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June 24, 2002

The Silflay Hraka Guide to the Birds of the Middle East

The European MynaSturnidae repetitiva - The European Myna is a transient in the area, usually a visitor from Belgium. Though most often found in its natural habitat, European government and press offices, this Myna has successfully been introduced to certain areas of New York City and Atlanta in the US. A species with no call of its own, the European Myna adopts the simplest call arising from the environment around it, typically that of the Palestinian Ring Necked Peasant or the Yellow-Bellied FundSucker in the Middle East, or the Cheese Eating Surrender Parrot in its native environment. It repeats the call incessantly and at a high decibel level until a new call is found. For this reason, the European Myna must be identified visually. Its uncanny accuracy in imitation the cries of other species prevents accurate aural identification

The Yellow-Bellied FundSuckerSphyrapicus arafati - A parasitic species, often found as individuals within a large flock of Ring-Necked Peasants, the FundSucker uses its hypnotic song to wheedle resources from the species that surround it, using them to feather its nest and those of its close relatives. Known past victims of theYellow-Bellied FundSucker include the Israeli Dove and American Contradictory Eagle. As evolutionary pressures have reduced the amount of scratch coming in from the above sources, the Yellow-Bellied FundSucker has switched to a more commensal relationship with the European Myna, which supplies the Yellow-Bellied FundSucker with bread in return for a constant supply of new calls.

Palestinian Ring-Necked Peasant Colchicus retardi - The most common species in the area, and possibly the only one in the world dumber than the domestic American Wrestling Turkey, the Palestinian Ring Necked Peasant is known chiefly for its reluctance to nest in areas not nested in by its precursors. Once driven out of an area, the Palestinian Ring-Necked Peasant will clumsily attempt again and again to regain a previous nesting location, usually unsuccessfully. Nearly every flock of these birds contains a Yellow-Bellied FundSucker, which uses its call and constant chatter to stir up the Ring-Necked Peasants into a flurry of activity and ruffled feathers, after which the FundSucker takes a majority of the flock’s feed, and claims the best nesting locations as its own. Long-term parasitazation of a covey of Peasants by the Yellow Bellied Fund Sucker almost always results in a greater percentage of Palestinian Exploding Shitbirds among the flock. Studies have shown that removal of the Yellow-Bellied FundSucker from the flock will almost immediately result in an improvement in the flock’s general condition, but most attempts to remove the FundSucker are fiercely resisted by the very birds it has parasitized.

The Israeli Dove - Columba zionatica - The Israeli Dove has declined severely in numbers since its heyday in the last decade. Some breeding pairs may still exist in the wild, but most have been captured and are now exhibited at the Meretz Party Zoo, which hopes to breed them when the environment is more congenial to the survival of this highly adapted niche species. The causes of the decline of the Israeli Dove are still being debated, with some ornithologists pointing to the population explosion of the JewHawk, while others note that Israeli doves have been unable to reproduce in the wild when they share an environment with the Exploding Palestinian Shitbird.

The Exploding Palestinian Shitbird Evolutionatica Termini - The Exploding Shitbird is a subspecies of the Palestinian Ring-Necked Peasants, often found in the larger coveys of peasants with who it shares a close familial relationship. Due to its bizarre lifestyle, the habits of the exploding Palestinian Shitbird have been little documented, and only a few wild examples have been captured undamaged. The Exploding Shitbird is normally seen only for a few brief seconds, almost exclusively in flocks of the female and young of other species, or rushing towards such flocks, before it ends its life in a bio-chemical explosion that produces a varying amount of deadly shit. There have been no observed breeding pairs of this bird. Indeed, some avian experts suggest that the exploding shit-bird is particularly good example of the losers in a Darwinian sexual selection of the Ring-Necked Peasant population. The drab plumages and odd smells of this bird lend credibility to this argument. The theory contends that this lack of breeding opportunities force the Shitbird into an extreme example of the altruistic genetic strategy known as kin-sharing. Put simply, the explosion of the Shitbird is an attempt to clear space* for the Palestinian Ring-Necked Peasants in the Shitbird’s family to breed, enabling them to pass on genes closely related to those of the Shitbird. If true, we expect this practice to lead to an evolutionary dead-end as more shit inevitably lands on the Shitbird's close relatives than on the Shitbird's ostensible targets. The Ring-Necked Peasants seem oblivious to this, often greeting the befoulment of their environment with loud musical cries and joyous song reminiscent of the Arabian Warbler, ceasing only upon the appearance of the JewHawk or the American Contradictory Eagle.

The American Contradictory Eagle - Haliaeetus Luecocephalus Conflicticus - Though not native to the Middle East, the American Contradictory Eagle has been seen in the area more and more often, leading many to believe that it may soon establish itself as a permanent resident. When present, the American Contradictory Eagle is the largest predator in the region. The Eagle is named for its calls, which vary in tone and degree from day to day, and are often the exact opposite of its call on a previous day. Numerous observers have also recorded a cacophony of calls on one day, only to see the Eagle lapse into silence for an indefinite period afterwards. When the native species of avifauna first encounter the American Contradictory Eagle, most fall silent, often endeavoring to camouflage themselves in an attempt to avoid notice. In recent times, however, many Jewhawks and Yellow-Bellied FundSuckers have grown accustomed to its presence and now ignore it completely. Arabian Warblers have also been seen trying to harass this giant of the air, often with suicidal results.

The JewHawkButeo zionatica – One of the most feared predators of the region, the JewHawk has become much more numerous in recent years. Though the JewHawk has many enemies, among them the Iraqi Nuthatch and the Syrian Ineffectual Thrasher, it fears only other JewHawks. The mating display of the JewHawk consists of a number of male JewHawks performing for a single female, who inevitably picks the JewHawk furthest to her right to mate with. This leads to a kind of scrum, known locally as a knesset, among the male JewHawks, as each attempts to position himself to the right of his fellows. This continues until the female picks one, the knesset is disbanded, or the explosion of a Palestinian Shitbird attracts their attention.

The Arabian WarblerVermivora schizophrenicus - A resident species, the Arabian Warbler is known the world over and its uncanny ability to sing multiple melodies at the same time. A typical Arabian warbler will sing one song at the American Contradictory Eagle, another, usually in a minor key, to the Yellow FundSucker and its flock of Ring-Necked Peasants, and a third one with martial overtones to other Arabian warblers.

The Cheese Eating Surrender ParrotPsiittacula fromage nomas - Another transient visitor from northern climes, the Cheese Eating Surrender Parrot is a French cousin of the European Myna, noted chiefly for the vicious nature of its calls. The calls are usually directed at the Israeli dove and JewHawk; “shiii-TE-liii-TLE-kun-TRE”, repeated 4 or 5 times a minute. The Surrender Parrot is also know for its habit of adopting a submissive posture whenever another bird looks at it crosswise, after which it calls longingly towards the nearest American Contradictory Eagle, perhaps in an attempt to gain aid.

*This is referred to in older zoological publications as lebensraum, from the documented migration habits of a now extinct variant of German meisterswine.

Posted by Bigwig at June 24, 2002 10:57 PM | TrackBack
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