentage, survive to mate. In general, the smaller the creature, the less chance it has to make it to adulthood. How does that affect evolution? It simply adds another hurdle to the list.

All mutations are rare; much rarer are the positive mutations. Now we see that the majority, probably the vast majority of those already extremely rare mutations are dead on arrival. Predators, disease, fire, drought, famine, floods, and other natural disasters destroy them before they have an opportunity to pass on their innovative trait.

Let’s think positively. Say we have a one in five hundred million positive mutant who avoids predators, disease, etc. Is he able to pass on his positive mutation? Not necessarily.

Many mature males are barred from finding a mate due to a local dominant male who keeps all available females for himself. That is true for seals, antelopes, baboons, and many other mammals. Obviously, if the positive mutation winds up in a male who can’t mate, the beneficial trait will go no further.

Any other roadblocks? Yes, most animal populations are genetically stable. Why? Mates with medium characteristics or traits are favored, while those with unusual traits are shunned. So the majority of individuals in practically all species show intermediate height, weight, and appearance. The range and distribution of traits remain approximately the same from generation to generation. This stabilizing influence is very common.

Some insects, birds, mammals, and other organisms practice “reverse discrimination” and prefer mates who are rare. The beautiful bird plumage in the Paradise Islands is a striking example. But that is the exception.

There is another very strong force for countering chance. Any large population of animals has a natural tendency towards stabilization. A solitary genetic contribution, even a beneficial one, is likely to be swallowed up in a massive gene pool. In the long run, all mutations – good or bad – have no affect on a large population. That is why herd animals remain so constant.

Scientists call it genetic homeostasis. The only place where any mutation stands a chance of surviving is in a small, isolated, peripheral population.

All of this throws a wrench into evolution’s gears. Mutations of any sort are rare; mutations which might help evolution are much rarer still; and the bearer of those good-for-evolution mutations are likely to be destroyed by “mother nature” before the innovation can be passed on.

Even if the animal survives to mate, the odds are against his offspring living long enough to permanently establish the new trait in the gene pool. If the bearer is a male, chances are the positive mutation will go no further unless he happens to be the dominate male in the area.

If one of those ever so rare positive mistakes hits a large population, it sinks without a trace. Even if the beneficial mutation winds up in a not-so-large gene pool, the animals will more than likely consider it extreme and discriminate against it.

We will continue our study with an analogy of evolution by mutation called “The Language of Life”: see Evolution:The Devil Is in the Details (Part Five of Six.)

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