110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Feb 10, 2014 - 8:59:36am
A beautiful brown bird ran around the aviary at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in September, apparently not wanting me to take his photo. An employee told me the bird is a “double-striped thick-knee,” which is an unimaginative, but quite accurate, name.
Over the bird’s alert yellow eyes with their large black pupils, he has a black stripe and a white stripe on each eyebrow. His fairly long, sturdy legs do indeed have rather thick knees. So these are the ways he earned his name.
A double-striped thick-knee weighs about 27 ounces and is 18 inches tall. His plumage is speckled sandy brown, and he has a pale belly.
These birds live in the deserts of Central America and northern South America. Once in a while, a few of them wander into Texas from Mexico.
Since a double-striped thick-knee prefers not to fly but can if he wishes, nature compensated by giving him strong legs with three toes that point forward and are slightly webbed -- great for walking.
In their natural habitat, these birds are active from dusk to dawn, scampering and scurrying. Quite vocal, they are noisy all night, making weird loud calls that range from whistles to wailing.
With their strong black-and-yellow bill, they catch and eat insects, worms, small frogs, snakes and lizards. They can live to be 15 years of age.
In April or May, after mating, the female usually lays two eggs in a humble nest that is merely a hole in the ground. Both parents incubate them for 25 days. The nest camouflages perfectly with the birds’ stony desert home, and is fairly safe from danger. The parents even put a few stones in the nest to make it look as if it is merely some dirt and dead grass!
All the birds at the Jacksonville Zoo are free to fly, perch, run or do whatever they please in the gymnasium-sized aviary. It is a little paradise for the birds who live there, since they are safe from predators and have all the food they want.
If a double-striped thick-knee ever asks me, I think its name should be changed to savanna umber-plumed scurrier -- although even that name doesn’t sound lovely enough for this attractive bird.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cutline: This is the hen-sized double-striped thick-knee that I saw at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens aviary in September.
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